Revealed: 10 Steps To Building A Better Naked Cake

It seems like everywhere you look these days, wedding cakes are stripping off the frosting and going naked! Since Christina Tosi, the chef, owner, and founder of Momofuku Milk Bar, originated this style with her deliciously decadent cakes, brides everywhere have been asking bakers for this rustic-chic style.

Naked Cake | Milk Bar | Erin Gardner | Craftsy
Image via Milk Bar

But, going naked doesn't have to be all that scary after all! With a little planning, prep and patience you'll be ready to confidently tackle one wedding cake trend that doesn't seem to be going away — the naked cake.

Psst! Want to make a semi-naked cake? We have tips for that, too!

10 steps to building a better naked cake

Erica O'Brien | Naked Cake | Erin Gardner | Craftsy
Image via Craftsy instructor Erica O'Brien

1. Make a plan

With traditionally finished cakes, most cake designers will bake three to four days ahead of the event to leave plenty of decorating time. Since naked cakes lack the outer layer of frosting, sealing in freshness and moisture, it's a good idea to bake as close to the event date as possible, ideally the day before.

2. Prep your pans

Grease up those pans so they're nice and slick! Without frosting or fondant to hide any baking imperfections, you'll need those beauties to slide out of their pans in one piece.

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Beautifully Baked Cake | Erin Gardner | Craftsy
Image via Craftsy Instructor Beth Somers

3. Distribute batter evenly

This is something that most pros do already, but it's especially important when making a naked cake. Your layers take center stage in this kind of design. Measuring batter carefully ahead of time will make your job easier when it's time to cut and fill.

4. Measure twice, cut once

You've slicked up those pans, carefully filled them and baked your cakes to perfection. To keep your naked cake looking straight and beautiful, take the time to measure your cakes before cutting. Even layers don't only look beautiful; they also add stability to your finished cake.

Measure Before You Cut | Great Cake Decorating | Erin Gardner | Craftsy
Image via Great Cake Decorating

5. Take a soak

One of the biggest concerns with naked cakes is keeping the cake from drying out. To help prevent this from happening, add a cake soak. Brush on a plain simple syrup to add moisture without changing the cake's flavor, or get creative! Adding liquors, coffee, tea and more to your cake soak will add moisture while complementing the flavors of your cake and icing.

Use a light touch when adding your cake soak. Too much can make your cake mushy or unstable. A little brush of syrup goes a long way.

Cake by Craftsy User Zahra Ali | Erin Gardner | Craftsy
Image via Craftsy member Zahra Ali

6. Choose stable fillings

As much as I love a good pastry cream or a light and airy mousse, a naked cake may not be the best place for this kind of filling. Especially if the cake is going to be presented and eaten outside! Use your best judgement when deciding what to use to fill your naked cake. Swiss meringue buttercream, ganache and American buttercream all make for great filings that firm up nicely. You may want to steer clear of a softer French buttercream or cream cheese frosting to prevent any oozing or shifting once the cake is assembled.

If weather is not an issue, you may still want to keep your softer fillings to single-tier naked cakes. Even under perfect circumstances, the weight of a tiered cake may still prove to be too much for a soft, squishy filling.

7. Grab a piping bag

Using a piping bag fitted with a large round tip will help keep those layers nice and even while also preventing your filling from marking up the sides of your cake. Piping a dam of buttercream around the edges of your cake is essential if you plan on adding another softer filling like jam or mousse. When piping your filling, give yourself a little lip (about 1/4-inch) to allow for it to spread a little when the other cake layers are added.

Pipe The Filing | Great Cake Decorating | Erin Gardner | Craftsy
Image via Great Cake Decorating

Once your cake is filled, you can switch up to a star tip and go back in to and add detail, like with this beauty from The Sugar Suite.

The-Sugar-Suite
Image via The Sugar Suite

8. Chill out

After all of that hard work to keep your cakes and fillings clean and straight, give your naked cake some time to chill out before moving or serving. Letting your cake chill until the fillings are completely set will help keep your creation stable as it comes to room temp at the party.

By Craftsy user SweetWhisk | Erin Gardner | Craftsy
Image via Craftsy member SweetWhisk

9. Center dowel

Crumb coats and fondant finishes add shape and stability to a tiered cake. With a naked cake, it's a good idea to add an extra level of support with a center dowel. It's a small step to take to prevent any slip-sliding and for added piece of mind.

10. Finishing touches

Hooray! Your naked cake is stacked and filled, now all it needs are a few final touches. The sides of your naked cake are the star of the show. They're also not well suited for adding any more decoration. Most naked cake designs take advantage of the tops of the cakes to add any embellishments or design details.

