It seems that wherever you look these days, cakes have decided to strip. Why, in a world full of amazing frostings, would they choose to go naked?
When they first appeared around 2014, naked cakes were regarded like one of those food trends that explode on the Internet out of nowhere just to fade away a few months later. But now, it seems like these cakes are here to stay.
Why Are Naked Cakes Naked?
Naked cakes are characterized by the minimal amount or complete absence of frosting, which reveals the base and filling.
Again, why would you decide to go for a naked cake when there are so many exquisite frostings? The reasons may vary – maybe you have made a base that is so perfect it would be a shame to cover, or you have simply run out of the basic frosting ingredients.
Then, there are the aesthetic reasons. Naked cakes are very easy to decorate, especially the tall ones. Frosting a seven-layer special-occasion cake is not as simple as covering a standard one. In the case of naked cakes, just a splash of buttercream and edible flowers on top will result in a beautiful rustic cake, perfect for baby& bridal showers, birthdays, as well as intimate backyard weddings.
And last but not the least, naked cakes are perfect for summer days. High temperatures can easily melt heavy frosting and destroy the visual experience. With undone cakes, you are always on the safe side.
Naked Cakes For Beginner Cooks
Are naked cakes just regular cakes with less frosting that any average cook can make at home? Well…
No matter how easy and simple they might seem, trying to make them at home can result in ‘interesting’ results. Let’s face it, frostings can cover any faults in the base while in the case of naked cakes, everything is out in the open.
This quick guide is here to prevent your first naked cake from being a complete disaster.
#1 Use Pancakes To Practice
Anyone can make pancakes. Sure, preparing pancakes is different from making a cake but they don’t take too much time or skill. This, in turn, would mean that you won’t be terribly disappointed if you fail in composing your very first naked cake. Lower expectations - less frustration.
Pick a quick and easy pancake recipe (the flavor is irrelevant, you can go with classic buttermilk, red velvet, chocolate, or any other pancake flavor you like). Prepare the flapjacks the usual way. When you are done cooking, let the pancakes cool and stack them, smearing vanilla buttercream in between. This filling is neutral enough to go with any pancake flavor and will also act as a ‘glue’ that will hold the cake together. If the weather is hot, use meringue or jam-based filling that won’t melt easily.
#2 Prepare Well
When you set out to make a real naked cake, make sure you are well prepared:
Choose a simple cake recipe (still keeping your expectations low).
Arrange all the kitchenware and ingredients you will need on the counter. Making a cake is a messy process, so being organized will help reduce stress and increase efficiency.
Note: Since the whole cake will be exposed, it must look absolutely perfect. Pay special attention to the pans to prevent the cake from burning or sticking to the sides. Use parchment paper, butter, or non-stick spray.
And finally, be aware that the process of mixing, baking, and decorating a cake, followed by cleaning up, is a process that takes time, so don’t start if you have other plans for the day.
#3 Composing Your Naked Cake
Cooling and cutting. Trying to remove the cake from the pan while still hot will result in decomposition and crumbling. That is why you need to let it cool for about 15 minutes.
To facilitate cutting and trimming, once you remove the cake from the pan, wrap it in a plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour. Use a long, serrated knife for this purpose.
Chilling the frosting is a good idea as well. Cool frosting is much easier to work with since it is firmer and holds better.
Stacking. Stack the cake upside down so that the bottom is used as a top of your cake to keep it flat. This will save you the trouble of removing the domed top with the serrated knife and ruining the cake at the finish.
Filling. Apply a ‘frosting dam’ using a piping bag (best with medium round tip) around the top of the layer (avoid the very edge since the filling will shift a bit when you press the next layer on top). Fill the ‘frosting dam’ with a filling of choice (buttercream, ganache, cream cheese, pastry cream, lemon curd, or fruit jam).
#4 Decorating The Cake
Nakedness. You can decide to leave your cake completely naked or cover it partially. If you go with partial nakedness, use a spatula to cover the top completely (this will allow you to play with decorations) and apply random, uneven patches of frosting on the sides.
Garnish. When it comes to garnishing your naked cake, the sky is the limit. You can try edible or fresh flowers and herbs, macaroons or meringue kisses, candies, chocolate, nuts, and spices… Literally whatever your heart desires.
Remember, practice makes perfect. Make naked cakes often and always, always have a plan B in case things go wrong!