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

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

506 Comments

  1. hi Sally, how many cm is each layers height ?

  2. How do you transfer the cake onto the cake stand?

    1. Either with a large metal spatula or sometimes I just decorate right on the cake stand if I don’t want to move it 🙂

  3. I love this recipe! I’ve just recently started taking cake orders from people and this is the recipe I keep coming back to. Whether doing a naked cake or a fully frosted cake, I use it for all the vanilla cakes I make. It’s sturdy and dense enough to hold my stacked layers, but its not dry. I’ve made enough of Sally’s recipes to know they are all so good. She’s my go-to!

    1. This has become my go-to cake as well. 🙂 Thank you so much for the recipe review!

  4. Vanessa Smith says:

    How would I convert the recipe to make it two layers instead of three?

    1. Hi Vanessa! Reducing the recipe down to yield 2 layers without altering the taste or texture can be tough. I recommend my 2 layer white cake recipe instead if you’d like.

  5. Hi Sally,

    Have you made this with 6” cake pans? If so, how much batter would you do for each pan? Also, how many cupcakes with this recipe make? Thank you!

    Jess

    1. For a 6 inch cake I suggest using this recipe and leaving out the sprinkles if you want it to be plain vanilla: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2018/05/29/6-inch-funfetti-cake/

  6. Hi Sally,
    So I’ve been using a different recipe for my vanilla cakes for a while but I’m a bit bored with it. Want to change it up. Im going to give yours a try this weekend. In the past I’ve always taken my cakes directly out of the pan and wrapped them in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer warm. I was told this will make them extra moist. I like the outcome And I like it that it allows me to bake them a few days in advance. I just take them out a few hours before I’m ready to decorate. I’m still a bit new to cake baking. Think I could do the same with these cakes?
    Thanks for your input 🙂

    1. I can’t see why not! And thank you for sharing because I’m looking forward to trying that trick too!

  7. Hey Sally,

    I just made this yesterday and the cake tasted great! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe with us.

    I have a question, as the frosting has a strange aftertaste. I’m not sure how to even explain it. I’m not sure if it’s metallic, but it’s more of a burnt/toasted flavor that follows the butter and sugar.

    I used:

    – Dairygold unsalted butter (thank you for not calling for shortening)
    – Lucerne heavy whipping cream (I still can’t find an explanation of the difference between heavy whipping cream and heavy cream, though there is plenty to read on the difference between heavy cream and whipping cream)
    – store brand powdered sugar
    – McCormick pure vanilla extract
    – Morton salt

    I don’t know that it’s too sweet. (I don’t know if there is such a thing for my palate!) The husband didn’t seem to think it tasted weird. He said it tasted rich, which I would imagine it to be with all the butter and sugar.

    Could it be that I’m pregnant? Haha. I want to make this for my shower and am unsure about the frosting.

    Could I have used too much vanilla? Does old powdered sugar do this?

    Please help! Thank you!

    1. Hi Ashley, All of your ingredients sound right! The metallic taste could definitely be from being pregnant (Google it – you will see it’s fairly common!) but discuss with your doctor if it’s unbearable!

      1. Thank you so much, Sally!

  8. Hi Sally! This recipe was a salvation to my three tier cake, and i havent even tried it. What im worried about is that i cant put more than one pan at a time, does the batter hold up well or should i refrigerate it in between?

    1. Hi Mica! I recommend covering the remaining cake batter and leaving at room temperature until ready to bake.

  9. Hi Sally!

    This will be my first time making a cake.
    I was wondering if I want to prepare this a day in advance, after I’m done frosting it, do I have to fridge the whole cake overnight or put it in the freezer? Not sure how to store the cake properly to keep it from drying out! Thank you in advance for the advice!

    1. Hi Joanna! Made 1 day in advance, this cake can be covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator.

      1. Will the frosting come off if I cover it with a plastic wrap?

  10. Yum! I am going to try this. Any thoughts on adding lavender to the cake and honey to the buttercream?

    1. Hi Becka! I haven’t tested the recipe with either addition, but let me know how it goes!

  11. Alexis Barnes says:

    Hiya.. Can I use Swiss meringue buttercream or is it not stable enough?

    1. Yes, absolutely!

  12. Hi Sally,

    amazing recipe I practiced this recipe for my Aunties anniversary, still need to do more practicing however.

    I just wanted to ask how you got the white icing? My icing always ends up a shade of yellow, is it the type of butter you used?

    Also what are the stems with the of white flowers called?

    Thank you!

  13. Hi Sally,

    I just wanted to tell you how great this recipe is! Having zero experience with baking cakes like this, I am pleased to say that my daughter’s christening/birthday cake turned out amazing – I received so many compliments not only on how great it looked but how amazing it tasted too. Such an easy recipe for a beginner like me to follow, so thanks again!

    1. YAY! I’m so happy to read this, Laura!

  14. Hi Sally! Thank you for sharing this great recipe! Have you tried using cake flour instead of All purpose flour what is the diff? Thank you

    1. Hi Mary! Cake flour is a wonderful choice when making soft and fluffy cakes. (Here are all of my recipes using cake flour.) Sometimes you can get away with sifting all-purpose flour instead, but that depends on the recipe. It works just fine here!

  15. Hi Sally,

    I am currently dairy free due to my breastfed daughter’s dairy intolerance. I really want to make this recipe. Do you think I could make it with a substitute milk and a dairy free margarine? If so, any suggestions?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Kayley! I wish I could help, but I have little experience with dairy free baking. I haven’t tested this recipe as such, but you can try nondairy milk mixed with a teaspoon of white vinegar and a vegan butter– I hear Earth Balance brand works wonderfully in cakes.

