by Jolene Adams, LLCC Culinary Institute
Finally a cake decorating style for those who do not possess professional piping and icing skills. Unlike fondant covered cakes, which are great for kids’ parties and making sculpted, edible decorations, a naked cake radiates elegance and beauty. They are becoming a very popular style of wedding cake. The traditional tiered cake frosted with piped borders of lace and filigree will always be classic and popular. The naked cake is just a simple, slightly rustic version of that traditional tiered cake.
Naked cakes show off the beauty of the cake itself by leaving the layers of cake exposed. The layers are not hidden under frosting or fondant. They are then decorated, or finished with fresh flowers, berries, herbs or chocolate. Don’t worry, there is still frosting on the cake. What kind of cake does not have frosting? I’m pretty should it should not even be called cake if there is no frosting. The frosting is incorporated in between each layer of cake. It acts as the glue that holds the cake layers together. The top of the cake can also be frosted in order to secure flowers to the cake.
There are some key tools needed and steps taken to ensure that the cake will stand straight, hold the weight of any fresh fruit used, look and taste exquisite.
Cake pans in two or three different diameters depending on the number of desired tiers. The pans’ sizes should be a difference of four inches. For example a two tier cake that has a bottom tier of 10 inches should have a top tier of six inches. A three tier cake could have a top tier of six inches, a middle tier of 10 inches and a bottom tier of 14 inches. It is important to have the four inch difference so when the tiers are stacked there will be space around the cake for flowers, fruit and herbs.
Having at least two pans of each size makes baking the cakes much more convenient. A tier is comprised of multiple layers of cake. Using only one pan doubles the baking time, because two cakes of the same size are needed to build a tier. If you have two pans, you can mix and bake both cakes at the same time.
Parchment paper comes in very handy when baking cakes. Cut out circles the same diameter as the bottom of the pan and place in the pan, spray the paper and the sides of the pan with non-stick spray. It will prevent the bottom of the cake from sticking to the bottom of the pan, making it easier to take the cooled cake out of the pan. Sometimes, even with spray the cake will stick to the bottom of the pan. If the sides stick a little, it is ok since a knife can be run around the edges to release them.
A cake leveler is crucial. There are several brands, and can be found at most retail stores that sell cake decorating supplies. They cost around 10 dollars and are well worth it. It is used to slice through the entire cake, producing a level layer.
Cardboard cake rounds will be needed to separate the layers and disperse the weight of the cake. A card board round is used as the base for each tier. The cake layers are stacked on it as they are assembled and iced. The cardboard gives stability to the tier so it can easily be picked up to place on top of another tier.
It is ok to use packaged cake mix. Yes, it is ok to not bake the cake from scratch for two reasons. Box cake mix is consistent. The ingredients are pre-measured and combined so the cake always bakes up the same. Using a box mix will save the time of measuring several ingredients, which leaves more time for decorating, and that is the fun part.
After baking level the tops of all the cooled cakes, then use the leveler to split the cake into two layers. One tier made from two cakes will end up having four layers.
Always make frosting, never use store bought. The time saved using box cake mix is better spent on making frosting. It will taste great, and be easier to spread on the layers than canned frosting. Here is a recipe I use.
Yield: 3 cups
1 stick of unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup of shortening
1 teaspoon clear vanilla
2 pound bag of powdered sugar
¼ to ½ cup of water as needed
Mix butter, shortening and vanilla together with electric mixer. Add powdered sugar and mix on low until incorporated, then increase mixer speed to whip icing. The icing will be dry at this point. Reduce the mixer speed and slowly add ¼ cup of water. Whip again on high speed. If icing is still dry, continue to add small amounts of water until icing is glossy in appearance and thick yet easily spreadable.
To achieve the look of the naked cake, start with one of the bottom cake layers. Place it on the cake board and spread a thin layer of icing on the top. This can be done with a spatula. Or an easy way is to fill a piping bag with icing, snip off the tip and use the bag to apply the icing. Start at the edge of the cake, hold the bag at a slight angle to the cake and pipe out a long snake like bead of icing all the way around the edge of the cake. It can then be filled in with icing, or fill it with a fruit jam. The bead of icing around the edge will hold in the jam. Again, homemade icing is important since store bought is often too stiff to pipe.
Place the second layer of cake on top and repeat with another layer of icing. One tier will have four layers of cake and four layers of icing. As a novice cake baker you can stop after this step and have a four layer, one tier cake. This is much easier to attempt than a tiered cake.
Think seasonally. In the spring feature light citrus flavors and pastel colors. For summer use berries and fresh herbs. Red velvet is perfect for the holiday season. The layers of cake and or icing can be tinted multiple colors to create a rainbow effect.
Naked cakes can be done several different ways, the decorating combinations are endless. Here are a few of my favorite ideas.
*White cake with lemon icing, tinted pale yellow. Top the cake with candied lemons and fresh raspberries, or omit the raspberries and use fresh lemon slices and fresh thyme.
*Red velvet with cream cheese icing between the layers. Leave the top layer naked, no icing and dust with powdered sugar for a rustic look, or use a stencil when dusting with powdered sugar for a creative look.
*Recreate strawberry shortcake by using vanilla cake, layers of strawberry jam alternating with layers of vanilla icing. If making a two or three tier cake, place strawberries around each tier, and top with sprigs of fresh mint.
*Spice cake with vanilla icing, fresh cranberries and pecans is perfect for fall.
*Keep it simple and elegant for a wedding or shower cake by using white cake, white icing and decorate with fresh flowers. Remove all the stems from the flowers, cluster them on top of the cake, and then make a waterfall effect by placing flowers in a flowing line down one side of the cake. Note: to attach the flowers to the side of the cake, use a dab of icing on the base of the flower.
Get creative with flowers, fruit and herb combinations. Use daisies, roses, carnations, sprigs of baby’s breath and greenery, strawberries, raspberries, lemons, bing cherries and fresh cranberries. When using fresh herbs, place the whole sprig of herbs such as rosemary, mint or thyme on the cake, or even use them as the greenery with flowers. It is important to remember that the herbs, although edible are just used as a decoration in this application. The possibilities are endless.
To learn about this new cake trend, and gain hands-on experience making and decorating a naked cake, attend my Naked Cakes Culinary Class on Saturday, April 2. For more information or to register call 786-2477.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute. For more information, visit our website at www.llcc.edu.
Cooking or food questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org