Keep the season in mind when choosing your cake's decor. Natural elements, like fresh florals & foliage, feel right at home with the cake's rustic appearance.

Naked Cake by Linda Lomelino | Erin Gardner | Craftsy
Image via Linda Lomelino

Naked Cake by Linda Lomelino | Erin Gardner | Craftsy
Image via Linda Lomelino

If fresh flowers aren't your thing, or you're not able to use them in your area, this is the perfect opportunity to add a few sugar flower blooms.

Craftsy user SweetWhisk | Naked Cake | Erin Gardner | Craftsy
Image via Craftsy user SweetWhisk

Decorating with the flavor in mind is also a fun way to go, adding chocolate shavings, nuts, sauce drippings, or fresh fruit.

Naked Cakes by Alana Jones Mann | Erin Gardner | Craftsy
Image via Alana Jones Mann

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50 Comments

Anne Cooper

I haven’t read through all of your postings so I am not sure if theis question has been asked. When doing a semi naked cake how do you avoid lifting crumbs off of the cake as you scrape the icing off sides?

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Karen Rider

When doing a naked cake like 6′ & 8′. Do you still put a cake board between the 2 sizes? Thank you. Love your site.

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Charlotte Curry Fulmis

How would you place the boards is its 3 layers

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Cathy Turck Pabst

Sorry if this sounds ######, but what type of syrup soak do you use? I have never heard of a cake soak. Do you mean something like corn syrup? Please give me some suggestions.

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Denise

I know these questions are old but someone els that is
Poking might have the same question. You make what’s called a simple syrup with equal parts water and sugar. You can look up the recipe. You its very easy. For instance you add a 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar to a sauce pan and heat until all the sugar crystals have dissolved, let it cool then add a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla or any other flavoring that will compliment your cake. Make sure it’s cool and use a pastry brush to brush it on the top of each layer before you ice it. This helps add to the moisture content. I like to use a couple tablespoons of amaretto in my cake batter plus a quarter teaspoon of almond extract and then I add a couple teaspoons of the amaretto to the simple syrup! You will love it!

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Cathy Turck Pabst

Oops, I meant to say cake soak instead of syrup soak.

Reply
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Reply
Cindi

When you put powdered sugar on the fruit, doesn’t it just melt (both the sugar and the fruit)? What do you use that will stay for hours and still looks fresh?

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Erin Gardner

Hi Cindy! Are you referring to the cranberries? Those are actually sugared. It’s a process where fruit is tossed in whipped egg whites and then rolled in granulated sugar. You then let the fruit dry out on a piece of parchment paper. It actually holds up quite well and gives the fruit a nice snowy glisten. 🙂

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Kerry

If you want the powdered sugar look. How do you do that so it looks nice through the wedding before the cutting of the cake?

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Anne

King Arthur sells a non dissolving powdered sugar that I absolutely love! Its called “Snow white non melting sugar”

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Rabab

Hi,
I have a couple of questions..hope I get a reply very soon 🙂 and TIA
First: Is it ok to complete a naked cake a night before? The event is next day in the afternoon..
Second: To give that frosty look on fruits we use egg whites and then dip it in sugar and let it dry.. can we put these fruits in fridge and use later? will the effect remain?
Third: Do you think whip cream is a good idea for a naked cake? because buttercream is not liked that much.. Can you suggest any filling other then chocolate please..
Fourth: Also dressing it up with different berries a night before, will they still remain fresh?

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Erin Gardner

Hi Rabab! Thanks for all the great questions. 🙂 I’ll answer in order to keep things organized. 1. Yes, totally fine to do a naked cake the night before. I would just wrap it well with plastic wrap to keep it as fresh as possible. 2. I would not refrigerated sugared fruits. The combination of moisture from the fruit and humidity in the fridge would cause the sugar to melt. 3. I would recommend against whipped cream for a naked cake. I just don’t think it’s stable enough, especially if you are doing a tiered cake. There are so many kinds of buttercreams, each with their pros and cons. If American buttercream is too sweet for you, maybe try Swiss or Italian meringue. Ermine buttercream or cooked flour buttercream has quickly become a personal fav of mine. It’s light and fluffy, but not too sweet. Here’s a post that I did on the different kinds of buttercreams which might be helpful: http://www.craftsy.com/blog/2015/11/types-of-buttercream/ I hope this all helps! Good luck with your cake. 🙂

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Erin Gardner

Oops! Wasn’t done. 😛 Other suggestions for fillings would be jam, lemon curd, or pastry cream. If you use any of those, just be sure to pipe a dam of buttercream frosting around the outer edges of your layer before filling. 4. I would add the berries the day the cake is going to be served. In my experience fresh fruit can be very fickle. Sometimes it’s fine overnight, other times it goes south fast! To prevent yourself from having to do it twice or having to go out and get new berries, I would just add them before the cake is going to be displayed. Thanks! 🙂

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Rabab

hey,
Thanks a lot for your reply Erin.
But seems like your first half of the reply didn’t get posted :p ..

