In this podcast with The Essex Room’s wedding planner, Maureen Woodman, we discuss the new trend toward “naked cakes” – what are they, how did this trend start, and how can you achieve this look at your wedding?
John Maher: Hi. I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Maureen Woodman, a wedding planner for on- and off-site catered events at the Essex Room in Essex, Massachusetts. Today, we’re talking about naked cakes. Welcome, Maureen.
Maureen Woodman: Hi, John. How are you doing today?
What are naked cakes?
John: I’m doing well. That sounds like a lot of fun. What are naked cakes?
Maureen: Just the name of it, I think, will get everyone going, right? Who doesn’t like cake? When I look at a naked cake – and if you’re interested, you can go on Google search for some images of them, and of course the first thing it’s going to remind me of is the old‑fashioned spongecake. Everybody’s grandmother made one.
You filled it with whatever fruit you had in season, strawberries or peaches or blueberries. Of course, you got to make the homemade whipped cream when you were a kid. You would take the spongecake, and you would split it in three or four layers. You would actually shave that as close as you could with a serrated knife very gently.
Anyone that’s done it before will know. Then you try to get as many layers as possible, so you could get as much whipped cream in there as you could possibly eat. Then you would put the fruit in the center when you put the layer on top so that when it’s spread out, it would go evenly through the cake.
Of course, I think after that, a lot of people started putting jams in them and all kinds of different toppings.
John: I always remembering this being a strawberry and whipped cream in a filling. At least that’s what my family did anyway. You’d have a layer of cake, and then a layer of strawberry or fruit or whatever it is that you’re doing, then another layer of cake, another layer of fruit, et cetera. You’d be able to see those layers when you look at the cake, because there’s no frosting around the outside to cover that up.
Maureen: Of course, anyone that’s made a good spongecake, the whole idea is not to get a lot of air in there when you beat the eggs. This cake just completely sucks every ounce of flavor into the cake. It really does have a lot of flavor. That’s why you didn’t need outside frosting.
Some people think, “Oh, naked cake,” they’re going away from the sugar or the fondant or whatever. These cakes are just as sugary. Also these cakes, again, anyone who made them used to soak them in rum. They really used to be rum cakes, is really what happened. You would pour the rum on the cake, then you would put your toppings, and you’d start to layer it.
Where did the naked cakes trend start?
John: Where did this trend start of naked cakes?
Maureen: Everything I read about it, it looks like it came from California. Everything starts in California. It works its way down here to the East Coast. I think that for probably the last two years, I would say 2012, 2013, 2014, people started to go to cupcakes, then they started to have dessert stations, then they started to have make your own whatever ice‑cream sundae bar…
John: Getting away from the cake totally, a wedding cake idea.
Maureen: The wedding cake went off in the distance. Some people were actually just coming in with ceremonial cakes. They were singing “The bride cuts the cake, the bride cuts the cake,” but it was a very funny trend that went on. A lot of things went out the window. A lot of girls didn’t throw the garter. A lot of girls didn’t cut the cake. A lot of girls didn’t want to do the dancing. Things went into change. I –
John: Do you think that because they decided, “The cake is more decorative and we’re not even going to cut it up and give it to the guest anyway, so we might as well just get rid of it entirely and do something different.”
Maureen: I think honestly that the cake got really dry when they started doing the fondant. The fondant is the really wrapped frosting. It looks really super neat. It’s almost like they seal the cake. That particular frosting is super, super, super sugary. That almost works like a glue when you put the cake together. I think the cake didn’t taste good anymore, and they got really, really expensive, and nobody was eating the cake. The cake went on the table, everybody got up and dance, the waitresses will come by, clear the cake, and the cake got thrown in the barrel. You just paid $675 for your cake.
I think it just, I don’t know, somehow or other, that particular tradition did not go with the millennials, the 18 to 35‑year‑old girls right now. It just died, went somewhere.
What I think happened is this trend, this farm to table that you’re going to see coming up with everything, they want to have their fresh flowers on the cake, they want to have the fruit that’s in season on their cake, it’s a little natural, maybe. It’s just a little special.
One thing that’s interesting about these cakes, if you read about it, they tell you that this cake cannot be made within 24 hours. The reason is, because there’s no frosting and not sealing it, these cakes have a tendency to get stale very, very quickly. Another thing when you’re looking…
John: They need to be made the night before the wedding or the morning of the wedding or something like that.
Maureen: Absolutely. When you are out there, shopping around for your baker for your naked cake – hopefully you wear clothes when you go for your cake tasting! – you want to make sure that that cake isn’t going to made far before your wedding so that when you do have it, it will be absolutely wonderful.
John: Why do you think that naked cakes are so popular now? You mentioned the fresh fruits and things like that. Do you think it’s part of the whole trend toward locally‑grown produce and things like that?
Maureen: I do. I think it’s something different. I think that the bakers out there probably have started a campaign to get the cakes back. I think a lot of people, maybe when you go for your cake tasting, they started to show you this.
I also think that the florist is involved, because pretty much, when you see these cakes, there’s flowers involved, fresh cut flowers on there, where a couple of years ago, I was seeing really cute cake toppers. The bride was a school teacher, and the guy was a computer techie. You’d see an apple and a computer on top of the cake or something. You’d see their initials or their monogram.
This is not that. This is a very visual cake that’s just pretty. It looks good in an outside setting. It just looks homemade. I think that anything that looks homemade or do‑it‑yourself right now is definitely in style.
Do naked cakes make weddings a little less formal?
John: Does that go along with making weddings maybe a little less formal as well, a little more rustic?
Maureen: I don’t know if they’re less formal. I think that it’s the bride and groom saying, “We did something that didn’t come out of a box.” The bride and groom of today, 2015, they do not want to have anything out of a box. They want it to be homemade or organic or sustainable or something. There’s definitely something there. They want to be different then the generation before them and their mother’s generation.
I think this is really going back to their grandparents’ generation. I’m sure naked cakes were around in the ’20s if we go look it up.
John: Everything comes back around. I should say, too, that in looking at the pictures, these don’t look like the cakes that my grandmother made. They’re really, really nice‑looking cakes with lots of nice layers and different colors. You might have a chocolate layer of cake and then some fruit or something, and then a white layer of cake and alternating like that.
They just have this layered effect and, like you said with lots of fresh flowers and fruits and things like that laid over them or draped over them, nice‑looking cakes.
Maureen: I think it’s going to make the cake stand out and not the frosting. I think before the frosting stood out and not the cake. I think that’s where we’re going here.
Do guests like naked cakes?
John: Do guests like these cakes? I know that’s always a concern for brides and grooms that, we want to do this. We think it’s nice. Are the guests going to think that this is a little too outside of the box or something like that?
Maureen: I have not done a wedding yet that has had one of these cakes. I know we have one coming up this year. I know for myself that I do make that naked cake that I’ve been making for years that was my grandmother’s recipe. We do it a lot for a holiday or somebody’s birthday. That cake always gets the best applause. Everyone loves that cake.
John: That’s great advice. Maureen, thanks very much for speaking with me today.
Maureen: Thanks, John. Thanks for having me.
John: For more information, you can visit the Essex Room website at essexroom.com, or call 978‑768‑7335.