Secrets of the perfect semi naked cake – start to finish

tropical semi naked cake | naked cake tutorial | Fancy Favours & Edible Art

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


  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C or 325 F fan (180 C or 350 F for conventional ovens)
  2. Sift your flour, baking powder and salt  together.  Set aside until later.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. Divide the batter between 2 oiled, lined 6″ pans and tap them on the counter a few times to dislodge air bubbles.
  7. Bake for 50 mins or until golden in colour and a cake tester comes out clean.
  8. 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.
  9. 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:

3D Buttercream Christmas Tree Cake tutorial & Chocolate Cake Recipe

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! ??

secrets of the perfect semi naked cake tutorial | ffeabysawsen

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!

secrets of the perfect semi naked cake tutorial | ffeabysawsen

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 ๐Ÿ™‚  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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Best wishes,

58 thoughts on “Secrets of the perfect semi naked cake – start to finish

  1. Linda Quayle says:

    Really helpful, love your syrup cheat, have an order for a naked cake for a wedding next year, may persuade them to go for a semi naked version.

    1. Fancy Favours & Edible Art says:

      hi, I usually use exactly the same size board because I don’t find my cakes shrink in the oven, but if I need to I do trim the board edge down half a cm or so. A full size smaller would be too much imo, but you could do that too as long as you are careful the cake edge beyond the board doesn’t dry out or otherwise spoil ?

  2. Kyndall says:

    HI, I was wondering if the recipe differs for a larger cake? also what size did you use on the bottom tier of your cake (assuming the top tier is a 6)? Thank you so much planning to make these for a party!

    1. Fancy Favours & Edible Art says:

      hi, you do have to up the quantity of batter if you make larger cakes of course! I used a 5″ and 7″, for which I made 2x the batter amount listed, I tend to guesstimate. If you want to be exact, fill a deep 6″ tin with water to about 2/3 full (like you would with cake batter). Pour that water from the 6″ into the tin sizes you want to use, also to 2/3 full, and see how many times you need to refill your 6″ in order to do so. That gives you the number of batches you’ll need to make! ?

  3. Rebecca Jackman says:


    You mentioned 250g of egg whites or 5 eggs. I’m assuming you mean whites of 5 eggs? I know I sound pedantic but I just want to make sure I get it right first time! ๐Ÿ™‚


  4. Claudia says:

    Really?! I’ve made this 5 or 6 times using 5 egg whites (actually 1 cup of liquid whites) and it has come out delicious and moist every time. But I will try it with 5 whole eggs next time. Also, I let it cool completely before wrapping it in plastic and freezing if I’m making ahead of time.

    1. Fancy Favours & Edible Art says:

      1 cup of liquid whites is exactly 250g, that’s why it worked ๐Ÿ™‚ I use liquid whites too. a whole egg weighs about 50-55g so 5 of those make around 250g. Keep doing as you have been!

    1. Fancy Favours & Edible Art says:

      You’re welcome! I’ll try to put up a chocolate cake recipe some time soon!

      1. Cassidy says:

        Awesome! Thank you! I should clarify – a chocolate cake recipe that would hold up well for a semi naked cake ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Sarah says:

    Hi! Great video, thanks heaps! I am needing to make a two-tier semi naked cake, 6″ top and 10″ bottom, for my 21st. I would love to use this recipe for the 6″ top layer, however I am not sure how to go about finding the amount of ingredients and cooking time for the 10″ bottom layer… I was wondering if yo could please give me any advice or tips on how to do so? Thanks heaps ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Fancy Favours & Edible Art says:

      Hi, I’d expect you to need about a triple batch, to check fill your 6″ tin 2/3 full of water and then pour into the 10″ pan. Keep refilling the 6 and pouring into the 10, keeping count, until the 10 is 2/3 full too. The number of times you refilled is the number of batches of batter you need for the 10″. Good luck!

  6. Eka says:

    Hi! What kind of cake do you use in this recipe? Is it a kind of pound cake?
    But then again, isn’t a pound cake is a cake that is made of 1:1:1:1 ratio of flour, butter, eggs, and sugar?

    1. Fancy Favours & Edible Art says:

      Hi, not a pound cake, just a good vanilla cake… although you can use pound cake instead if you wish.

  7. Emily says:

    Making my first naked cake for a friend’s wedding, and this is a wonderful tutorial! I’m just making a small 6-8 inch cake for them to cut, so hopefully it goes well…..
    I’m baking it thursday, will freeze it like you said, then finish and deliver it friday. The wedding is earlier in the day on saturday, but unfortunately I can’t attend. How do I store it so it stays fresh and doesn’t dry out? Thanks!

    1. Fancy Favours & Edible Art says:

      hi Emily ๐Ÿ™‚ I’d say chill the cake until the buttercream is solid, then gently drape plastic wrap all around, sealing in the cake. Refrigerate again. That way the cake should stay good and avoid picking up any smells or flavours from your refrigerator. Good luck!

  8. Cristina says:


    (First timer here). I decided I wanted to make this cake recipe for my son’s birthday so instead of waiting until the day of I decided to practice. Just wanted to see if you could clarify your directions a bit more even though I read the recipe all the way through, when I was mid process I missed a few things. The second step states to sift dry ingredients together (I assumed sugar was dry) and then step 3 days to beat butter and sugar together. Also I see no mention of where to incorporate the vanilla extract, which I assume is when the butter and sugar are to be beaten? And like others I used the whites of 5 eggs.

