Choosing the finish of your wedding cake is a big decision for couples. A simple decision such as whether to opt for a naked or fully iced wedding cake can affect the cost of your cake; the decoration style you can opt for; the texture and freshness of your cake; how and when your designer decorates it; your options for allergen and dietary requirements and much more. But before I head into all of that, lets start with the differences!
There are two styles of naked cake, but both consist of a layered cake with buttercream, ganache and/or preserve sandwiching them together, and fully exposed cake on the outside like a Victoria sandwich. Sometimes they may have buttercream or ganache on top as well but not always, this usually depends on what decoration style is used. The main difference between the two styles of naked cake is the finish. You can opt for a more rustic finish with cream and jam that oozes out slightly, or the more polished finish where this is swept around to give a smoother and more elegant look.
Naked cakes have been hugely popular with couples since they first gained popularity in 2013, and this shows no sign of ebbing. They are a great option for rustic and simple weddings, they look great adorned with fruit and edible flowers, and since many people are not great fans of fondant icing anyway, they showcase what most people really care about, that scrummy cake inside!
The semi-naked cake is really a halfway house between a naked cake and a fully iced cake. When you decorate a cake usually your first step is to add a thin layer of buttercream or ganache which is then mostly scrapped off. In the cake decorating world this is known a crumb coat, as it locks in all the crumbs, preventing them from showing up in your outer layer of buttercream. This usually doesn't have to be that neat, but since with a semi-naked cake this is the only layer that is seen it has to be pristine. We don't want crumbs in this crumb coat, that wouldn't do at all. Semi-naked cakes always show some exposed layers of cakes, but not all of them. Because this thin layer of buttercream or ganache is added to the outside, the finish if done well, is much neater than a simple naked cake, and gives a much more elegant feel, which is why it is such a popular choice for weddings. With a semi-naked finish you can achieve the sharp edges and clean lines that make all the difference.
Fully Iced Cakes
A fully iced cake is one that has had a final thick coat of buttercream or ganache, or one that has been covered in fondant or royal icing. This style of cake has no exposed cake at all, the coating is usually 0.5mm or more. Traditionally royal icing was decoration of choice here in the UK, with fondant being introduced in the 1960s and gaining popularity, to become the the decoration of choice for wedding cakes and celebration cakes. Here at Red Robin Pantry we only decorate our cakes with Italian meringue buttercream or ganache, not fondant as these are our specialties. Until a couple of years ago buttercream didn't get much of a look in outside of naked and semi-naked cakes. In just the past few years new techniques in buttercream decorating have allowed cake designers to experiment with this fantastic medium and create works of art that can rival any fondant cake. Buttercream wedding cakes are becoming more and more popular every year, and why shouldn't they!
So now that you know the difference how do you decide? What are the pros and cons of each style? Lets take a look.
This is probably one of the most important factors, as your choice of base effects how your cake can be decorated. For example, if you want washed colours, geometric shapes or drips down the side of your cake then a naked cake won't be the best choice for you. Naked cakes have limitations when it comes to decoration, you are mostly confined to fruit or edible flower decorations, or other decorations that can be placed on the cake in situ such as meringue kisses and macarons. Drips don't really work even on the smoother finish naked cakes as there are always ridges between the layers and the drips don't fall smoothly.
Now if your dream cake is fully of drips and an Italian meringue cascade that's been lightly toasted then a semi-naked cake might be the option for you. Drips look great on semi-naked cakes. In fact a lot of decorations that you would usually decorated a fully iced cake with can be used to decorate a semi-naked cake, including piping and painted buttercream. One thing to think about when opting for decoration that needs to be added well in advance is freshness, semi-naked cakes are still quite exposed to the elements, and adding painted sections and other more elaborate decoration can mean that your cake has to be iced earlier and is exposed for longer (more on this below). Like naked cakes fruit and edible flowers make great decoration options and these decorations can give you a simple elegance when used to decorate a semi-naked cake.
When it comes to fully iced cakes, the options are endless. Anything you can do with a naked or semi-naked cake can be done with a fully iced cake and so much more. Here at Red Robin Pantry we specialise in buttercream painting, so whether you're looking for a floral vintage inspired cake, something coastal or just abstract and modern there are so many ways to make your wedding cake your own. Take a look through our gallery for inspiration or let yourself loose on Instagram and Pinterest!
This is probably the easiest to determine. Do you want a rustic farmhouse feel to your cake in which case naked and semi-naked cakes are a great option or do you want an elegant statement piece. Knowing the style and feel of your wedding before you come to choosing your cake is a great help.
How and When It's Decorated
When it comes to buttercream cakes, fully iced cakes are usually fully stacked and decorated by your designer at their studio or bakery. To transport them safely they use wooden dowels and central supports to keep the cake ridged during transport. This means larger cakes can become very heavy. The average wedding cake is 15-20kg and needs to be carried with care. I tell you this is the most nerve racking part of my job. If your wedding venue has lots of stairs, for example Lusty Glaze in Newquay, this might be an issue. Some styles can incorporate cake separators, which is particularly helpful for 4-5 tier wedding cakes.