While rolled-on fondant has been the go-to style when it comes to decorating traditional wedding cakes, some people would try for something more unconventional, offbeat, and whimsical when it comes to cake decorating; hence, the rising popularity of the naked cake.
But what is a naked cake, exactly? Let’s start with what a naked cake isn’t. For one, it doesn’t have fondant or frost to cover the cake. Simply put, it’s a cake with bare sides. An unfrosted cake, with its layers and fillings exposed for all the world to see, the top garnished with mounds of mixed berries, or perhaps glazed with chocolate or caramel syrup, and liberally dusted with icing sugar all over. Inspired by celebrity pastry chef Christina Tosi of the Momofuku Milk Bar fame, the naked cake has become a deal-changer of sorts during the wedding season, especially if the theme of the wedding is rustic or shabby chic.
Here are some of the things you have to take note of when preparing a naked cake on your own:
Keep it fresh! Unlike traditional fondant cakes which you have to prepare ahead of time in order to have enough time for the actual decoration, naked cakes are prepared a day before or even on the day of the event. Unfortunately, a naked cake dries out much quicker so assemble it as late as possible, in order to keep its freshness.
Keep it nice and even! Since there is no fondant or frost to hide the flaws in your cakes, you need to make sure that they come out of your pans nicely firm and even, with no crusty edges. Prep up your pans by greasing them thoroughly, and distribute the cake batter evenly. Remember that the sides of the cake will be the star of the show; hence, it’s important to make sure these come out beautifully once you pop them out of the pans.
Make it precise! Before you cut your cake into layers, measure them. Not only do equally-sized layers add to the aesthetics of the cake, they also add to the overall stability.
Choose the perfect layer cake filling! As a cake decorator, you also need to consider where the cake is going to be displayed. Is it going to be outside, where it’s hot and humid? Don’t allow the weather to ruin something you’ve worked so hard for – choose a filling that will not easily melt in the heat and will cope easily with any kind of weather.
Keep it simple! You may be tempted to generously fill your cake but note that it might compromise stability. Overfilling your cake, especially during warm weather, could be a recipe for disaster. The weight of the next layer or the next tier will automatically make your filling spread out, so always make sure to leave a small gap at the edges of each filling.
Make it stable! Chill each cake in order to firm up the buttercream, cream cheese, or whatever filling you choose to layer your cake in, as this make the cakes stable enough to withstand transport. However, you need to be careful not to overdo the chilling, because this method will dry out the cake, which is something we need to avoid. After chilling the cakes, center dowel each tier to provide additional support and stability.
Keep it moisturized! One the major concerns when making naked cakes is that they don’t have the fondant or frost to keep the cakes from drying out. You can remedy this by brushing up the sides with a small amount of sugar syrup to lock in moisture, without changing the cake’s flavor. But not too much as it can make the outside of the cake look soggy.
Keep it real! Now that you’re done with the baking, filling, and stacking, it’s time to put the finishing touches. You don’t have to decorate the sides of the cake, but you do have to decorate the top with embellishments. Naked cakes don’t typically go well with gum paste flowers, so in keeping with the ‘natural’ theme, natural elements should always be incorporated. The sky is the limit with this one, so get creative and put in things such as seasonal fresh fruits, freshly cut flowers, foliage, succulents, nuts, or figs.
There are no hard and fast rules when decorating a naked cake. Consider the sides, the fillings, and the toppings as the most important factors in the aesthetics. And whether you want clean and precise lines or muddled and uneven layers, and whether you want a towering cake or a petit gâteau, always remember that there is no wrong way to go about creating the perfect naked cake, and that’s the beauty of it.
Thanks for the help to Niki S Kunos, owner of Oh My Cake!