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. amazing cake recipe

    1. Hi i m going to try this recipe in a few days i was wondering if i can put vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract? Thank you

  2. Hi Sally,

    Great recipe! My cakes came out much flatter than yours, however I somehow forgot the milk. The cake was delicious still, do you think the addition of the milk will give it the extra height? I was making it as a trial run for my sisters baby shower next week so wanting to get it nice and high. Cheers

    1. Yep, the cakes were squat and thin since the cake batter was so thick without milk. 🙂

  3. I tried your recipe the cake was absolutely delicious I had challenges with the frosting it tasted good but the texture was grainy. What do you suggest. I’m making an engagement cake and would love to use your recipe again

    Thanks

    1. Sifting the confectioners’ sugar should help for next time. Glad you enjoyed the naked cake!

  4. Holy. S***. Sally.

    This is the best cake recipe I have ever encountered. Thank you.

    I love you forever.

    1. So glad you love it too!!

  5. Hi can you tell me how far in advance can you make & decorate this naked cake….so if I made it Thursday evening would it be still fresh to serve on the Saturday afternoon.?
    Regards Victoria

    1. Hi Victoria! I say 1 day max. See my make ahead tip.

  6. Andrea Bailey says:

    Hi, could you please tell me which imperial measurements are used for the ingredients, American or English? Many thanks

  7. I need to make a 12 inch cake for a birthday order but I realize I’ve never made that big of a cake and I’m finding it hard to find a recipe for 12 inch. Do you have such a recipe or know someone who does that I could link up to? I love your recipes so maybe you could tell me how to change the batter to make a 12 inch?

    1. Hi Courtney! I don’t, unfortunately. Depending on how many layers, you can make this batter twice to ensure you have enough to fill the pans.

    2. Courtney, just wondering if you made this cake as a 12 inch and if so how it turned out? I am thinking of making this as a 12 inch squarebut as the same as you have never made anything that big before.

  8. Hi Sally, this looks so yummy, Ive tried baking it twice now but both times the cakes looks undercooked even after 40 mins in the oven at gas mark 4, please help! The reviews are glowing so I want in lol

    1. Hi Emily, if your cakes are not finished baking, you can loosely cover the tops with aluminum foil so they don’t get too brown, and continue baking until the centers are done.

  9. Dear Sally, can we use Italian meringue buttercream to do the naked cake ? Would I met in hot weather but if course not under hot sun. There will be shades around. Thank you!:)

    1. Yes, definitely!

      1. Thank you!

  10. Made this cake. Is the cake part supposed to be on the dense side?

  11. Hi Sally .. your cake looks amazing and i am sure it taste heaven . wanna bake but can’t until you clarify few queries of mine ..
    i am a learner so don’t want to bake such big cake how to make just two layer cake in 6”cake pan ? please do reply so that i can bake it asap

    1. Hi Rajal, try simply cutting the recipe in half!

  12. I have NEVER tasted a better cake in all my 58 years!!!!! OMG I made this for a small party of friends and they were blown away by the consistency and flavor. This will be the only vanilla cake I ever make!

  13. Hi Sally!

    Could this recipe be made with cake flour? Rather than sifting flour? Thank you!

    1. Hi Katherine! Sure can, but after recently testing that method– I recommend using 4 cups of cake flour with this amount of liquid and eggs.

  14. Hi Sally! I’m thinking about making this cake for my Dad’s birthday this weekend but I’m so terrible with cakes! My main question is how do you prepare your cake pans? Spray oil? Flour? Butter? Parchment paper? I’m pretty sure I’ve never properly prepared a cake pan and would love any advice on this and making cakes in general!

    1. Hi Katie, I always spray the pan AND use parchment paper! It will guarantee that the cakes don’t stick!

  15. Hi sally,
    Can you bake this in a 9×13 cake pan? If so how long do you think?

    1. Hi Josh! There’s too much batter for a 9×13 inch cake pan, but use what you can and fill the pan about halfway – 2/3 full. Any extra batter is great for cupcakes. You could also try my white cake (also great vanilla flavor with a soft crumb). See recipe note for 9×13 inch cake pan.

