Vanilla Naked Cake

Learn how to make a beautiful naked cake with fresh berries and vanilla buttercream. This chic cake decorating style is much simpler than it looks. Follow my success tips and watch the helpful video tutorial to create your own naked cake.

How to make a beautiful naked cake with fresh berries, vanilla cake, and vanilla buttercream. Homemade wedding cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Today we’re baking, designing, and styling naked cakes. I’m sharing my tips for decorating a naked cake, a video showing you how, the vanilla cake recipe I used, plus plenty of inspiration for you to get started. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get right to it!


What Is a Naked Cake?

Naked cakes, with zero to minimal frosting on the outside, expose the cake layers and filling. This rustic-chic cake presentation has been popping up everywhere on the wedding, baby shower, bridal shower, and party scenes. Milk Bar owner Christina Tosi is credited with starting the trend back in 2013 when she began highlighting the cake layers, instead of just the frosting. Now naked cakes are a bakery staple!

A stunning addition to any celebration, naked cakes are perfect for Easter, Mother’s Day, small weddings, showers, and birthdays. What I love about the style is that you have creative control. You can decorate the naked cake in your own unique way, which makes this recipe 100x more fun. If interested in making a tiered cake, try my simple homemade wedding cake!

How to make a beautiful naked cake with fresh berries, vanilla cake, and vanilla buttercream. Homemade wedding cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Two Types of Naked Cakes

There are 2 types of naked cakes. The cake in today’s photos is called a semi-naked or “half dressed” cake. There’s a minimal amount of frosting swiped around the sides. So in other words, a semi-naked cake is a crumb-coated cake. Or you can simplify the design even further with a true naked cake. This means the sides of the cake are bare like my fresh berry cream cake. Both styles are simple, approachable, and beautiful.

How to make a beautiful naked cake with fresh berries, vanilla cake, and vanilla buttercream. Homemade wedding cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Overview: How to Make a Vanilla Semi-Naked Cake

Let’s focus on a semi-naked cake because that’s how I decorated the cake in today’s photos and video.

  1. Make the cake. To begin, you’ll need a layer cake. You can use any of my layer cake recipes, the vanilla layer cake recipe below, or any layer cake recipe you love. The vanilla cake recipe I include below is similar to my vanilla cake recipe, but it has more structure to support the naked cake decorating style. Cake recipes that yield three or four layers provide enough height to work with, but you can easily decorate a two layer cake this way. Tiered cakes are great too– like my homemade wedding cake.
  2. Add berries. I dotted fresh raspberries between my cake layers. Admittedly, I only dotted them around the edges because I ran out of raspberries. Oops! But I love how they peek out the sides. The fresh raspberries also provide a lovely texture variation. If you decide to do this as well, be warned that the raspberries will leak some juice around the edges after a day or so. I would leave the berries out if you’re making this cake in advance for a party or celebration.
  3. Frost the cake. Vanilla buttercream is my favorite for the half-dressed cake style. It’s simple and shows off the semi-exposed cake layers as well as the cake’s decorative pieces. The frosting recipe below is similar to my vanilla buttercream recipe, only with a higher ratio of ingredients to make a larger amount of frosting.

Vanilla buttercream for naked cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Vanilla Naked Cake Video Tutorial


