I recently developed a cake-crush on the naked cakes showing up on my Pinterest feed. Maybe it's because they have that beautiful balance of elegance and rustic-ness.. Or maybe I just like them because they're called 'naked cakes' and it makes me laugh. I bet all the frosted and fondant covered cakes are giving the newly popular naked cakes the side-eye. Hussy cakes stealing the show.
Since you don't have to spend time smoothing and praying to the icing-gods that your final coat of icing ends up lump and crumb free, these naked cakes are less time consuming yet they still make a big, delicious impression. I decided that I had to make one for myself.
I baked three 6 inch spice cakes for the layers using a vanilla cake recipe and just adding in some cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice. The dome of each layer was trimmed off, but the sides were going to be bare so I made sure to thoroughly grease and flour my pans to ensure that the edges of the cakes came away cleanly once they were removed from the pans.
To provide structure and prevent the flavored icing from squishing out between the layers, I whipped up a batch of my favorite swiss meringue buttercream (SMB) using Stirling unsalted butter and piped a large strip around the edge of each cake layer and placed them in the fridge to firm up before filling.
This is a great trick if you want to fill your cake with lemon curd, jam, or any softer filling but are planning on putting a couple of layers on it. The SMB is very stable and sturdy enough to hold up the layers and keep your filling in place
For the filling, I pureed cranberries, then stirred in sugar to taste and beat the mixture into my remaining swiss meringue buttercream. If you have leftover cranberry sauce from your Thanksgiving dinner, you can easily fold that into the icing instead of a cranberry puree.
Next, I carefully piped a bit of extra icing around each layer and smoothed it using an icing spatula so it lay flush with the cake layers. The beauty of these naked cakes is that they don't need to be perfect.. they've got that whole perfect imperfections thing going on that makes it easier to embrace any unsightly smears of icing.
I decided to top this one with a mixture of sugared and plain cranberries. I have a bit of a sour-tooth and am one of the few people who actually like eating raw cranberries, but if I were serving this to guests all of the cranberries would be sugared.
You can sugar cranberries by cooking them in a syrup, then rolling them in sugar. OR you can do it the lazy way (like me!) and coat them in a little corn syrup or golden syrup then toss them in a bowl of sugar. They look great and the sweet/sour flavor is sort of addictive. I kept eating them off the cake while I was trying to take photos. One for me, one for the cake etc.
So much holiday flavor packed into one little layer cake! Looking forward to trying out another combo soon.. thinking gingerbread and chocolate, or maybe something sticky toffee pudding inspired. You can never have too many naked cakes.
I've tried a number of Swiss meringue buttercream recipes, and this one is my favorite. I've shared it before, but in case you missed it here it is again!
Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Courtesy of Sensational Buttercream Decorating: 50 Projects for Cakes, Mini-
Cakes & Cupcakes by Carey Madden, 2014 © www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.
Makes about 5 cups (1.25 L)
This meringue-based icing is sweet but not too sweet and light without being insubstantial, and it pairs well with just about any cake. The neutral vanilla flavor allows you to add flavorings as desired, to match (or contrast) the flavor of your icing to the flavor of your cake. This luscious confection is not only the icing on the cake but also the artist’s medium. Swiss meringue buttercream has a particular ability to stretch and bend, and a pliable firmness that allows for the creation of multidimensional decorations.
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup large egg whites (about 7)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups unsalted butter, softened (1 lb/ 454g) - I used Stirling's Unsalted
1. In the top of a double boiler, over gently simmer water, whisk together sugar, salt, and egg whites. Heat, whisking constantly until sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 140F (60C) or is uncomfortably hot to the touch
2. Pour egg mixture into stand mixer bowl and beat on medium speed until soft peaks form and the mixture is cooled to room temperature. Beat in vanilla.
3. Meanwhile, cut the butter into small cubes, about 1/4 inch (5mm) in size.
4. Add butter cubes to the cooled egg mixtures, two or three at a time beating until all of the butter is incorporated and the icing is smooth and satiny.
5. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface and store at a cool room temperature for up to 24 hours
Full Disclosure: Stirling sent me butter, but I use it in my baking because I find the quality makes a difference. I did not receive payment for this post