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How to Make a Naked Cake

If you are getting into cake baking, you may be wondering how to make a naked cake. You may see them on Pinterest, and they may all look a little different depending on who actually makes them. So in this post I am going to share with you a few different styles of naked cakes, and give you some tips and tricks on how to make a naked cake.

If you're looking for naked cake recipes, be sure to check out some of my favorites here like my Banana Bread Cake, Chocolate Cherry Whipped Cream Cake, or my Simple Naked Birthday Cake.

banana bread cake

What is a Naked Cake?

A naked cake is a layer cake that has the cake layers exposed (in some way), meaning frosting doesn't completely cover the cake like a traditional layer cake. There are many different styles of naked cakes and while they all kinda have the same name, they can look very different!

Don't worry, I got you covered if you are looking to learn how to make a naked cake. And not just one kind, but multiple different kinds of naked cakes! I get the allure of naked cakes as they just look so effortless and chic. And, many people think that naked cakes use less frosting, but I am here to tell you right now that is so untrue! You actually sometimes use more frosting than a completely covered cake! I know, crazy right?!

So, let's dive right into how to make a naked cake. I am sharing three different types of naked cakes today — what I call a Rustic Naked Cake, Naked Cake, and Semi-Naked Cake. And I am sharing recipe links to some of my favorites so you can get a recipe for each kind of naked cake.

I am sharing three different types of naked cake styles with you guys today. I am starting with the easiest and then going onto the more difficult style. Whenever making naked cakes, just remember — do not get discouraged. This style of cake takes just as much practice as traditional layer cakes and can even sometimes feel harder. I've taught many people how to make naked cakes and it just takes patience and practice. But, practice just means more cake for you to eat — so that's not a bad thing!

orange ginger carrot cake on a plate with fresh oranges

How to Make a Rustic Naked Cake

This is the easiest kind of naked cake to make! So, if you are just starting out then I would recommend starting with this style of naked cake. For this Rustic Naked Cake, make sure that you have flat cake layers. Some types of cake will bake flat on their own, but if your cake is domed then you can trim it with a bread knife. It's best to trim the cake when it's chilled in the freezer so it cuts easily and it doesn't break. You can place your cake layers in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, then trim the dome off the cake.

You can make almost any kind of frosting for this style of naked cake. I frequently use buttercream, whipped cream frosting, or even just plain whipped cream! All of them would be delicious and hold up well. You do not need a piping bag for this style of naked cake, it can all be done with a cake spatula.

To assemble a Rustic Naked Cake, make sure you have your cake layers and frosting ready. Place your first cake layer on a cake stand or spinner with the bottom side down. I always place the bottom side down as my first cake layer no matter what kind of cake I'm making. This provides a truly flat bottom for the cake to sit on, no matter where it is. Then place a generous amount of frosting (to be exact, one third of the frosting) and spread evenly.

Top with the second cake layer with the bottom side up. You want to have the bottom side up on the top two layers as that is always the perfectly flat side, so it helps make the cake look even and straight. Then repeat the process with the second third of frosting. Top with the third cake layer (bottom side up) and top with remaining frosting. It's that simple! I named this style the Rustic Naked cake, as this doesn't have to be perfect and the frosting is spread in a rustic way on each layer making this cake very easy to assemble.

I use the Rustic Naked Cake style for my Chocolate Cherry Whipped Cream Cake below!

chocolate cherry whipped cream cake

How to Make a Naked Cake

This type of naked cake is also fairly easy and it looks amazing. However, with this style of naked cake it is very important that you have perfectly flat cake layers too. If your cake is domed then you can trim it with a bread knife. It's best to trim the cake when it's chilled in the freezer so it cuts easily and it doesn't break. You can place your cake layers in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, then trim the dome off the cake.

You want to use a frosting that will hold its shape well. I prefer to use buttercream here. This actually uses much more frosting than you may think! You will also need a piping bag for this naked cake, and a decorating tip. I use Ateco tip #827 often but you can also use #846 or #864. You can even use a piping bag with no tip for a smooth looking frosting instead.

You should have your cake layers and frosting ready. The frosting should be in your piping bag with whatever decorating tip you are using. Place your first cake layer on a cake stand or spinner bottom side down, so it sits flat. Then starting at the outer edge of the cake, pipe a spiral going into the middle of the cake. You want to start at the outer edge of the cake (and not the middle) as you want to focus your efforts here as this is what you will see and you want to make sure the frosting is completely flush with the edge of the cake. The middle you will not see, so that's why I always start on the outer edge to get that first circle exactly where I want it, and then you can just continue to pipe into the center, it does not have to be perfect at all! And if you have a gap or something on your spiral into the middle, just smooth it out with your cake spatula.