5 Tips for Homemade Naked Cakes

  1. Make a plan. Think about what style of cake you want– naked or semi-naked– and any decorations or garnishes. This will determine how much frosting you need.
  2. Prepare your cake pans appropriately. Use quality cake pans and grease them well so the cakes release easily– I always use nonstick spray. For even layers, ensure each pan has an equal amount of batter. The easiest and most accurate way to do this is to use a kitchen scale. Place your cake pan on top and begin pouring batter into the pan– repeat for all pans, making sure each pan weighs the same.
  3. Level your cakes. Level off the top of each cake layer so both sides are flat. This is important because flat and even layers add stability to your finished cake. You can use a cake leveler or large serrated knife. I always use my serrated knife.
  4. Keep it simple. Make it easy on yourself! My recipe and instructions are simple and straightforward. I’ve seen many naked cake recipes that call for a soak in simple syrup to prevent it from drying out. You can absolutely take this route, especially if you’re making a true naked cake, but I don’t find it necessary if your cake is moist to begin with (like my vanilla cake below). Instead of piping frosting between each cake layer, use an icing spatula to spread the frosting– another timesaver and simplified step. The frosting recipe below yields about 4.5 cups. Use 1.5 cups between each layer and 1.5 cups on top & around the sides.
  5. The refrigerator is your best friend. Always chill your naked cake in the refrigerator for a few hours before slicing and serving. Why? This stabilizes all of your hard work! It helps the frosting adhere to the sides of the cake, as well as ensures a neater slice. Then you can set the cake out at room temperature for your party or celebration.

3 Helpful Tools for Decorating

Here are a few tools I find especially helpful for decorating a semi-naked cake.

  1. Straight spatula. A lot of cake decorators use an offset spatula to apply frosting on a cake, but I prefer a straight spatula. Maybe it’s the way my hands work, but it’s just easier for me to use.
  2. Bench scraper. Use this for running around the sides of the cake to smooth out the frosting.
  3. Cake turntable. This is optional. Many of you told me I needed one because it makes the job easier. And you were right! I did NOT use it for the cake pictured today, but you can watch me use it in the video tutorial. Transfer your decorated cake to a cake stand by using these cake circles— I use one in the video.

Mix and Match Cake and Frosting Recipes

Mix and match the below cake flavors and frostings to create your own unique naked cake.

Cake Flavors
These cakes are all pretty moist, so I wouldn’t worry about them drying out– especially if you choose the semi-naked/crumb coat look.

Frosting Flavors

Helpful tip: Freeze any leftover frosting for up to 3 months and thaw in the refrigerator for next time.


Naked Cake Decoration Ideas

I recommend starting simple, then adding from there. The possibilities are endless! Here are some of my favorite decorations to use:

  • Fresh flowers. Use flowers that haven’t been sprayed with pesticides. Avoid strong-smelling flowers as the smell may linger on the cake. And if you can find edible flowers, that’s even better.
  • Fresh berries or any fruit.
  • Smaller sweet treats like candies, cookies, meringues, and chocolates
  • Candied citrus
  • Nuts or seeds
  • Fresh herbs
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Sprinkles

Of course you’ll need a cake stand to show off your stunning masterpiece! Here are a few I love: wood slice cake stand (similar to what I have), white cake stand, and marble cake stand.

How to make a beautiful naked cake with fresh berries, vanilla cake, and vanilla buttercream. Homemade wedding cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Get creative, let your inner cake artist shine, and most of all… have fun!

Print
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Rustic naked cake on a wood slice cake stand

Vanilla Naked Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 6 hours
  • Yield: 12 servings
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This naked cake is simply stunning with fresh berries, vanilla cake, and vanilla buttercream.


Ingredients

  • 3 and 3/4 cups (431g) sifted all-purpose flour* (spoon & leveled)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks; 345g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract (yes, Tbsp!)
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (420ml) buttermilk, at room temperature*
  • optional: 1-2 cups fresh raspberries (or other berry, see note)

