Naked Strawberry Rasberry Shortcake, How To Make (almost) Any Cake

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.

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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)
  • jam/preserves
  • fresh fruit
  • fruit curd (lemon curd, grapefruit curd)
  • fruit mousse (strawberry mousse, mango mousse)
  • chocolate ganache
  • caramel

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.

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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!

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

MFree August 6, 2013 at 10:43 pm

love this post! and yes i’d love to learn tricks about assembly and decorating. i’m just an amateur baker (mostly birthdays and holidays) but the tips are useful!

Thanks!

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matchboxkitchen August 12, 2013 at 6:58 am

Thanks for your input! I’ll be sure to put a blog post together that helps with cake assembly.

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Joanne August 7, 2013 at 12:12 am

sara! this may be by far my most favorite cake that you posted! so pretty and looks just too good for one bite :)

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matchboxkitchen August 12, 2013 at 6:59 am

Thanks, Joanne! It might be my favorite too :) Well, so far!

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la domestique August 7, 2013 at 7:02 am

This post is so fun and I love your naked cake! I think it would be great if you did some cake tutorials (like assembly or cake troubleshooting). Thanks for sharing a look into your process.

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matchboxkitchen August 12, 2013 at 7:00 am

Thank you! Hopefully I can get some video tutorials up as well, but a cake assembly blog post is in the works!

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Danielle August 7, 2013 at 8:07 pm

What a GORGEOUS cake! I love the look of unfinished/naked cakes. Thank you for sharing your assembly tips! I look forward to similar posts in the future.

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matchboxkitchen August 12, 2013 at 7:02 am

Thank you! Yes, keep an eye out for more cake tips. I’ve got a lot to share!

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Amy Lynn August 9, 2013 at 5:32 am

Wow! I just stumbled onto your site from pinterest, and I just absolutely LOVE this cake!

Plus, I am making the cake for my best friend’s baby shower next weekend, so these tips are all sure to come in handy! Thanks for such a great post :)

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matchboxkitchen August 12, 2013 at 7:02 am

Thank you, Amy Lynn! Glad you enjoyed the post.

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Hika August 12, 2013 at 6:08 pm

This cake is beautiful! :) How did you keep the frosting and fruit from slipping out the sides?!

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matchboxkitchen August 13, 2013 at 7:14 am

Thank you!

To prevent any accidents, make sure your cake layers and filling are all even! Any slight angle will throw everything off. I also use buttercream as it is sturdier than something like whipped cream, and refrigerate so it hardens and is easier to transport. Lastly, I didn’t need to use it for this cake as it was small, but sticking a few dowels inside will make sure everything stays upright. Hope that helps :)

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Sarah August 13, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Wow, thank you… I’m bridesmaid for my friend in a few weeks and she’s asked me to make the wedding cake… Will be my 1st. I’ve decided to make a naked cake but am struggling to decide on the type of sponge and fillings. This post is very useful. Would you recommend making seperate layers or slicing sponges to make them? I will need to make and freeze the sponges before the wedding then defrost and fill on the morning of the wedding… Any tips? Does the chiffon sponge freeze well? Would love to see how you put this together to accurately too :) thanks again.

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matchboxkitchen August 13, 2013 at 11:00 pm

How exciting! I personally torte/cut my layers in half because I find it more efficient. Each layer will have to be as level as possible or else it’ll start leaning and be less structurally sound. Most cakes freeze well, but I would do a test run just in case. Do you make layer cakes often? I would also do a test run of a naked cake if it’s your first time. The filling should be more sturdy so I would not use a whipped cream frosting or any sort of jam or curd unless you do a thick border of frosting to prevent leaking. How large is the cake going to be? Definitely be sure to use dowels or pillars for a multi tiered cake. Hope that helps!

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Sarah Crowder (punctuated. with food) August 13, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Stunning! I love the look of naked cakes but have never attempted one myself. I’m so afraid it would look uneven! Thanks for the tips.

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lyndsay // coco cake land August 16, 2013 at 8:41 pm

ooh this looks and sounds so yummy… and great tips too. texture is so important!

i always worry about a naked cake “drying” out sooner than a frosting covered one, since the frosting seals the deal… but i guess it’s a type of cake best prepared and served shortly afterward!

love the look of the icing sugar dusted all over! thanks for sharing!!

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Katia August 25, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Omg! I literally jus licked my iPad screen! I’m getting married in two months and have been contemplating on my wedding cake. I pinned several naked cakes but this was is prob by far the best looking naked cake! I bet it was delicious as it looks. Is there my way you can share the recipe with me? I would appreciate it! Thanks!

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jasmine October 7, 2013 at 4:22 am

This is gorgeous!! Probably the prettiest naked cake I’ve seen yet (I never knew that’s what they were called until now!). What size cake pans did you use?

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Sara / Matchbox Kitchen June 16, 2014 at 10:14 am

This is made of 4″ and 6″ rounds!

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Barbara madden March 13, 2014 at 4:53 am

Hello,mix love the look of these naked cakes,
I have been asked to do one for a wedding not a large one , but have no idea how much to charge, any help would really be appreciated.
Thankyou
Barbara

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Aslı March 26, 2014 at 3:49 am

I loved this post! I was dreading to make a cake but now I can’t wait to make my boyfriend’s birthday cake. I hope it turns out nice :D

Xx
Aslı

http://www.zeparisienne.com

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rachel June 15, 2014 at 11:48 am

hello, thanks so much for sharing – this looks amazing. My mum is going to make one for my wedding but we are wondering whether you added in any supports so prevent sinking? If so could you please give some advice? We are probably going for different types of ckaes like chocolate, lemon drizzle etc, but all sponge of some sort x

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Sara / Matchbox Kitchen June 16, 2014 at 10:13 am

Hi Rachel,
For this cake I didn’t add any supports because it is very small, 4″ and 6″ rounds! If I were to make this larger, which I have for wedding cakes, I would definitely add supports to each tier and to the cake as a whole. Generally I will use something like straws because they are sturdy and affordable. I use about 5 in each tier, space them out evenly in a circle the size a little smaller than the tier going above it, and then cut them all the same height. I will then place the next cake (with a cake board underneath) directly above it and repeat the process until I’m done. When the last tier is on I use a wooden dowel with a sharpened point on one end that will go down the length of the entire cake. The sharpened point is strong enough to break through the cake boards between each layer and will hold it all together. If you are creating a larger cake (this is usually for a small/medium sized wedding cake) I would suggest using plastic dowels that are made specifically for large tiered wedding cakes. You can find these materials and ask for help at a specialty cake supply store. I have also heard of people using straws and putting wooden dowels inside them. Feel free to email me at sara @ matchboxkitchen if you have any other questions! Good luck!

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