Semi naked cakes – one of the most elegant modern buttercream looks of late… A whisper of silky smooth buttercream, spread so thin it reveals tempting peeks of the golden cake beneath… Great for any occasion, or dress up for a wedding with a few well placed blooms, fruit, or treats. Want a perfect base for a Katherine Sabbath style loaded drippy cake? Look no further! Want a naked look without the cake edges drying up? This is your answer! This is one of my favourite styles of cake, my go-to for single tiers & cutting cakes. Because, if you know a few secrets, not only does it look so classy – but it’s super fast and easy too.
Yes, you read that right – EASY! I know so many of us have had no end of trouble trying to get this look right, and don’t get me wrong, I made dozens and dozens before I figured all this stuff out ( the first few took me literally forever to ice) – but now I can finish decorating one in under a quarter of an hour. How, you ask? You’re in luck, I’m going to show you all my secrets right now!
The first thing to know about a successful semi naked cake is the secrets are not in the decorating technique. The REAL secrets are in EVERY STEP before you get to that part – the baking, chilling, levelling, torting & correct buttercream or ganache consistency. Only with all of those things right can you master the art of the semi naked cake without lots of drama, frustration and mess! Of course I learnt the hard way, and got pretty good at semi naked even with different recipes and less perfect prep – its still do-able but takes soo much more practice and is much more of a risk. And if I’m honest, you don’t get the same perfectly sharp, smooth sides that you do following all the right steps. So in this free tutorial I’ll be showing you the best way – the most foolproof, simplest and easiest – to get the most perfect semi naked cake finish with a minimum of heartache and stress!
For an overview, watch my video tutorial here:
If you’re done watching, read on!
The right RECIPE:
Now, the semi naked cake look is all about that golden edge of the cake, peeking through your frosting. To get that perfect caramelised edge – one that doesn’t crumble when you run your scraper along it – you need the right recipe. You can of course use your beautiful fluffy sponge cake or box mix, but I really wouldn’t recommend it (especially not if you’re a beginner) because it’ll be a nightmare to keep those edges intact. Use my recipe, or look for a dense, moist cake that carves well if you must use one of your own.
Ingredients: to make one tall 6″ round tier (about 6 cups of batter)
250g (2 sticks) unsalted butter
400g sugar (2 cups)
1 tbsp high quality vanilla extract
250g egg whites (or 5 whole eggs)
250ml (1 cup) milk
225g (2 cups) plain or all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
- Preheat the oven to 170 C or 325 F fan (180 C or 350 F for conventional ovens)
- Sift your flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside until later.
- Cream your butter & sugar on medium speed in a mixer until pale & light in colour. Add the egg gradually, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla afterwards.
- Fold in 1/3 of the flour, then half of the milk, then another 1/3 of the flour and so on until just combined.
- Whip for 30 seconds in your mixer – don’t overmix or you’ll activate the gluten in the flour and get gummy, dense streaks all through your cake!
- Divide the batter between 2 oiled, lined 6″ pans and tap them on the counter a few times to dislodge air bubbles.
- Bake for 50 mins or until golden in colour and a cake tester comes out clean.
- Cool in the tins for 15 minutes, then turn out the cakes onto plastic wrap (cling film or “press n seal”) and cover well. Pop them into the freezer on a level surface – chilling them like this helps keep the cakes moist.
- Freeze overnight, then place in the fridge to defrost so they’ll be ready to ice the next day.
Note: I now have a chocolate cake recipe up that will also work well for naked cakes, you can find it here:
Ready to ice? Make yourself up a batch of my absolute favourite, super stable, silky, delicious Sawsen’s Egg Free Swiss buttercream (that’s the video, the written recipe is here) and watch the video to see how!
Important note: Be CONSISTENT!
Buttercream or ganache consistency is make-or-break when it comes to semi naked cakes. Too stiff and you’ll destroy even the firmest of crusts when trying to smooth it on. Using a hot water bath on your scraper may help, but will probably melt the fat in your buttercream or ganache, making the outside more streaky and oily. Ask me how I know! The absolute best way I’ve found to keep your edges whole and get a perfect smooth ice is with this simple trick:
Keep your cake CHILLED, and your buttercream VERY SOFT.
I’m talking cooled custard filling, thick Greek style yoghurt or vanilla pudding here, something that is smooth and so easily spreadable, and just about holds its shape in soft blobs. You should really watch the video here to see what I mean. The magic happens when this warm(ish) (note: not runny!) buttercream or ganache meets your cool (note: from the fridge, not frozen!) cake, it adheres wonderfully on the surface while the outermost layer remains spreadably soft for as long as you need to get your cake smooth. You’re not left with air bubbles, drag marks or scrapes on the outside of your cake unless you want that very rustic look; and as you run your scraper around the outside of the cake the softer layers glide away in seconds, revealing your beautiful cake peeking through a perfectly smooth edge, that is almost set already from contact with the cold cake. Genius, if I do say so myself! We won’t mention just how incredibly long it took me to figure this out 😂 the important thing is I got there in the end! 😂😂
To get the right consistency buttercream or ganache, heat it VERY CAREFULLY in 5 second bursts in the microwave at half power. Don’t be tempted to rush or you’ll have soup instead of frosting! Stir after every burst and see if your consistency looks like the video shows. It needs to be as soft as possible while still holding its form in blobs – just take it slow, keep mixing well, and stop if you see any part get too melty. This part takes practice until you know what you’re looking for, so just play with it!
Here’s the video again in case you haven’t watched yet:
So now you know my secrets! I hope this tutorial helps you on your way to semi naked perfection of the cake variety 🙂 If you have used this method be sure to tag or mention me when you share your cakes, I’d love to see what you’ve made! I’m not charging anything for this post or video, so I’d appreciate it if you could support my work by liking, commenting and sharing with your friends and letting them know this is the recipe or technique you used. It means a lot to me! Thank you 🙂