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks; 345g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 56 cups (600-720g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 56 Tablespoons (75-90ml) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • finishing decorations (see post above for inspiration!)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease and lightly flour three 9-inch cake pans.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. On medium-high speed, add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix this batter. The batter will be smooth, velvety, and slightly thick.
  4. There is about 8 cups of batter total, so each layer will be 2 and 2/3 cups. Pour/spread batter evenly into prepared cake pans. If you’re worried about uneven cake layers, you can use a kitchen scale and weigh the cake pans for accuracy. (The weight of just the batter in my cake pans was about 1 lb 6 ounces.)
  5. Bake for around 25-26 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
  6. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy – about 2 minutes. Add 5 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, 5 Tablespoons heavy cream, the vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Add 1/2 cup more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin, 1 more Tablespoon cream if frosting is too thick, or a pinch more of salt if frosting is way too sweet. Yields about 4.5 cups of frosting.
  7. Assemble and decorate the cake: Watch the video above for a tutorial on assembling and decorating this naked cake. First, using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand, cake turntable, or serving plate. Spread 1 and 1/2 cups of frosting evenly on top. If using, dot half of the raspberries around the rim. Flatten them down into the frosting as best you can so the cake layer on top is sturdy. Top with 2nd cake layer and evenly cover the top with another 1 and 1/2 cups of frosting and more (flattened!) raspberries around the rim. You can sprinkle a few leftover raspberries in the center, too. (Like I did in the video.) Top with the third cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting on top and all around the sides using an icing spatula. Use a bench scraper to smooth out the frosting on the sides of the cake. If you’re making a full naked cake, just spread the remaining frosting on top of the cake. If you have leftover frosting, you can freeze it for up to 3 months and thaw in the refrigerator for next time.
  8. Decorate the cake with garnishes.
  9. Refrigerate the cake for 2-3 hours or up to 1 day before slicing and serving. If chilling for more than a few hours, loosely cover with plastic wrap after 1 hour of refrigeration. (The frosting will “set” after about 1 hour and the plastic wrap won’t really ruin your frosting at that point.) And if you’re chilling for more than a few hours, I suggest decorating with garnishes right before serving (so as not to wilt the flowers, etc).
  10. Cover and store leftover cake at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Assemble and frost the cake the next day when you are ready to serve. The frosted cake can be refrigerated for up to 1 day– see step 8. The frosted cake can also be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
  2. Special Tools (affiliate links): KitchenAid Stand Mixer, KitchenAid Hand Mixer, Glass Mixing Bowls, 9-inch Round Cake Pans, Icing Spatula, Bench Scraper, Cake Turntable
  3. Flour: Sift flour before measuring.
  4. Buttermilk: If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make a DIY sour milk substitute. Add 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add enough whole milk to the same measuring cup until it reaches 1 and 3/4 cups. (In a pinch, lower fat or nondairy milks work for this soured milk, but the cake won’t taste as moist or rich.) Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The homemade “buttermilk” will be somewhat curdled and ready to use in the recipe.
  5. Raspberries: The raspberries will leak some juice around the edges after a day or so. I would leave the berries out if you’re making this cake in advance for a party or celebration.
  6. Room Temperature Ingredients: All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
  7. I used this cake recipe for my checkerboard cake. The cake layers are slightly thicker here because this cake is 3 layers instead of 4. If you want to make the naked cake as a 4 layer cake, use 2 cups of batter for each cake layer and bake for 23-24 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Keywords: naked cake

All the tips, tricks, tools, and recipe you need to create a beautiful and rustic vanilla naked cake! This homemade vanilla cake is perfect for showers and weddings. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

512 Comments

  1. Hi I am really excited about making this cake for my daughters baby shower.  I have a delemma. I will have to make it 3 days early for the Sunday Shower. Can I store it unfrosted and frost it the day of the party? If so, refrig or freeze? Or do I need to frost early? Thank you. 

    1. Hi Stacey! See my make ahead tip for make ahead suggestions.

  2. Hi Sally!
    I don’t know if I read over it, but I was wondering how many cups of frosting this recipe makes?
    The cake looks amazing! I’ve never made a naked cake, but it’s definitely on my to do list!

    1. Hi Linda! Yields about 4.5 cups of frosting.

  3. Hi Sally,

    Can i make this cake in a 9×13 pan? Thank you.

    1. Hi Jo! There’s too much batter for a 9×13 pan, but use what you can and fill the pan about halfway – 2/3 full. Any extra batter is great for cupcakes.

  4. Your cake is BEAUTIFUL! Getting ready to try this one out for Easter and your decorating video was super helpful!

    1. How did it turn out? 🙂

      1. Wonderful!!! It was a hit at our Easter gathering and I am eager to try this decorating style again with other flavor combinations 🙂 Like you, I have a new baby at home (almost 11 weeks) and this was my first “big” baking project since having her so it took longer than it might have pre-baby but it was worth it! 

