Vanilla Naked Cake

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

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 and 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 this cake is that you have creative control. You can decorate and style 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

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. 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

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 cake 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 to use 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

Vanilla Naked Cake Video Tutorial

Want to watch me assemble and decorate a naked cake? Here you go!

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– no complicated extra steps. 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 the need to do this 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– 1.5 cups to use between each layer and 1.5 cups to use on top and around the sides.
  5. The fridge 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 and in between the cake layers, as well as ensuring 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 found really 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. My favorite!
  • 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

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

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


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


  • 3 and 3/4 cups (431g) sifted all-purpose flour*
  • 1 teaspoon 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!)


  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.


  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: 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. Milk: If needed, you can use whole milk mixed with 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice instead of buttermilk.
  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


  1. Sally, hi

    How can I switch out the vanilla for a rum flavoured frosting….. same amount of rum? And can I substitute the heavy cream? It’s hard to come by where I am.

    Thank you

    1. Hi Ann! I would reduce the rum down on the stove so you have more potent flavor in a smaller amount of liquid. (I do this in my champagne frosting!) You can use milk instead of heavy cream. But try replacing some of the milk with the reduced rum for extra flavor. 🙂

  2. Hi Sally,
    I would like to bake this cake for my baby shower. I will have around 40 people attending. Do you think doubling the recipe should be enough? If yes, would a 6 layer cake be too big? I’m not super great at baking, and would like to keep things simple.
    I also thought I could make a 3 layer 9 inch pan, and a 3 layer 6 inch pan on top. Would it be okay? In this case, how would I modify the recipe?
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Carol! I’m glad to help. I recommend making this batter twice. For best results, do not double. Extra volume in the mixing bowl risks over or under-mixing, ruining the texture of the cake.
      A 6 layer cake would be very tall and may not hold together properly. A 3 layer cake with a 6 inch tier on top should be just fine. For extra stability, you can use cake dowels for support. Fill the cake pans halfway. You’ll have leftover batter and can make a few cupcakes on the side!

      1. Hi Sally,
        Thank you for your suggestion. We ended up making two 3 layers cakes, one with dolce de leche filling, the other one with Bridageiro (we are Brazilians, btw). First of all, the cake looks beautiful!!! But the taste, OMG, it was amazing! Everyone loved it, and we got lots of complements. I’m not the greatest baker, but this cake was very easy to make, and it turned out delicious! Every filling would go with it!! Thank you for sharing and let me know if you would like me to send pictures.

  3. Hi Sally,

    I’m baking this cake for a wedding and need to prepare some things ahead. Plan is to make 3 tiers (6, 9 and 12″) for the wedding on a Saturday. Do you think the baked non frosted cake covered tightly with cling could last well in the fridge if I cook it say on Tuesday? Plan is to cook 1 tier tuesday, another wednesday, another thursday, frost everything on Friday and serve on Saturday. Is this doable? I do work full-time during the week, will have the full Friday free but apart from that only baking at night 🙂 Thanks for your help.
    xoxo, Mafalda

    1. I would be afraid this cake would dry out if refrigerating it more than a day. You can certainly freeze the cake and thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.

      1. Hi Sally,
        Thank you for your help! Would you freeze if frosted? Or frost it after it thawed? Sorry maybe they’re stupid questions but I never froze cake 🙂 Thanks again!

      2. Either way works! If you freeze it after it’s frosted, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.

  4. I’m so excited to make this for my daughter’s 2nd birthday this weekend! I’m wondering if I make the frosting the night before and keep it in the fridge, do I need to let it adjust for a few hours to room temperature the next day before frosting? I’m assuming so…Thanks!

    1. Yes, let the frosting come back to room temperature and give it a stir before using. I hope she has a great birthday!

  5. Hi Sally!!

    When I try to frost a naked cake I have trouble with crumbs getting into the icing. I know it’s technically a “crumb coat”, but an ugly amount get in and make it look pretty bad. The icing actually pulls away at the cake when I smooth it out. Any tips? I tried freezing the layers before assembling but it didn’t help!

    1. Hi Abby! The thinner the frosting, the less it will pull off the crumbs. Try thinning out your frosting with extra milk/cream.

      1. Thanks Sally! Also, do you typically freeze your cakes at any point in the process? Either before leveling them or before frosting them?

  6. I plan to make smaller round cake. I have a round cake pan of 7” and about 1 3/4 in height pan. Should I make 3 or 4 layers? And also should I put something like frosting on wooden plate to prevent cake from slipping off?

    1. Hi Barbara! This cake batter may be too much for even a 4 layer 7-inch cake. You can use any extra batter for cupcakes, though. I never usually dab the cake stand or plate with frosting in the center, but you certainly can to make sure it doesn’t slide. That’s always a nice trick!

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

      1. I was just wonder what the differences are between using cake flour vs. all purpose flower. Does cake flour results in a lighter fluffy cake?