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Erin Gardner

Sorry about that! My first response had a link in it, so it needs to be approved by the administrator before it gets posted. Should be up in a few. Thanks! 🙂

Reply
Offie

Hi I have a question I use mostly mud cakes for my cakes but I have been asked to do a naked cake for a wedding. Is a naked cake only made with a vanilla sponge cake or can it be made with mud cakes aswell?

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Erin Gardner

Hi! I would say go for it! I don’t have much experience with mud cake, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work. I’ve seen people use other kinds of chocolate cake before. Mud cake might actually work well since it’s so dense and moist. Not too much of a threat of it drying out! Hope this helps. Thanks!

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jo

I am making a naked cake with 4 layers and 3 tiers. Would you make 2 2 inch cakes and cut them in half or bake 4 seperate cakes? I was wondering if the cake will look right with each layer being 1 inch? Also the middle tier is supposed to be red velvet with cream cheese frosting. Is that frosting too soft in the middle, should I suggest buttercream instead?

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Emma

I’m making a two tiered naked cake. Is it ok to bake the cakes and freeze ahead of time. I was also going to use a white chocolate buttercream. Is there a better option?

Reply
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Reply
Hazel

Hello!
I have a 2 tier wedding cake coming up in June and the bride want to have fresh sunflowers as the topper. The wedding venue is 4 hours drive away so they will pick up the cake the day before the event. My concern and question are: 1) Is it ok to use fresh flowers (I’m just worried flowers are already wilted the next day)? 2) I’m using SMB, do you think it will hold the cake and the topper?

I’ll be waiting for your advice. Thank you very much in advance for you help!

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Erin Gardner

Hi! First thing, I would make sure to be very clear with your client that if they are taking the cake a day before it’s going to be served, then they are 100% responsible for getting it to their venue in the shape you hand it to them. Cakes and fresh flowers are highly perishable, so if they want it early, it’s a risk they run. That being said, I think SMBC will hold up beautifully – they’ll just have to refrigerate overnight. I do think the flowers should be put on shortly before the cake is presented, though. You can cut the stems and tape the flowers together, so that it’s totally ready for them to go. I just wouldn’t leave flowers out of water overnight. They won’t hold up. I hope this helps!

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Juanita

Thanks for such an awesome post Erin!!!! These cakes are just the sweetest ever and i plan on making one for my friends baby shower. I just a couple of questions. 1. I have read it but maybe i missed it, what sort of cake do you generally use? Sponge? Butter cake? And can you mix it up a vit and have mud on bottom, with others on top? Or do you think the different colours would ruin the effect?
Does it help or hinder if you freeze the cake layers ahead of time (just thought it might be something i can bake a month before, 1 less thing on my list). TIA Erin

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Erin Gardner

Hi Juanita! I’m so glad that you enjoyed the post! 🙂 You can really use whatever cake you like when making a naked cake. I think the heavier cakes (mud, butter, pound) actually work better here, because they hold up well without frosting on the sides. Totally mix it up! I think that would look great and sounds like a delicious idea. I don’t typically freeze cakes, so I can’t really offer direction on that. I can’t see why it would hurt though, because many people find that cakes are firmer and hold their shape better after being frozen. I would just worry about the cake remaining moist. If it’s a recipe that you’ve frozen before, then I’d say go for it. Hope this helps! 🙂

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Sue

This is an awesome article thank you. I’m making my son’s wedding cake in August and this is exactly what they want. I only have one pair of 8 inch cake tins and the sides are slanted. What do you suggest I buy to bake naked cake sponges in if I want to have two or three different sizes? Should they have straight sides and do they need to have removable bottoms? Thanks!

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Erin Gardner

Hi Sue! That’s a very ambitious task for you to take on! 🙂 I would definitely buy pans with straight sides and I actually think it would be preferable for them to not have removable bottoms. Just a classic, solid, round pan with either 2 or 3-inch high sides will do. One little tip when buying any kind of pan – the lighter the better. Darker pans will conduct more heat and leave you with a firmer crust on your cake. Hope this helps!