  5. Sylvie from France says:

    Hi Sally ! Thanks to your advices and your recipes, I made a success of my first nacked cake ( vanilla cake with blueberry cream) . I’m very happy. Happy easter for everyone.

    1. I’m so glad to read this!!

  6. Shabina mahmed says:

    Hello I’d like to know what size the pans are please ? 

    1. 9 inch pans

      1. Hi, can I use a 8inch or 10 inch cake pans? 

      2. Yes, you can use 8 or 10-inch cake pans, just adjust the baking time as needed!

  7. Hi Sally

    I just want to report that I made a naked cake with your Tuxedo Cake recipe. I made the whole recipe in five 6-inch layers. They stacked very well and everyone raved about it.

    The naked cake was beautiful with the chocolate layers showing through a vanilla buttercream. Thanks again for this incredible challenge!

    1. I bet it was beautiful with all of those layer!

  8. Hi Sally,

    Just wondering if I want to make alphabet Birthday cake, do you recommend to use this recipe or your new favourite white layer cake? Love most of your cakes.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Mirah! You can use either. The white cake recipe has a much lighter crumb and while it will hold up well baked as different shapes, this naked cake may be a better fit.

  9. Thank you for sharing your cake recipe.  I was asked to bake a wedding cake for my niece for 150 people.  I had baked birthday cakes with boxed cake mix for 20 people.  This was exciting but very nervous.  I don’t know what I would have done if I did not find this recipe.  Thank you again for sharing your recipe!!  The cake was yummy.

    1. That is so exciting! Be sure to share a photo on Facebook or Instagram and tag me so I can see it!

  10. Hello Sally,

    Are you familiar with the berry chantily cake from Whole foods? I am trying to recreate it and need a delicious yellow cake recipe and think this may be the one, but I was wondering if I can sub almond extract for the vanilla? If so, how much do you recommend?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Veina! I’m not, but it sounds fantastic. An entire Tablespoon of almond extract may be a little too much, so I would use 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of almond and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.

      1. Awesome thank you!! I will try and experiment using 1 vanilla pod and 1.5 teaspoon of the almond!

        The berry chantily cake from Whole Foods is really good! It is basically a Fresh berries, a vanilla cake soaked in raspberry simple syrup, and chantilly cream icing made with whipped mascarpone. –but there is a unique almond taste to it that puts it over the edge!
        I am no baking pro, so I’m sure you would probably do a much better job recreating it! Perhaps something for you to try in the near future 🙂 I love all your recipes!

  11. Hi, Just made this for my daughter’s 2nd birthday party tomorrow. Can’t wait to see it decorated and eat it! My husband was confused and asked if I made a mistake with my frosting, but I love the look of these naked cakes. You may want to note in your recipe that if you chill the frosting, you have to leave time for it to come to room temperature before frosting your cakes. Maybe that’s obvious, but I was glad I was not trying to frost right before serving. I set my bowl of frosting in a tray of warm water and that worked fairly quickly. My cakes came out pretty flat … hoping I didn’t over mix or over bake. The positive is I didn’t have to cut the tops off to be flat.

  12. Jessica Byrom says:

    Hi there

    What are the benefits of using regular buttercream over swiss meringue buttercream? I usually use SMB but I find it a bit flavourless and I’m not a fan of the texture. Any thoughts would be great. Thank you! Jess x

    1. I don’t necessarily think there are any pros/cons using one over the other. If you prefer American buttercream over SMB, go ahead and use it!

  13. Can i make cupcakes out of this batter  

  14. Hi Sally  I made cupcakes with this  It was awesome and a big hit.  Thank you.

  15. Elizabeth Zulick says:

    Hi Sally!

    My cakes came out a bit dense, not with this nice crumb I see in your pictures! Any suggestions? I followed all your directions! I sifted the flour and used fresh baking powder and soda. I always weigh my indegredients. 

    Let me know if you have any ideas!