    It’s in the oven now so fingers crossed it turns out ok!

    Thank you

    1. Fancy Favours & Edible Art says:

      Hi Cristina, good on you for practicing before the big day. In baking sugar is classed as a wet ingredient, not a dry one (the crystals contain water to form the chemical structure, did you know?)… The recipe calls for 5 eggs as in whole eggs, not 5 egg whites, 250g is about a cup of pourable egg whites, sounds like your cake will be low on liquids. The vanilla can be added at any point you’re adding a liquid ingredient, or mixed in to the batter right at the end. I’d expect your cake to have kindof worked, but be more dense and drier due to the mistakes in quantities and method. Next time you can shoot me a question before you start, or go through the comments as lots of queries are answered there. We all have an experience like this when we start baking so don’t worry, chalk this one up to experience and try again. If you bake again before the big day and it works well, you can wrap it well in cling film and then foil, and freeze it until 2 days before the event – then give it 24h to defrost before you decorate it, then refrigerate until ready to serve. Good luck!

    2. Debra H. says:

      I am practicing with this cake too! I am going to be making my sister’s wedding cake!
      I just had these exact problems. I sifted the sugar in with the flour and baking powder. I ended up being able to get a good portion of the sugar out to cream the sugar with because I hadn’t mixed the sifted ingredients yet.
      My cakes are currently in the oven without vanilla, because there is no place in the recipe that directs you to add it.
      I think I will write the recipe down with the added instructions so that I don’t mess the cake up for the big day.

      1. Fancy Favours & Edible Art says:

        I guess this recipe isn’t written for beginners in baking, at the time most of my readers were my cake decorating buddies. I guess I’ll edit the instructions to explain it better ?

  9. firstbornhouse says:

    Hello! I can’t seem to work out when to cut the cake in half. Do you chill the cake then cut in half and freeze each half overnight? or do you freeze the whole cake and cut it the next day after defrosting it, prior to icing?

    1. Fancy Favours & Edible Art says:

      Hi, you can do either! The only thing I wouldn’t recommend is cutting when too warm (it’ll crumble) or too cold (it’ll be rock solid). I usually torte after removing from the freezer and defrosting, then ice immediately, as per the video. HTH ?

    1. Fancy Favours & Edible Art says:

      I have no idea, in the UK we never talk about cups of batter to a recipe. It makes a 6″ round cake in 2 pans, around 4″ high in total, you can use that information to scale up or down if you need to ?

      1. Debra H. says:

        I have found that this recipe makes 6 cups of batter. I just made a double recipe and ended up with 12 cups of batter.

  10. Juley says:

    Hi I’m hopefully baking my niece’s wedding cake in July, but want to practice the semi naked cake a few times before the big day. At the moment I only have one question. I don’t want to appear ignorant, but what do you mean by plastic wrap. Is it cling film? I’m really looking forward to attempting this. Many thanks.

    1. Fancy Favours & Edible Art says:

      It should work the same… If you don’t mind spending an extra half hour making buttercream that tastes practically identical!

  11. Marie says:

    This tutorial is so helpful! Thank you so much for sharing with everyone. I super excited to be taking the first practice attempt at my wedding cake’s top tier (I’m a little terrified haha). But all this good info makes me feel a lot better. Thank you!

    1. Fancy Favours & Edible Art says:

      Hi, you’re welcome! But please do practice well in advance and make sure you can manage it. A bride has enough to do on her big day without making the cake too, which can have a professional decorator sweating about getting right. If a perfect, gorgeous cake is your dream, I honestly recommend hiring a pro to make sure it happens. If you dont mind however it turns out and just want a bit of fun along the way, then best of luck and enjoy the experience. Good luck whatever you decide! ?

      1. Marie says:

        So the cake was super fun and pretty easy to make. It looks beautiful!! I had a blast making it! My only concern is the density. I know its supposed to be a denser cake, but it almost seems TOO dense. I used 5 whole eggs, but they were pretty large eggs. Could that be part of the problem?

      2. Fancy Favours & Edible Art says:

        Might need to read up on Google how to cream butter & sugar and start the batter should look like once you add eggs. Mistakes in that step can make a cake much denser ?

  12. Clarice says:

    Hello! Really great tutorial – thanks for sharing. When adding the 5 whole eggs, are you using UK medium sized eggs? I’m using Large UK eggs. However, once cracked, 5 whole eggs weighs almost 300g…. Shall I just use 250g worth?
    Thank you again!

    1. Fancy Favours & Edible Art says:

      I used organic boxes of mixed size eggs. the slight variation in weight of eggs doesn’t make that much difference, but you can go for medium if you wish.

  13. says:

    Loved this can’t wait to try it!!! You did a great job explaining everything

    1. Fancy Favours & Edible Art says:

      hi, a little vegetable oil brushed around the inside of the pan – base and sides – and a parchment circle at the bottom, with a long strip for the sides. hope that makes sense!

  14. laurelch1 says:

    Thank for this! I am having a party this weekend and will be using your recipe. I don’t really care if it’s perfect but I’m going to try to stick to these instructions. My one question was about when to chill (before or after tort) but someone asked. Thanks for being so responsive and answering everyone’s questions! Looking forward to giving it a shot. Xoxoxo.

Leave a Reply