  16. Sally, do you think I could make 1-1/2 cake batters? I have a large pan (11×15) that I’m trying to bake.
    Any thoughts?
    Renée

    1. Hi Renee! I can’t see why not. I’m unsure exactly how much batter that size pan will need, but I would actually start with the recipe as written. It might be plenty cake batter!

  17. Hi Sally. Any thoughts on how I could make this a lemon cake instead of vanilla?

    1. Hi Misty! You could definitely add some fresh lemon zest and juice to this cake batter, or try my lemon layer cake or lemon blueberry cake!

      1. I don’t really know much about making a semi-naked cake but I have promised my niece one and she wants lemon. Is there a trick to getting the edges to carmelize so they don’t flake off or does it come down to having the right recipe to make sure the edges come out nice and brown?

  18. Hey Sally, I want to make a copycatish Nothing Bundt Cakes white chocolate raspberry cake, but I can’t find a recipe for a from scratch white chocolate bundt cake. Do you think this batter would be ok if I added in white chocolate chips/chunks? And I don’t usually bake bundt cakes, so not really sure of the volume of batter I need. Do you think this would work? Thanks!

    1. Hi Whitney! I’m unsure off the top of my head if this batter is enough or too much for a standard bundt cake. I have a feeling it yields plenty though. You can definitely add some white chocolate chips/chunks though!

  19. Hi Sally,

    can I try this with 4 7 inch pans?

    1. Hi Tamika! 4 7inch pans wouldn’t be enough for this amount of batter, but you can try 5 layers instead.

  20. Sally,I’m excited to use this recipe for a bridal shower cake! It seems like a perfect moist yet stable cake. I plan on making a semi naked cake filled with strawberry and lemon swirled buttercream, topped with a white chocolate drip and decorated with fresh flowers. I am looking for height. If I use 8” pans am I better off baking three tall layers or four shorter layers? Which do you think would give me a taller cake? Thank you for all of your wonderful recipes!

    1. Hey Allison! Your cake sounds like a dream. What incredible flavors! I bet it’ll be gorgeous, too. I recommend the 4 8-inch layers. They’ll bake more evenly and you’ll have more filling in the cake for height.

  21. Hi Sally,

    Can I use this recipe to make a tie dye cake? What food color brand would you recommend? Thanks!

    1. Yes, definitely! I love Americolor gel food coloring. It’s potent, so you don’t need as much.

  22. Hi Sally! Can I possibly use mango instead of raspberries? Thanks in advance for replying…i’m a new fan from the Philippines!

    1. Yes! Any fruit works with vanilla cake!

  23. Hi Sally! This recipe sounds amazing! I’m making a 3 tier semi-naked wedding cake for my niece. It will have 6, 9 and 12 inch layers. Will this recipe work for all layers? Can I half the recipe for the 6’’ layer and double or even triple it for the 12’’ ? Thank you!

    1. Hi Kim! I’m unsure about the 12-inch, but I know for sure that halving the recipe works for a 3 layer 6 inch cake.

  24. Hi Sally,
    I noticed the buttercream here has 1 tsp of vanilla and the recipe for the buttercream in your favorite white layer cake has 2 tsp of vanilla for a smaller portion. Should I add 2 tsp of vanilla for this recipe?
    Thanks so much!!!

    1. Hi Cindy! Add however much you’d like. 🙂 1-2 teaspoons is a great amount for frosting a 2-3 layer cake.

  25. Hi Sally! I’ve always been such a disaster with layer cakes, but with all of your tutorials and videos and tips, I’ve been inspired to try to test our my new knowledge. I made this vanilla cake with your strawberry buttercream for a dinner party last night and it came out just beautifully. It tasted AMAZING and looked really lovely. Special thanks for all of your recipe videos. They’ve made frosting and assembling layer cakes so much more approachable!

  26. Hi Jen! Not that I’ve tested.

    1. Thanks Sally. No worries. Happy birthday to your little one & loads of love!

  27. Hi Sally
    I would like to make this for a coleaugue’s birthday, but we have a large office & I would need a 12” cake for the number of people. I have successfully scaled other cakes before, and if my math is correct, if this makes 3 x 9” layers, it will be just about right for 2 x 12” layers (surface area wise); and if I reduce oven temp & bake for a little longer, it should be ok? However, what would the height of the cake be with just two layers?
    Do you have any advice or thoughts on scaling for a larger cake?
    Thank you so much in advance! Mabel

    1. Hi Mabel! I believe dividing this batter between 2 12-inch cake pans would work perfectly. Since I haven’t tried it myself, I’m unsure of the bake time and height of the cake layers.

  28. Hi,
    I don’t know if I’m going crazy but I don’t see the eggs listed in the ingredients. Can you confirm whether it’s 2 eggs? Thank you!

  29. Emily Williams says:

    Hi! I have made this cake before and now I crave it often! My son wants cupcakes for his birthday party. Can I use this recipe for cupcakes? I need 24, would I need to double?

    Thanks!

    Emily

    1. Hi Emily! This recipe will yield just over 24 cupcakes. Bake time around 20 minutes. Use a toothpick to test for doneness. 🙂

  30. Emily Williams says:

    Sally,
    I have to tell you, using this recipe for cupcakes turned out just as delicious as the cake! The cupcakes are perfectly moist and flavorful. I think they may be my favorite cupcakes I have made yet. This is now going to be my standard go to recipe. Thanks for responding with cook time and amount.

    -Emily

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