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Elizabeth! I know how frustrating that can be. How about overmixing? That’s usually the culprit behind my cakes tasting dense. Regardless, try sifting the flour TWICE then measuring it. That could help for next time.

  16. Hi Sally! Do you think I could make a two-layer cake instead? If so, how do I change the recipe?

    1. You would need to use 2/3 of the recipe so I would recommend either making cupcakes with the remaining batter or baking and freezing the third layer to enjoy later!

  17. I leave the cold ingredients out for 1 hour before beginning.

  18. Hi Sally! Could I bake this in 2 9″ pans and then torte the cakes?

    1. Hi Abbie! Only if your 9-inch cake pans are very tall. This is a lot of cake batter.

  19. Would this recipe make cupcakes okay?

    1. This cake batter can be divided up to make cupcakes, yes! Same oven temperature and about 18-21 minutes bake time.

  20. Absolutely loved these recipes. I had never made a cake like this before but, I made it for my daughter’s bridal shower this past weekend. Actually, I made it three times as it was a 10 layer tiered cake! Everything came out perfectly and tasted delicious. Everyone was delighted and were amazed it didn’t come from a bakery. I wish I could show you a picture! Thank you so much Sally for the perfect recipes and handy video.

    1. Hi Nancy! A 10 tier cake is incredible and I bet it was stunning. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a review on the vanilla naked cake! You can always email me a picture at [email protected] 🙂 I’d love to see!

  21. Can you substitute with gluten free flour?

    1. I have not tried it but let me know if you do!

    2. DId you try? I have a gluten allergy and I’m tentative to try.

  22. If I only have 8 inch round pans, how long do you suggest I bake this recipe for? I have 4 or more 8 inch rounds if splitting the batter more ways is optimal. Thank you. Every recipe I’ve ever tried from your site over the several years I’ve been following you has been amazing!

    1. Hi Katherine! You can split the batter between 3 or 4 8-inch cake pans, though I suggest using 4 because the layers will be quite thick if using only 3. I’m unsure of the exact bake time, but you can use a toothpick to test.

  23. I have to make my cake serve 20 people..any suggestions?

    1. Hi Barb! I’m unsure. I’ve only baked and assembled the cake as pictured. How about 2 separate cakes or a tiered cake of sorts? You can make the batter twice and bake in different size cake pans to create a tiered cake. The bake time will need to adjust if using different size pans.

  24. Hi Sally,

    Can i use the pistachio cake recipe as one of the flavours of the cake?

    1. Definitely!

  25. I was just wondering would you recommend this recipe to cover the cake with fondant?

    1. This cake holds up very well under fondant, yes.

  26. Hi Sally,

    Thank you for another great recipe! I am wondering how many you estimate this will feed? I am making it for my friends baby shower and there will probably be 25 people to feed.

    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Amy! About 12 generous slices, but if you slice it small and thin, you could feed up to 25.

  27. hi Sally I’m thinking of using this recipe to make a cake for my friend’s birthday next week but I was hoping to make it matcha flavored. if I would like to add roughly 2-3 tablespoons of matcha powder in, should I just take out 2-3 tablespoons of flour accordingly? and which frosting recipe would last out the longest in a really humid climate? thanks so much in advance sally!

    1. Hi Shan! Subbing matcha for flour would be my suggestion, but I have never tried it before so I can’t say with 100% certainty. This vanilla buttercream should hold up pretty well.

  28. Hi Sally,

    My question is How long would the bake time for this vanilla cake recipe be using a
    6in x 2in round cake pan?

    Thank You
    Jazmin

    1. Hi Jazmin! I’m not exactly sure, but somewhere around 20 minutes. Keep your eye on it and use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  29. Hi Sally, you said the cakes might be a bit thick if they are divided between 3×8” tins, I didn’t find this at all, in fact I was a bit disappointed, they didn’t seem to rise, any suggestions, thanks

    1. Hi Lori! Did you make the batter as written? I’m surprised the cakes didn’t rise with all that baking powder and soda. Overmixing produces flat and dense cakes, I wonder if that was the issue?

  30. Great recipe, worked really well.
    Thanks.

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