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Sharon

Fabulous post Erin! I saw one question about cake boards in between the layers., but I didn’t see anything about them in the instructions. Can you elaborate on this? I’m planning a three tier cake (my first)for my daughter’s bridal shower. This may be a silly question, but if you use cake boards, how do you secure the layers with a center dowel? Thank you.

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Erin Gardner

Hi Sharon! Thanks so much. 🙂 I would definitely use a thin cardboard cake round at the base of each tier. You can pierce a hole in center of the board before stacking and filling your cake on top of it. Or you can sharpen the end of your center dowel and just gently tap it through the cake and board using the end of your rolling pin or a mallet. Thanks!

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Paula Gail Holler

Do you leave the cake circles exposed or do you use some that are slightly smaller than your tier?

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Erin Gardner

You can really do either. Use the same size board if you are going to be piping a border or adding flowers. If you want the boards to be hidden then go a step down. Thanks!

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Taryn

Hi, wondering if you could help me, for my daughters 21st, We are doing an 8″ naked cake, I am putting an acrylic topper, as these are flammable I will need to do the candles on the cake board or cake stand, I have a 10″ cake stand, what size board would u suggest?, also would 21 candles around the bottom look ok or melt the buttercream?

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Erin Gardner

Hi Taryn! Maybe remove the topper before placing and lighting the candles? That way you don’t have to worry either way. Is the topper so flammable that there can’t be birthday candles near it? I wouldn’t think the candles would be lit long enough to melt the buttercream. If you’re going to do them on the board then I would go at least 2″ larger in diameter for the board. Hope this helps. Thanks!

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Suzanne

Dear Erin…such a helpful article! So detailed and instructional! The only question I have, and I feel ###### for asking, is in regards to doweling tiers. I see that you mentioned at the end of the article that you run a dowel stick through all the layers in the center when finished stacking. I was wondering…wouldn’t you want to dowel multiple tiers of a naked cake as well and not just when you’re done? Thanks so much

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Erin Gardner

Hi! Don’t feel silly for asking! That’s what I’m here for. 🙂 The center dowel would be in addition to the dowels used between each tier. Thanks!

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Clare

Hi there,
Does it matter what type of cake is used? E.g. Is it traditionally sponge or mud cake or something else used for the layers? I’d love a semi-naked cake for my wedding but a family friend is making it & im not sure how to tell her what’s in it or what type of cake it is! Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

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Erin Gardner

Hi! There really isn’t a traditional cake used in this design. I think you’d be fine using whatever your favorite kind of cake is. Sponge, butter cakes, mud cake, they’d all work. I think the main thing to be concerned with is the filling. I recommend using something that sets up pretty firm, like ganache, SMBC, or AMBC. Since there’s no support on the outside from a thick layer of buttercream or fondant, thinner fillings like curds or whipped cream, might be a little too soft to support a tiered cake. Hope this helps! And congrats! 🙂

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Fleur

Hi, I’m making my neighbours home wedding 3tired naked cake in October! I live in Australia in a very humid and tropical climate especially this time of the year. The wedding will be held outside in the evening (but will still be very balmy and humid)
I have to work the morning of the wedding day. So all preparations will be done the days before. I’m trying to work out what would be the best icing/frosting to use. I love Italian Meringue! Would that be a good choice or would you recommend something else that would be more stable? Thank you kindly.

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Cierra

Hi so I will be doing a naked cake for my sister’s first birthday. My mom is really big into no sugar frosting. Any ideas on what I can use for the filling? Please let me know any help would be nice.

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Erin

Hi! When you say “no sugar frosting”, what exactly is she looking for? A frosting that doesn’t contain sugar, or just one that isn’t very sweet? Does she just not like American buttercream? Swiss or Italian meringue buttercreams are great options if she’s just looking for something that isn’t too sweet. If she needs to avoid sugar entirely, then there are a few options. If avoiding refined sugar, coconut sugar is a great swap. It’s got a little more of a caramel-y flavor, but it’s easy to exchange 1-for-1 in most recipes. Honey is a wonderful, natural sweetener. Also, there are diabetic-friendly sweeteners available in the supermarket, like Truvia. If using one of those, then I would search for recipes specifically designed to be made using them. Hope this helps!

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Parekh

It was the first time for me that I got to know great things about naked cakes. It indeed is a unique idea for the wedding. The process of baking and preparing for the naked cake is also simple. I am surely going to try this out for my sister’s wedding.

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Caroline maclellan

I’m making a vegan naked cake and I’m struggling on how to scale up for the 30cm base cake. Any tips or recommendation for a recipe?

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