It’s my mother’s birthday tomorrow, but we’ve decided to celebrate today because my brother has an unfortunately timed exam tomorrow night. It’s important to me that I don’t get so caught up in my baking projects that I neglect family and friends, so I wanted to make sure I did something really nice for her birthday cake.
Now, my parents have never been big on icing, so I wanted to pick a design that didn’t overload the cake. Enter the naked cake. These cakes forgo the outer layer of icing, leaving the cake and middle icing layer showing through. Christina Tosi is credited with starting this trend, and it’s become big for wedding cakes, but I thought a scaled down version would make for a great birthday cake.
By request, I made a chocolate cake (I chose Betty Crocker’s black devil’s food cake) with orange flavoured icing. I went a little bigger than I usually do for family cakes (9″ instead of 8″) because I have two 9″ springform pans, and I find these he get a nice edge on my cakes. Even with pans that are buttered and with parchment paper at the bottom, I’ve had a few issues with cake sticking to the sides of my smaller pans. And with this cake, you really can’t hide those imperfections.
I also made a point of brushing my cake layers with a sugar syrup. This helps keep the cake moist, which is especially important with a naked cake (normally the buttercream helps ‘lock in’ the moisture).
The first step was to layer the cakes and get a nice even finish on the icing between the layers. This turned out to be a bit of a perfectionist’s nightmare. Normally I don’t worry too much about how this part looks, because it won’t show under the est of the buttercream, but now it’s the main part of the design! Finally, once I was happy with how the sides looked (I was going for the look of a nice, thick layer of frosting with a little bit of frosting spread onto the surrounding cake), I covered the top and tried to get smooth sides there as well.
I wanted to do some more exciting decorations on the top, so I added a bit of a white chocolate ganache drip on one side, then topped it with a buttercream hydrangea. I took a bit of liberty with the colours, because I knew I wanted pink but I also wanted to tie in some orange, so I went for a mix of pink, white, and orange:
To give the flower some volume, I piped about three layers of frosting. This one section will be a bit thicker so I assume my parents will avoid it, but it provides a bit of a compromise for those of us who do like a little more frosting.
For some added detail, I died a little frosting green and piped on some leaves with a leaf tip.
To be honest, looking back I wish I’d stoped here and left the design a bit more understated, but at the time I liked the idea of a fruit-covered naked cake so I piled on a lot more to the top. I started with two smaller hydrangeas on either side of the large one, and I added little leaves here by dabbing with a toothpick.
Next, I made a few different toppings. I covered some strawberries with chocolate, made some strawberry fans, and cut some into quarters. I also washed some raspberries, and crumbled some meringues that I made ahead of time (the meringues were orange, so that’s why I tied in the orange in the hydrangeas).
The final design ended up looking like this:
I do like the overall shape, but I’m not convinced that it blends well with the buttercream hydrangeas. As with the sides of this cake, this could be a case where less really is more.
Still, there are several elements I’m really happy with on this cake. I love the look of a naked cake, I love the contrast of the white icing against the dark cake, and I’m definitely a huge fan of how the main hydrangea looks with the partial drip.
For me, every cake is still a learning experience, so it’s useful to me when I don’t fully like how a design turns out, because it helps me learn what to do differently the next time. And my boyfriend thinks the design looks interesting, so beaty here is truly in the eye of the beholder.
And most importantly, I know that every elent of this cake tastes delicious, so no matter how I feel about the design, I’m still sure that everyone will be satisfied at the end of the day.