Can a cake designed for the Pinterest-era pass the vibe check today? On paper, naked cakes seem great. They’re not just lighter and cost-efficient but also less fatty, less messy and a lot more aesthetically pleasing than a regular buttercream cake smothered with layers and layers of heavy frosting. Why then, does it have so many haters?
For starters, a generation of conscious eaters wants their cakes to be… well, cake-like. So when they do indulge, it feels like a real indulgence. A soft sponge, a velvety frosting, a rich cream filling and maybe some seasonal toppings. Is that too much to ask for?
A naked cake by definition, hides nothing. It’s scarce in frosting and you can see the monotone sponges peeking out. For obvious reasons, it will almost never work for a children’s birthday party, says Radhika Binani of Kolkata label Crumb Affair. But a pared-down, ultra-contemporary celebration cake can be quite a statement at modernist, day-time soirees. “Naked cakes are a hit at weddings or anniversaries. They bring a summery vibe to any table, they are so popular right now because mangoes are in season and the addition of fresh fruits and summer flowers on the bare cake adds to the look,” Binani tells us.
No one expects an open-layered crumb cake when there’s champagne. And even though traditionalists don't see the point of a cake with barely-there frosting, in summers, they triumph over heavily-frosted options.
“Naked cakes use less cream, which is great for summers since heavy cream can get very messy. It melts and can make the sponge soggy. I also think people generally enjoy slices that are not smothered with cream so they can experience the flavours. I’d say it’s a win-win, it offers a better consistency and more defined flavours,” says baker Divya Saraf, who owns the 14-year-old bakery brand Quarter Plate.
If you’re on the fence about the trend, some context on the naked cake’s conception may help. The modern naked cake, as we know it, was designed by Christina Tosi, the New York baker, who started the new-wave bakery Momofuku Milk Bar. Her 'exposed crumb cakes’ with a three-tiered vanilla frosting was inspired by a funfetti cake and took Pinterest wedding boards by storm in the mid-2000s.
The visible layering and the rainbow-flecked finish over bare sponge made for an eye-catching statement. Tosi wanted a better alternative for the big, white wedding cake that’s too heavy on fondant work.
But despite being cheaper than regular frosted cakes, naked cakes demand more labour. “You can’t use the same recipe like you do for a normal frosted cake. You need to get your sponge right. In regular cakes, even if your sponge bases are lacking the frosting makes up for it, in terms of moisture, flavour and creaminess. But when it comes to naked cakes, the sponge is the hero, it has to be really perfect and balanced,” Saraf points out.
The naked cake is by all counts, a party cake. It’s meant to liven up the tablescaping and is not designed to be used as a leftover. Preetanjali Pasari of Butterfingers, who specialises in naked layer cakes has a brand menu featuring seasonal fruits like mangoes and lychees and is offering old school Parisian-inspired vibrant fruit-overload cakes with open layers, that are as chic as they are delicious.
“I feel naked cakes are the best options for summer parties, they are super light and healthy and they always look great,” Pasari shares.
One of the biggest gripes home bakers have over the unfrosted cake is its shelf-life. While a frosted cake can be made and stored in a refrigerator for days before it needs to be delivered, a naked cake needs to be a lot fresher, especially if there’s fruit or edible flowers in it.
“You cannot store in the fridge for long. It has a shelf life of one or two days and even then it has to be covered well, especially if it includes fruits. Not to mention, bakers have to be really careful about making the sponge so it doesn’t dry out,” Binani reveals.
If you’re still not sure about ordering a naked cake for your next do, maybe meet the trend halfway. Sugar Story by Swati offers delicious semi-naked layered cakes that are made with just the right amount of cream frosting.