  16. I need to make 2 smash cakes (both will be 2-layer 6″ cakes). Do you think this is enough batter to cover both cakes (4 layers of 6″ total)? Any recommendations for adjusting baking time?

    1. Hi Alyssa, This should be enough batter for 4 six-inch layers. You will shorten the bake time but without testing I’m unsure exactly what the time will be.

  17. If I want to make a smaller version of this recipe, can I bake all the batter in one pan and cut it into 3 pieces?

    1. It depends on how much smaller/how much batter you are using. You do not want to overfill your pans as your cake will not bake evenly with too much batter.

  18. I made this cake today. It was my first cake like this and it turned out GREAT! Your step by step instructions were SO helpful and the recipe is amazing! Thanks so much!

    1. I’m so happy that you gave it a try!!!

  19. So if I bake my layers and make the icing on Thursday night( refrigerating them separately), the. Layer and ice it all Friday night, refrigerating it overnight for a party on Sat early afternoon, Would that work?

    1. Yes, absolutely! But I recommend covering the cake layers tightly and leaving at room temperature until you assemble the cake. I find they dry out a little in the refrigerator.

  20. Hi! I’m hoping you see this comment. I’d like to make this cake for a party of 20 people. Would you recommend I double the recipe or just go 1.5 times? Also should I use a bigger baking pan (like 10 or 12inch)?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Nella! The size of the pan depends on the shape/style of cake you’d like. Sheet cake, layer cake, etc. For the absolute best results in both taste and texture, I recommend making the batter twice– separately– instead of doubling or 1.5x-ing.

  21. If I want to make two cake layers out of this recipe, do I use the same quantity of ingredients and bake for same amount of time as specified in recipe? Can’t wait to make this!

    1. Hi Janine, if you are using the same size pans it will be too much batter for just two layers. Over-fillng the pans will cause the cakes to bake unevenly. I suggest freezing the third layer if you don’t want to use it or even make cupcakes out of the left over batter!

      1. I’ll plan to use the extra batter for cupcakes! How long do you recommend baking for cupcakes?

      2. Hi Janine! About 20-22 minutes. Use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  22. Hi Sally,
    How many people would you say this cake would serve, as the recipe is? It looks fantastic, I hope mine looks half as good.

    1. It is 12 large servings!

  23. Hi Sally!
    If I am hoping to make a rainbow cake with six layers from this recipe. If I use about 1 and 1/3 cups for each layer, what would the baking time be? Thank you!

    1. Hi Lauren! Just a few minutes shorter. Keep your eye on them and use a toothpick to test for doneness. 🙂

  24. Hi Sally, made this cake several times and it is absolutely delicious! I was wondering if you can suggest something to make it less dense because it tends to get heavy. Thanks!

  25. Im hoping to make this cake for a wedding party on a friday….. could i make it weds night and decorate thurs and store in the fridge till fri eve? Would it stay fresh?

    1. Absolutely. I recommend keeping the cake layers covered tightly at room temperature until decorated. Once decorated, refrigerate until ready to serve.

  26. Hi Sally! This recipe looks so yummy and I’ve had it saved forever! I was just wondering what size of cake pans you used? I don’t know if I’m just glancing over and not seeing it? I’m planning to use this for a birthday cake and I have an 8” cake pan. Thanks!

    1. Hi Kim, I use 3 9-inch cake pans for this cake. You can use 8 inch pans, your layers will just be a little taller.

  27. Can we make the cake, freeze it unassembled an then a week later assemble the cake?

    1. Yes you can!

  28. Hi! I wanted to use this recipe for a birthday party. I wanted to decorate the cake fully instead of making a naked cake. Do I need to double the frosting recipe to have enough?

    1. This should be enough. I often have leftover frosting when making a naked cake!

  29. Can we cover with whipped cream instead of buttercream

  30. Gayle A Freeze says:

    Can I use cake flour instead of all purpose?

    1. Hi Gayle! Yes, but after recently testing that method– I recommend using 4 cups of cake flour with this amount of liquid and eggs

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