Yesterday I tried my hand at making a “naked” cake and had so much fun putting it together! It was a nice challenge to try something new. Sometimes they end in flops, but I was so pleased with this one I couldn’t wait to share photos. The cake above is comprised of a chiffon cake filled with cream cheese swiss meringue buttercream and fresh strawberries and raspberries, then dusted with powdered sugar. Don’t you love the snowy effect of the sugar?! Definitely something I want to employ more often.
Every now and then I’m asked if I can share recipes for my cakes. While I would be more than happy share them, most of the time I don’t have a specific recipe for each and every one. Instead of a recipe, I wanted to share the process on how my cakes come together. Because all cakes really are, are just three separate components: cake, frosting, and filling.
First, I’ll have a brief idea of what I’d like to make. Sometimes a client will request something open ended, such as a light and fluffy cake with fresh fruit that’s not too sweet. Or sometimes it’ll be something specific, like a deep chocolatey cake with a rich, fudge frosting, filled with caramel.
First, I start off with the cake. Do I want light and fluffy or rich and dense? Here are a few cake types:
- angel food – very light, sweet, and fluffy. no fat
- chiffon – tender and fluffy. oil used instead of butter. slightly heavier than angel food cake
- genoise – sturdy but tender and buttery
- butter – traditional american cake, very buttery and somewhat dense
- pound cake – very rich, sturdy, buttery, and dense
Next I’ll think of the frosting. My go-to is Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC). I love how buttery and smooth it is, without being heavy, overly sweet, or gritty. Despite having a slightly longer process, it’s actually very forgiving to make and you can add all sorts of flavors. Sometimes SMBC isn’t the right frosting for the kind of cake I’m going for. Here are a few other types of frosting:
- American buttercream – butter and powdered sugar whipped together. very sweet and can be dense
- Swiss or Italian meringue buttercream – egg whites and sugar are combined to make a meringue, then a lot of butter is whipped in. (Swiss meringue is made by melting sugar and eggs together in a bain marie, whereas italian meringue has melted sugar poured into whipping egg whites). very smooth, buttery, but not too sweet
- ganache – chocolate and heavy cream mixed together. can be very thin and pourable to thick and used as filling
- boiled milk/butter roux – flour and milk are cooked together, then whipped for a light yet slightly grainy frosting
- 7 minute/marshmallow – egg whites and sugar are beat together to create a meringue/marshmallow like frosting. very light, sweet, and fluffy
Filling can add an extra dimension of flavor and texture. Here are just a few possibilities, but really you can add practically anything! You can also layer multiple fillings, like jam with buttercream, curd with buttercream, caramel, fresh fruit with mousse, etc. Here’s just a small list of examples:
- buttercream (same as the one you used to frost the outside)
- fresh fruit
- fruit curd (lemon curd, grapefruit curd)
- fruit mousse (strawberry mousse, mango mousse)
- chocolate ganache
The real icing on the cake is texture. Take notice of your favorite foods. Maybe you love chunky clusters of granola on Greek yogurt, flaky croissants, or crispy fried chicken. A big part of what makes these foods so amazing is the texture! Just like filling, there are a myriad of ways you can add texture to your cakes.
- chocolate shavings – large and chunky or soft and fine
- oat crumble
- turbinado sugar
- cookie crumbles (crush your favorite shortbread into small chunks)
- crisp and chewy baked meringue cookies
- toasted slivered almonds
- dried or sugared flowers
- toasted meringue
For this cake I wanted to something light but substantial enough to support all the layers, so I went with a vanilla bean chiffon cake. Next, I made a cream cheese swiss meringue buttercream. The cream cheese adds a light tangy flavor, while the buttercream makes it buttery, smooth, yet not too heavy. I filled each layer with fresh sliced strawberries and raspberries. Finally, I dusted the whole thing with powdered sugar.
Don’t get discouraged if things don’t go well the first time around. Practice makes perfect! You will inevitably have to test a few recipes before you find your favorite. I can’t tell you what the best butter cake recipe is because “the best” to you might be different! Once you get this down, you can start getting more crazy and elaborate. How about fruit soaked in alcohol, or spun sugar, or infusing dried herbs and flowers? The possibilities are endless.
Was this post helpful? Would you like to learn more about the assembly of a cake? Leave a comment with any questions or requests, and I might be able to help!