Lessons Learned from the Naked Cake

naked cake with fresh fruit

I’ve been asked to make another naked cake for two weeks from now! Here’s my first one above, made last summer. Well, technically this was my third one, I made two in preparation for this one and brought them in to work for comments and taste testing. I had made two versions: one completely from scratch and the other used a recipe from the Cake Mix Doctor. The cake mix won! Obviously I added my own touches to the recipe, because that’s just what I do 🙂

I learned a lot from making these cakes. While they save you some time in decoration they have their own unique issues.

  • You MUST bake each layer so that they are the same color when they come out of the pan. Easier said than done! This means they can’t be on two different shelves in your oven, or they come out lighter or darker and this shows. You can see that my 6″ layer on top is slightly darker than the rest. It’s hard to gauge when baking because you can’t see the sides of your cake.
  • Try not to sugar your fruit on a hot day. This cake was done in July and the fruit was sweating as I was putting it on. I had made them the day before and left them on the counter. I had read NOT to put them in the fridge as this makes them get even more condensation and sweat further. Good advice!
  • I tried a few versions of the sugaring that I found online. In my opinion the best was warm water and unflavored gelatin. Just drag the fruit or leaves through it, and then into superfine sugar. I didn’t have superfine, so I put regular sugar into my food processor and whipped it around on low. Don’t use high, you might end up with cotton candy!
  • Filling: if you’re going to use a preserve for a filling you need to decide whether or not to let it drip out. On Pinterest I see ones where they let it just drip completely. If you don’t want it to come out, make sure to pipe a dam of frosting to hold it in.
  • What to use for fruit? I found the best were smaller fruits. I used grapes, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries and red currants. I used sage, grape leaves and vines and raspberry leaves from my garden. As an artist, I look for different shapes and different colors that still relate to one another. My favorite part of this was the sage leaves, the cascading currants and the grape vines trailing around.

It’s fun to create this type of cake. At first I was nervous that it wasn’t going to look good, but as soon as I started to put the fruit on, it magically came together and looked great. Have fun creating one – and I’ll post the next one after it’s made!

naked cake by Anna Harding


Two tiered cake

I made this cake recently for a friend’s friend’s retirement party.

The top layer was lemon with lemon curd filling and fresh squeezed lemon icing.
The bottom layer was French vanilla, torted with almond/raspberry filling and topped with almond icing. I used an almond pie filling and added raspberry jam and fresh raspberries.

My mom had done cake decorating for years and make the most spectacular cakes. I’d sit at the kitchen table as a child watching her as she made all the flowers, put cakes up on pillars and delicately draped the piping in perfect arches. Her cakes were sought by all her friends for weddings, anniversaries and kids’ birthdays. The girls in my school always wanted to come to my birthday parties for two reasons: to ride the horses and see what my mom would cook up. I usually asked for a princess cake, the kind with the doll in the middle. Naturally I always felt inadequate compared to Mom; sure I could always bake (rule 1: Never follow the recipe exactly!), Mom taught all the kids in the neighborhood how to bake.

I was motivated to take classes because how ugly a cake turned out that I had brought to work one day. I just swirled the canned frosting around and that was that. It tasted great, though, thanks to my mom’s famous chocolate cake recipe. Mom said she had forgotten how to teach cake decorating and she had given away her tips and other accessories to my niece, so I marched off to JoAnn Fabrics, and bought myself the book, bags of stuff and 12 weeks of lessons. The instructors were the best and their work had been featured in the Wilton books and they had made shows for PBS. When I decorated my first cake, the other students said, “Oh, you’ve done this before!” Truth was, I hadn’t. But it turns out that it’s exactly the same hand motions as doing stained glass, who knew?

Don’t you just love a transferable skill?