Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Naked Cakes

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Naked cakes, or those which have icing on the top and between the layers but are bare on the sides have become a trend over the last few years. They have a rustic sensibility about them, and let the beauty of the cake shine through, unencumbered by too much, often cloying frosting. Not to mention the fact that they are easier to make, and to keep in the hot weather.

Earlier in the season, I had an epic cake fail. I was bringing a birthday cake to a catering gig just across town. The extreme temperatures made the cake difficult to ice, but a short stint in the fridge after the crumb coat took care of the problem, and I was able to get the it frosted and decorated without a hitch.

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As the cake sat on my lap in an Uber for the 15 minute ride, I could feel it melting. When I got it upstairs to the client, I discovered that a hunk had literally fallen off in my lap. If McGyver was a baker, he would have been proud of me. I had a thought ahead and brought a container of extra frosting along, and the tools to make repairs in case it smudged in the car. Well, this was a pretty big smudge.We’re talking a large handful of cake that plopped off! I used the icing to “glue” everything back together, and turned the cake so that the repairs were on the back. I went to wash my hands, and when I came back, I realized that the border of rosettes that I had piped along the top edge of the cake were gone. There was no icing thief, who snuck in and ate all the rosettes. They had melted, to the point that the entire cake was now dome shaped. I was scrolling through the phone trying to find the number for Billy’s Bakery, a local bakery who does cakes that start out looking very similar to this one, to see if I could just go and buy one, and add a few proprietary touches, when the group walked in for the party. At that moment, I vowed not to make another layer cake until the fall. (p.s. They were wonderful about it, and said it was delicious!)

Making a naked cake is not only the answer to my problems, but also brings the bonus of discovering that they look, and taste better than a traditional fully frosted layer cake. They also look amazing with a topping of edible flowers and fruit, rather than the standard piped decorations. Something that is simpler, tastier and and more chic than your basic run of the mill birthday cake? Count. Us. In!!!!

To make a naked cake, bake the layers as the recipe indicates. Any cake that can be made in layer cake pans, can be a naked cake.

Prepare your favorite frosting, or if you are serving it immediately, freshly whipped cream will do.

Place the first layer on the serving platter and spread a layer of frosting evenly on top. I like to use a pastry bag with a very large tip to pipe the frosting along the edge of the cake, and inside, so that when it is spread, there will be a perfect rim between the layers, and the frosting will be level. Smooth it with an offset spatula, and place the next layer carefully on top,making sure it is even. Repeat for subsequent layers. Ice the top of the cake, using the same method of piping the rim to ensure a perfect edge. If you like the look of smeared frosting on the sides, spread a thin coat of frosting on the sides and smear it along, keeping it transparent enough to allow the cake to show through. You can also accomplish this by over-filling the layers and smearing that excess along the sides.

If you would like to add fruit between the layers, place the cut fruit flat in concentric circles, paying special attention to the outer edge. You can also spread a layer of cooked fruit or preserves onto the cake before adding the frosting.

Decorate the cake as desired.I love the natural look of edible flowers, which I buy from Windfall Farms at the Union Square Greenmarket. You can also use fresh fruits and berries.
I tuck few sprigs of flowers into the sides of cake between the layers, and scatter some fruit and flowers on the plate, giving it a less contrived look than one would get with piped flowers and borders.

If it is hot, you can refrigerate the cake, pulling it out before you sit down to dinner, so that it is back to room temperature before you serve it.

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