America's Test Kitchen LogoCook's Country LogoCook's Illustrated Logo
Baking Tips

How to Frost a Naked Cake

A beautiful way to preview what’s inside.
By

Published Feb. 22, 2023.

Is it elegant? Is it rustic? Somehow, a naked cake is both.

Naked cakes don’t have the thick layers of fondant or frosting typically seen on layer cakes. Instead, most of the frosting is between the cake layers to keep the cake moist and add ample flavor.

The exterior is then left either completely bare (as in our Pomegranate Walnut Cake) or has a thin layer of frosting that is scraped along the sides of the cake (our Blackberry-Mascarpone Lemon Cake is a beautiful example of this technique).

There’s something appealing about leaving the sides of a cake exposed. It’s minimalshowcasing the contrasting layers in a Summer Berry Chiffon Cake, with the added treat of seeing what’s inside the cake before it’s cut. Plus, it’s less work.

Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter

Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!

The results imitate professional wedding cakes in boutique shops, but if you’ve ever put a crumb coat on a cake before frosting, it isn’t so intimidating. Here’s how to do it. 

Step 1: Line the edges of a cake platter with 4 strips of parchment paper

This will keep the platter clean while you frost the cake.

Step 2: Place a small dab of frosting in the center of the platter

Using the frosting to anchor the cake keeps the layers from sliding around while you frost the cake.

Step 3: Begin layering the frosting

Place 1 cake layer on the platter. Spread 1 cup of frosting evenly over top, right to the edge of the cake. 

Equipment Review

The Best 9-Inch Round Cake Pans

For professional quality baked goods, you need a great cake pan. Find out which pan you should be using and why.
Read Our Review

Step 4: Repeat with remaining cake layer(s)

Continue spreading 1 cup of frosting evenly over each layer, pressing the cake layers lightly to adhere. If your cake has only two layers, skip this step and go to step 5.

5. Top with remaining cake layer and spread 1½ cups frosting evenly over top.

If you’d like to keep the edges completely exposed, you can stop here and decorate just the top as we do in the Maple-Pumpkin Stack Cake.

6. Spread remaining frosting evenly over the sides of the cake

Youll want to cover the sides of the cake with a very thin layer of frosting. If you feel like its too much, youll correct it in the next step.

7. Run the edge of an offset spatula around cake sides to create a sheer veil of frosting.

This will remove any excess frosting, resulting in an even, clean look. The cake sides should still be visible.

8. Refrigerate cake for 20 minutes.

This will solidify the frosting and ensure a clean presentation. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours; bring to room temperature before serving for best flavor. Carefully remove the parchment strips before serving.

240 Recipes

The Perfect Cake

The definitive guide to any cake you crave, from classic anytime Pound Cake (“The recipe is genius and worth the price of the book.” —The Wall Street Journal) to a stunning and impressive Blueberry Jam Cake with brilliant ombré frosting.

This is a members' feature.