Then you will top with your second cake layer (bottom side up), and repeat that process again. Then, you'll top it with the third layer (bottom side up) and if this is your top layer then you want to focus more efforts on the piping of the top of the cake. I still start on the outer edge and then work my way in. And, I then will use a cake spatula and smooth out the middle leaving the decorated edge only on the boarder. I like the way this looks and it also makes it easier!

I use the Naked Cake style for my Simple Naked Birthday Cake below! I also have a reel on this recipe showing you how I put this cake together too!

Yellow Naked Cake with Chocolate Frosting, simple naked cake recipe, naked birthday cake

How to Make a Semi-Naked Cake

This type of naked cake is probably the one you see on Pinterest all the fucking time! This is usually what people want for their wedding or for a special occasion. And this is also the style of naked cake that just looks the most chic, in my opinion. This Semi-Naked Cake just looks completely effortless — yet it is actually the most difficult to make! This is not effortless at all in my opinion, I usually spend more time on this type of cake than a traditional layer cake that is completely covered and decorated!

With this type of naked cake, it is especially important to make sure you have contrasting cake and frosting. Otherwise, you will not see a contrast and it will look very lackluster. The contrast is what makes this style of naked cake look so amazing! So choose flavors that will compliment each other — a darker cake with lighter frosting, or a lighter cake with darker frosting. If you choose chocolate cake and chocolate frosting it can sometimes also just look like you crumb coated your cake and and it's not done. There is a very fine line between crumb coating and making a true Semi-Naked Cake. So, that is why this type of naked cake can be so challenging. It can also be challenging because you think it's so easy, so you can easily get frustrated when it doesn't come out as you want.

For the Semi-Naked Cake it is so helpful to have domed cake layers. So if you normally use cake strips on your cakes to help them bake flat, just do not use the strips and they will bake more domed. And do not trim them! The more domed the better! You can use flat cake layers here too, but your finished cake will suffer. Why? See the very large amounts of white frosting on the cake photo below? That is space between the cake layers (because the middle is domed). This brings style to the cake! If you use completely flat cake layers, then you rely on frosting alone to create these large portions of contrast and it can be very challenging, as frosting can only be so tall. And, it will look the same from every angle if the cake layers are completely flat, which then can make this cake look kind of boring. So, you should definitely be baking a cake that is domed, and then do not trim them at all.

banana bread cake

Once you have your cake layers, and frosting ready, you'll need to have a cake spinner for this style of cake and cake spatula. I prefer to use a straight cake spatula, but you can use angled if you prefer. That is just a personal preference.

Place your first cake layer on your cake spinner bottom side down. I always place the first cake layer bottom side down so it sits flat on the surface. Place a generous amount of frosting onto the cake layer and spread evenly. Then top with the second cake layer, placing it bottom side up. This will and should create a large space between both layers on the sides as they are both dome side together, this is good! You want this! Place a generous amount of frosting onto the second layer and place the third layer bottom side up, this creates the flat top that we need for the top of the cake. Using your cake spatula, place a very small amount of frosting onto the top of the cake layer, and spread evenly to crumb coat the top of the cake only – do not put any frosting on the sides yet! Clean your cake spatula off so there is no frosting on it and just go around the sides of the cake to just make sure none of the frosting is sticking out too much, just tuck it into the large gaps on the sides, trying not to touch the sides of the cake at all. The gaps should not be completely filled yet. Place the cake in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Transfer the remaining frosting in a piping bag with no tip. Remove the cake from the freezer and using your piping bag, fill in the large gaps with the piping bag so frosting is piped onto the sides of the cake, in between both layers. Make sure to pipe a generous amount so there is excess that you'll need to scrape off. Don't scrape it off just yet.

Once you have piped frosting into all the open spaces on the sides, then pipe a little bit onto the top of the cake. Using your cake spatula, smooth the top of the cake so it covers the crumb coat and creates a nice smooth top with no crumbs. This is the first step to make sure your cake doesn't just look like it's crumb coated. I always do a layer of clean smooth frosting on top of a naked cake to make it look finished.

