I am not from the South, so I never knew there were varying degrees of nakeness! A few years after moving to my adopted home state of Tennessee, a kind and sweet as back porch iced tea, Southern, young-at-heart friend explained that there most certainly are.
“Now dear, there’s “naked” and then there’s “nekked,” she explained with an oh so lovely drawl that toggled on that line between sincerity and syrupy sweet Southern sarcasm. There was no mistaking here, she was down right serious. She continued, “naked is when you don’t have clothes on, and nekked, well…nekked, is when you don’t have clothes on and you’re doin’ something you’re not supposed to be doin’!” I am not exactly sure when the snorting laughter ensued, but at one point I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard and distinctly remember thinking that her explanation made perfect sense. That is the moment my friends, I knew I was a Southerner at heart.
The moment I began thinking of making this recipe for you all, I thought of this story and knew this cake had to be the perfect combination of “naked” and “nekked.” Classic enough to be presentable, but with just a bit of sass to make you wonder! A cake where you can see all of the beautiful baked cake layers, stacked high with perfect pillowing frosting peeking through and crowned with an indecent amount of seasonal fruit.
It took many, many years of cake recipe testing and baking to perfect this Classic Cake. Not too soft, not too dense. Just sweet enough, without being cloyingly sugary. Buttery, with a hint of buttermilk tang. When you bake the perfect cake, the last thing you want is to cover up that perfection! Cue in the Naked Cake and show off those layers in a chic, modern style that is the latest in cake trends.
3 cups (400g) cake flour, preferably unbleached
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, preferably European such as Plugra or Lurpak
4 large eggs, preferably organic
1 ½ (300 grams) cups sugar
1 ½ cups (12 oz/355 ml) buttermilk
16 tablespoons (227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, preferably European such as Plugra or Lurpak
4 cups (500 grams) confectioners sugar
Zest of 1 lemon, 1 lime or ½ orange (about 1 tablespoon), preferably organic
¼ cup (2 oz/59 ml) fresh lemon, lime or orange juice
How to use them:
Preheat oven to 350° degrees F (180° C). Using the pan preparation technique, prepare three, 8 x 2 inch cake pans by buttering them liberally or spraying with an all natural non-stick cooking spray and placing parchment paper on the bottom of each pan.In a medium bowl, whisk the cake flour, baking powder, and salt together until thoroughly mixed through. This allows for aeration of the flour mixture and eliminates the need for all that messy sifting!Next comes the creaming method of combining the butter and the sugar. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter on medium high for 1-2 minutes until soft and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and gradually add the sugar 1/2 cup at a time, continuing to beat well on medium high speed for about 4 -5 minutes until the mixture is fluffy.Begin adding the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. As you can see here, I have first broken the eggs into a measuring cup. This technique is important for several reasons. The first is that is allows you to make certain the eggs are fresh and have not gone bad before you crack them into your bowl and ruin the entire batter. Secondly, it’s much easier to see and catch any stray egg shells this way. And finally, you can easily pour and mix simultaneously in a clean manner using the spout. Stop and scrape down the bowl half way during the mixing, after you have added the first two eggs. Keep beating for another 2-3 minutes until you have a well incorporated homogeneous mixture.With the mixer on the lowest speed or stir setting, slowly begin adding 1/3 of the cake flour, and mix until it just barely comes together.Then add 1/2 of the buttermilk and stir again until it just comes together.Continue with another 1/3 of the cake flour, the remaining buttermilk, and finishing with the last 1/3 of the cake flour.Always begin and end with flour so that the batter comes together well. Scrape down the sides and stir just enough to bring the batter together and stop. Do not over-mix! This is where you may add any flavoring that your sweet heart desires: the seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 2 teaspoons vanilla paste, 1 tablespoon citrus zest, or your own palette pleasing creation.
Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared pans and level the tops with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until it cake is a very light golden brown and until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake just comes out clean or with a few dry crumbs.
Remove the cakes from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool in their pans for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
NOTE: For any layer cake such as this Naked Cake, I always make the cakes the night before, wrap them well with Saran Wrap when they are just barely still a bit warm, put them back in the cake pan so they hold their shape and freeze overnight. Not only does this technique keep the cakes unbelievably moist, but when you stack them with the frosting, it keeps the frosting from melting or weeping, especially in the summer heat. Decorate the cakes and allow the them to come to room temperature for about half an hour prior to serving.
In the bowl of stand mixer, or a large bowl, add the butter, powdered sugar, citrus juice and citrus zest.Add the fresh citrus juice.Mix on the lowest speed first until the mixture is fully incorporated, then turn up to medium high and beat for 6 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides about half way through. If the mixture feels too stiff, add a bit more fresh fruit juice, one tablespoon at a time, until it’s the consistency you like.That’s it friends, you now have the smoothest, creamiest, brightest, richest, most indulgent and easiest frosting ever, and absolutely zero reasons to ever buy that inferior store bought stuff ever again!The Naked Cake is a simple, easy and gorgeously chic way to present a cake. Spread 1/3 of the frosting on top of the bottom layer.Repeat with the next two layers.You can either leave the sides untouched like the picture above, or use the small offset spatula to gently smooth them along the sides of the cake like the picture below.
Note: For an added layer of flavor and moistness, you can imbibe the cake layers with a simple syrup that you flavor with either vanilla like the recipe I have on the blog, or for this cake, I would suggest adding 1/4 cup of fresh orange, lemon, or lime juice in lieu of the vanilla. Then using a pastry brush, coat each layer of the cake with the syrup by liberally brushing the top of the cake before spreading the layer with the buttercream.