  7. Hi Sally, love your recipes. Need to make this cake for 25 people. What do you suggest will work better.
    Greetings from Costa Rica! Pura vida!

  8. I decided to be daring and made my first naked cake. I did a easter theme with peeps and cadbury shimmering mini eggs. I used 6 inch pans and was able to make 2 cakes with the batter. My family loved it and my co-workers could not stop talking about how good the recipe was. They loved the balance of cake to frosting ratio. I told my co-workers I will be taking on your blackberry lavender cake next. They are eagerly awaiting it. Thanks for keeping a homebaker like me challenged to uplevel my baking skills.

  9. I noticed your cake calls for baking powder and soda. I have made cakes with just baking soda in the past. If I omit baking powder, should I substitute cream of tartar? And how much? Or should a bit of vinegar be added? I am baking this (and doing a second batch to turn into cupcakes) for a friend’s wedding and the bride is allergic to baking powder.

    1. If you are going to be inserting the stems of live flowers into the cake you can certainly wrap them first. I usually just lay mine on top so I do not!

  10. Thanks Sally – I made your 6 inch cake into a semi-naked cake for the first time flavoured coconut and raspberry consulting this recipe and your other Coconut cake, and blackberry lavender cake recipes. Thanks for all your notes and videos – before this I was intimidated by semi-naked cakes but really it was fun and easy! Can’t wait to try new techniques.

  11. Hi Sally!

    I was looking to only make a 2 layer cake with this recipe. Would taking half of everything in the cake and frosting recipe do the trick?

  12. Would it be crazy to make both the white cake and the hummingbird cake for a wedding cake…alternating the layers? But would use the buttercream for the entire cake…

    1. Hi Tammy! I think that would be great! The two flavors would work very well together. The cake would be pretty tall, so keep that in mind.

      1. Thank you… I haven’t decided the pan sizes yet .. I have a 12, 10, and a 6 inch round pan…. any ideas for me?

    1. Thanks Marie! You know, I can’t recall the name of this type of floral. I picked them up from our local nursery last year. so sorry!

  13. Hi Sally – I am hoping to turn this recipe into a 2 tier cake for a wedding (a 10inch and an 8 inch tier). Could you help me how to adjust the ingredients to make the 10inch and 8 inch tiers please?

    1. Hi Bianca! Unfortunately, I don’t know the exact amount of batter you’ll need for that cake, but if you make this batter twice, you should have more than enough. You can use extra batter for a few cupcakes on the side, too!

  14. Hello Sally,

    I want to make your cake, but I have to make it lactose free. I wanted to change the butter for plant based butter (soya) but nut sure about the buttermilk. What would you suggest?

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Aline! You can use a lactose-free milk in place of buttermilk. Stir about 1 teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in the milk before adding to the batter.

  15. Hello!
    How many people does your cake feed? Planning on doing this for a baby shower of 50 people. Thank you!

  16. Hi Sally,

    I always go to your recipes for trying something new because they are so reliable! I’m looking for a non chocolate cake recipe that’s particularly sturdy/well suited for being the bottom tier of a two tier cake (my first one!). I know it’ll need supports as well but I was wondering if you think any of your recipes might be particularly good for this?? Thanks for any advice!

  17. Hello,

    I’m baking this cake for a rehearsal dinner. I’m using 3 x 9 inch cake pans as suggested. I have a standard oven and all 3 cake pans won’t fit on one rack. Should I put 2 pans on the lower rack and 1 pan on the upper rack? Or should I bake 2 cakes and then bake the 3rd after. Or maybe it doesn’t matter and I’m overthinking it. Ha ha. Thank you for your help.

    1. Hi Crystal! Bake however many cakes your oven can hold. Keep the remaining batter covered loosely at room temperature, then bake that batter when the cake pan is ready.

      1. Awesome! Sorry one more question. If I have caster sugar can that be used in place of the granulated on the cakes? Obviously not for the buttercream?

      2. Thanks for the quick responses. I’m making the cakes layers tomorrow (Friday) morning. And then making the frosting Saturday morning and frosting. The cake will be served on Saturday at some point between 2-5pm. Do you think I should use a simple sugar on the cake for moisture or do you think it should be fine? I really appreciate all your help

      3. I’ve made the cakes and they smell and look heavenly! I’m going to frost tomorrow. Should I put in the fridge overnight or sit out at room temperature wrapped up in plastic? I know it helps for the cake to be chilled before frosting but I also want to conserve moisture. So if I leave out at room temperature I could put in the fridge for an hour before? What do you think? And if I put in the fridge what do you think is the best way to store?

    1. Hi Christina! I wish I could help, but I have no experience baking at high altitude. I know some readers have found this chart helpful:

  18. This is an amazing recipe l. I love it, but only make it if you have a/c. I dont have a/c and was making this cake for my mother in laws birthday and the frosting was melting while i was assembling the cake and the layers started slipping off to the side, lol! Granted i live in michigan and it was 80° with humidity. It still turned out decent, a little lopsided but it tasted great!

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