Then go around the entire cake and scrape off the excess frosting, trying not to get frosting on every part of the cake layers. This is where it is challenging as you want to just scrape off what is excess, and not use your cake spatula on ever part of the cake, as this is also what can make it look just like a crumb coated cake, and not a Semi-Naked Cake!

The biggest tip I can give you is don't keep messing with it. This is a first run and done type of cake, you can't keep going back and doing it again and again, otherwise your whole cake will be covered in frosting and it won't look like it's supposed to. So, you gotta get it right the first time and that is part of the challenge! You also have to know when to stop, and as a cake decorator — I know that can be challenging too! But, practice makes perfect here once you can master this one, it will become really easy I promise!

I use the Semi-Naked Cake style for my Banana Bread Naked Cake below!

banana bread cake

Tips for Making the Best Naked Cakes

You must make a layer cake.

In order to make a naked caked, you must have a layer cake recipe where there are multiple layers of cake. This can be 2 layers, 3 layers, or even 4 layers. Depending on how tall you want it to look or what recipe you are using, that can vary. There is no right or wrong amount of layers. But I prefer to make them with 3 layers as I think that is the right amount of cake to eat, and it also gives you three layers to achieve the look and style of a naked cake.

Almost any recipe can be used to make a naked cake.

I say almost any recipe, and not any recipe because in order to make the Semi-Naked Cake look good you have to have contrast between the cake color and the frosting color. This type of naked cake doesn't look great when the frosting and cake color are very similar – such as chocolate cake and chocolate frosting. This type of naked cake looks much better when there is contrast between the cake and frosting. Think a gingerbread cake with vanilla frosting or a chocolate cake with coconut frosting. Both of these would be examples of flavor profiles that would work great for a Semi-Naked Cake. If you do have chocolate cake and chocolate frosting, then stick to the Rustic Naked Cake or the Naked Cake.

You'll need a piping bag.

A piping bag is going to be essential for making two kinds of naked cakes I am going to show you today. Trust me, you will want to to have one! Find my piping bags here.

Naked cake layers can be flat or domed.

Depending on what style of naked cake you are making, you may need domed cake layers, or flat cake layers. So you can make a naked cake with any kind of cake layers, it just depends on what style you are making.

Butter and flour the sides of your cake pans.

Whenever making any kind of naked cake, make sure to butter and flour the sides of your cake pan. This is something that even I forgot to do sometimes! When making a traditional layer cake, the sides get covered, so they don't have to look perfect. So if your cake sticks a little bit to the sides of the pan, it's no big deal to go around the pan with a butter knife and cut it free. But, when making a naked cake, the sides do have to look perfect. So, buttering and flouring the sides of the cake pans will really help the cake bake away from the sides of the pan just enough to avoid it sticking completely. Then the cake removes from the pan easily and make the sides look better!

Always store a naked cake in a cake dome.

Because the cake is exposed and not covered completely in frosting, that means air can get to it. And air dries out cake! If you are in a dry climate (like I am here up in the mountains) it's even worse! No matter where you live, any cake that is exposed to air will start to dry out. So, if you are making a naked cake then be sure to have a cake dome to store it in. You can find one of my favorite cake domes here.

Yellow Naked Cake with Chocolate Frosting, simple naked cake recipe, naked birthday cake

I hope this helps you guys understand the different types of naked cakes. I also hope it helps you learn and practice how to make the different types of naked cakes! It can be difficult to see a cake and then not know how to execute it, and I hope that I have explained each type well enough that you can feel comfortable to practice making naked cakes.

Bottom line is naked cakes are really fun to make and they look amazing! They also require much more skill than you may think! If you have any questions about naked cakes, please don't hesitate to email me at hello@mimisorganiceats.com I am happy to help!

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  1. Thank you so much Mimi! I’m going to do my son and future daughter in laws wedding cake in May. I did wedding cakes years ago but never a naked cake and your article is going to be a tremendous help to me! They requested the semi-naked cake and your advice about leaving the dome makes sense. My only fear is that the cake may shift a little but I’m thinking that dowel rods should prevent that. Their cake will be2 tiers 14 and 10 and I’m not sure if I will do 2 or 3 layers on each tier yet:

    • mimibakescookies

      Hi Lisa! Oh that’s so much fun, and that will be so special that you made it! I’ve many hundreds of 2 and 3 tier cakes, for 2 tier I’d always do 6-inch and 9-inch, and they were always 3 layers. I never used dowel rods, never needed them! But they don’t hurt if you’re nervous! Make sure to tag me on Instagram when you make the cake, I can’t wait to see!

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