Naked wedding cakes—or cakes without an outer layer of icing—are so much more than just a "thing." In the last few years, they've gone from a rising wedding trend to a mainstay dessert item. Janette Stenstrom, owner of All Things Cake, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, surmises that their surge in popularity is at least in part due to the fact that they fit within the simple, understated vibe many contemporary couples want for their wedding days. Plus, there's a way to make them work for every type of event. "Naked cakes can look rustic, almost like a tree, with the color of the cake coming through a thin layer of icing," she explains. "They can also look simple and modern with marbled effects of contrasting cake colors coming through the white icing."
Another reason why naked wedding cakes are so popular? Their price point, which tends to be lower than the cost of an average wedding cake that's iced and decorated with detailed piping and other fondant or buttercream accents. "They take less time to create than a cake with fondant lace or hand-piped details, for example, and their price point reflects that," says Stenstrom. "Clients can still have a stacked and tiered cake without the high price tag of an elaborately designed wedding cake."
But that doesn't mean that a naked wedding cake can't be dressed up. Accents and garnishes, like fresh and sugar flowers, metallic details, ganache drips, and more are all upgrades that can help a couple get a look they love on their naked cake. But, just like with a frosted cake, the more you add to your naked confection, the more expensive it gets. So, it begs the question, is a naked wedding cake always more affordable?
The short answer: No. Generally speaking, a simple naked wedding cake is less costly for a baker to make, which means they are able to offer these confection at a lower price point. But once you start adding more elements on, the cost goes up. There's also the cost of labor to factor in. Some bakers may charge more for a naked wedding cake because each layer needs to look perfect as they won't be hidden beneath a layer of frosting, explains Arlene Murray, owner and cake artist at Polkadot Cupcake Shop, in Nutley, New Jersey. "A cake without any outer icing needs to be baked to absolute perfection, since there's no icing to cover any missteps and to add moisture to a potentially dry inside," she says. "We have to work up until the minute the cake goes out the door to ensure that it's sitting out for the least amount of time. This sometimes means an early morning on an 'off' day might cost you a redo."
As with any cake design, Catherine George, owner of Catherine George Cakes, in Washington, D.C., recommends bringing photos and sketches of what you want your naked cake to look like to make sure your baker is clear on your vision. "You don't want to be aiming for peekaboo and end up fully naked—that could cause a cake scandal!"
Ultimately, if you're choosing a naked wedding cake for your big day, you should do so because you love the look. While the cost is generally more affordable, it's not always. Your best bet is to give your baker a budget you feel comfortable sticking to, then coming up with an idea you love—frosted or unfrosted—that you can achieve.