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The Naked Cake: Is It Right for You?

We spoke with Nine Cake's Betsy Thorleifson, who has created some of the most beautiful examples of naked cakes in her Brooklyn shop, to learn more about the frosting-free look.

Golden lady apples, painted with edible gold luster dust, were the focal point of this tower by Betsy. The vanilla-bean spiced apple cake, filled with caramel buttercream, was drizzled with luscious caramel.

For centuries icing has distinguished ordinary cakes from extraordinary ones. But these days bakers are trying something new with the fanciful topping. They are holding back some—if not most—of the frosting to let the inner layers share the spotlight. The results are elegant, and perfect for the bride and groom seeking an alternative to a traditional confection. We spoke with Nine Cakes’ Betsy Thorleifson, who has created some of the most beautiful examples of the trend out of her shop in Brooklyn, NY, to learn more about the look and what kinds of weddings are best suited for featuring it.

First off, is there a term in the cake-making business to describe cakes with frosting-free surfaces?
Now I mostly hear them referred to as "naked" cakes. I call them exposed layer cakes—or frosting-free cakes.

What are some of the most popular looks you have been seeing?
Looks can range from elegant and clean to more messy and rustic.

My favorite with the exposed cake layers are with piles of fresh berries, or dripping with chocolate and caramel. Fresh flowers are also popular adornments.

How have you been interpreting the trend at Nine Cakes?
I tend to like the more elegant, clean look with tidy icing. As an accent, I add fresh fruit and some gold luster dust painted onto the fruit or onto sugar leaves. I love when some of the sauces between the layers slightly drip down the side of the cake. It’s a fabulous look for a tiered cake. It just looks so delicious. It makes you want to come up and swipe a little bite.

Do you feel the look is better suited to certain wedding themes or moods than others?
I think it can be very classic and charming in an old-fashioned way, and it doesn't necessarily have to be for a rustic wedding. Obviously it works with the rustic, vintage moods, though. I also love it for an outdoor wedding. Overall, I think it works best for a slightly less formal setting.

Are there any considerations to keep in mind if a couple is considering a cake with a frosting-free surface?
I generally follow the same protocols as I would with any other tiered cake. However, I put them together as close to the delivery time as possible, just to limit chances of drying out.

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