For anyone that’s followed this blog (especially during the winter holidays) you already know all about my woes when it comes to decorating cakes. I’m all for “trying your best” and “practice makes perfect,” but you know what? Sometimes you just don’t have the magic touch, and when it comes to decorating baked goods, that is totally me.
I’m dangerous with a spatula and whatever that flat knife thing is called. My cake decorating skills are the things of “Pinterest fail” legends.
Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t make cakes – far from it. I just tend to stick to glazes or really simple frosting techniques that look pretty and yet are still food proof enough that I won’t completely embarrass myself when I show up with a homemade cake in tow. Fun fact: most of my friends know I’m a “food blogger” by now so there’s a certain level of expectation when I tell them I’m bringing food. It’s like I can feel them waiting with baited breath to see what culinary masterpiece I’m going to show up with. The last thing I want to do is ruin all that inherit Pinterest-worthy hype by showing up with a baked gremlin-looking monstrosity on a vintage cake stand.
And that, my friends, is why I’m loving the whole “naked” cake craze.
Not only is the name fun to say (and probably said with a bit of giggling, because c’mon, naughty cakes are funny) but it’s like someone out there in the culinary world decided to give decorating-challenged people like me a little break. Naked cakes are like the olive branch that says, yes, you can still bake a perfect cake and not totally butcher it with frosting.
Go ahead and put down that spatula and step away from that large flat knife thing.
We’re gonna get through this.
The “naked” part of this cake just means that there’s no frosting along the sides (which is the most difficult part to do, if I do say so myself). Instead, the focus of the frosting is in between the layers and on the top of the cake. And the best part? It doesn’t even need to be pretty, especially you couple the naked cake decorating style with a pretty ombre design. At that point, the focus isn’t even on the icing – it’s on the cake itself.
As for how the cake turned out? Well, this cake was fun for me to make for a few reasons:
1 – The cake is such a pretty color! I’ve only ever used color gel with cakes when making red velvet, so it was fun to play around with a new hue.
2 – I got to slather on the icing (and not mess the cake up!)! BUT, it is important to note that this was partly because I used double the frosting than what’s currently listed in the recipe. This was a mistake on my part – I was following an old recipe for icing and didn’t take into account the size of the cake pans I was using (6″) so I ended up with far more frosting than I really needed. I mean, more frosting isn’t a “bad” thing in my book, but the I felt the proportions were a bit off for a cake this size. I’ve made notes about all of this in the recipe, so you can decide for yourself how much (or how little) icing you’d like to use.
3 – This cake is delicious. I totally credit this to my good friend Olivia, who I truly feel is the undisputed cake master. Being able to enjoy this cake only reaffirmed that fact for me.
So there you have it – a perfectly festive and delicious cake that’s easy to decorate and yet will still wow all your friends.
Naked Purple Ombre Cake
For the Purple Ombre Cakes
Preheat oven to 350 F. Set four sturdy mixing bowls nearby (for mixing the colors of the cake). Prepare four 6" round baking pans by liberally spraying with baking spray (flour based) or greasing pans and covering with flour. I'd also strongly recommend covering the bottom of the pans with parchment paper. Check out this tutorial on how to do it.
In a large bowl, sift together all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
Drop mixer speed to low. Slowly begin adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the mixing bowl, alternating between the two. Stop mixing as soon as all ingredients have been added and you no longer see any dry ingredients.
Separate the batter into the four sturdy bowls. Depending on how fluffy your batter is, each bowl should be able to hold 1 1/3 cup to 1 1/2 cup batter. I'd recommend starting with adding 1 1/3 cup to each bowl and divide any remaining batter that's left over.
Begin adding the purple color gel to the batter until the desired colors are reached. I'd recommend starting with the darkest layer first. To get the color pictured, I used 1 tablespoon of purple color gel. For the next later (2nd darkest) I used 1/2 tablespoon of purple gel color. Next (for the 2nd lightest) I used about 6 drops of purple gel color. Finally, for the lightest layer, I used only 2 drops of purple gel color. Please only use my measurements as a guide - I highly recommend adding the gel coloring slowly to make sure you get the results you want with your specific brand of color gel.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking pans. Bake the cakes for 30 minutes, then use a toothpick to test if they are done. Toothpicks should come out clean with no crumbs. If you baked all of the cakes together some of the cakes may need to be baked for an another 2-3 minutes.
When cakes have finished baking, transfer them (still in the pan) to a wire cooling rack to cool. Tip: if tops of cakes are rounded, cover cakes with a tea towel and gently press to flatten. After 10 minutes, remove cakes from the pans and let cool completely.
Once cakes have cooled, place them in the freezer for 2-3 hours. This will let the cakes firm up so that it's easier to trim off any dark areas, such as around the sides of the cake or the bottom (I cut both).
For the Vanilla Buttercream
Using a stand mixer (or hand mixer + medium bowl), whisk together butter and powdered sugar on medium speed. If mixture begins to get too thick, add vanilla extract and heavy cream, then finish adding the remaining powdered sugar.
Continue to mix frosting until fully incorporated and creamy, about 2 minutes.
Putting It All Together
Place the darkest layer of cake on a serving dish, then top with a healthy portion of frosting. Refrigerate cake for 10 minutes so that icing begins to set.
Add next layer of ombre cake, top with frosting, and refrigerate for another 10 minutes. Repeat this process until all layers of the cake have been added. Finish by topping the cake with the remaining frosting.
For best results, keep cake refrigerated until serving. When serving, cut and serve the cake at each layer, so that only 1 (or up to 2) layers of cake and frosting ends up on the plate. This will make the cake easier to serve and create a cool checkerboard effect as you cut the cake.
* To get eggs to room temperature faster, place eggs in a bowl of lukewarm water for 5-10 minutes.
** When I made this recipe, I used double the frosting for a dramatic effect in the cake layers. If you make the frosting recipe per the above instructions, please keep in mind you'll have significantly less to work with. If you'd like to have more frosting like the cake pictured, just double the frosting recipe.
White cake recipe (and multiple baking tips) from Liv for Cake.