The Naked Cake

I made a naked cake.

A cake that is naked.

Naked cakes sprang up at hipster weddings across the land last year.  Since I am neither a hipster nor getting married there was no reason for me to have a naked cake.  And I made a frowny face that lasted a full year.  But when I realized Betty would need a cake for her 80th birthday I rejoiced.  Turn that frown upside down.   I was finally going to be able to strip.




I made an 8 layer sponge cake which I thought was a chiffon cake but evidently is a pound cake. Apparently what I think of as a sponge cake is not what the British think of as a sponge cake.  I didn’t know. I don’t speak cake.

So I had an 8 layer lemon verbena “sponge” (actually pound) cake.  In between each layer I spread thick layers of homemade lemon curd and vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

The outside was decorated with fresh lemon verbena leaves, local raspberries and green tails Amaranths from my cutting garden. Also there’s the bunting banner I made  which I unabashedly copied from a similar banner I saw on … wait for it … this is so weird … Pinterest.  I know.  A bunting on Pinterest.  That’s almost as rare as a wart on a witch.




It was a thing of beauty this cake.  Allow me to explain how it made it’s journey to my sister’s house, a 10 minute drive away.

I placed the cake, marble cake stand and all, into the trunk of my car.  I sat the cake stand on a non slip pad and closed the trunk.   The hot, sweaty, festering, trunk.  It was like placing the cake into the armpit of a dry cleaning business.

And then I prayed.  And then I realized I don’t actually have a religion and had no one to pray to. So I prayed to the one person I thought could really understand my anxiety.  I prayed to Martha Stewart.

I started the car, put my hazards on, took a deep breath and slowly stepped on the gas.  Now I had a problem.  The cake was melting at a rapid pace but if I went anything over 10 km an hour I risked the cake falling over.  But the cake was more likely to fall over if the icing and curd melted.

Then I had an anxiety attack inside my car, did some thrashing, banging, hitting myself on the head … you know, that sort of thing and cried in a way Martha Stewart would never.  At the very moment I was about to get really dramatic a deep calm came over me and I felt a hand on my back nudging me forwards. Thanks Cake Boss.

14 hours later I made it to my sister’s house with a puddle of cake in the trunk.  Just kidding.  Both the cake and I made it to the party with only a bit of melting and slanting.




As you can see, by the time she saw the cake Betty was slanting a bit too, so to her the cake was straight.





The biggest question everyone seemed to have was how do you slice a cake like this?  Well it’s pretty straight forward. You don’t slice it. Everyone gathers ’round and smashes their face into it.


At least that’s what I suggested but nobody went for it.  80 years olds can be annoyingly stuck in their ways.

What you’re looking at is really 4 cakes, stacked on top of each other.  I cut the top cake in half and that made 2 slices.  Then the next cake was cut into 4, making 4 slices.  And so on.

And then everyone smashed their faces into it.




If you’re a hipster, getting married or turning 80 I highly, completely and enthusiastically recommend a naked cake. It’s a horrible travelling companion but it makes a great entrance.
Have a good weekend!



  1. Aurora Clarke says:

    we’ll have to disagree :-) As a professional baker I learned that Sponge cake by definition has no added butter, oil or leavening agents – the perfection depends on the eggs alone which is why its tricky to make. Chiffon cake, a more recent American cross between a butter/oil cake and sponge making it more like pound cake. Epicurious has the cake classifications here

    Victoria loved her sponge cake for sure and that was the beginning of British tea time, when Queen Victoria was feeling a bit hungry before supper time. Whatever, its all good!

    • Karen says:

      No, lol. I’m saying that a pound cake (equal parts butter, sugar, eggs) is referred to in Britain as a sponge. But it’s referred to as a “Victoria Sponge”. Which is the recipe I used, thinking it would be a sponge. True story. ~ karen!

  2. Theresa says:

    Beautiful cake and looks yummy too!

  3. Jebber Jay says:

    Lordy dee that is one BEAUTIFUL cake! I would have smashed my face into it.

    YAY BETTY for turning 80 and having such fabulous daughters. :o)

  4. Gretchen Sexton says:

    I’m drooling….

  5. Rose says:

    What a beautiful loving gift for your momma! Thank you for sharing that with us.

  6. Rebecca says:

    It’s beautiful!! Thank you for sharing.

  7. Molly says:

    Lovely cake! BETTY IS 80?! Daaaaayyyum. I hope I look that smashing at 80. Betty just gave me incentive to get the hell out of bed and smile more! Happy birthday Betty!

  8. Wendy says:

    Maybe somebody said this already:
    I think you’re supposed to freeze the actual cake, cut in it’s slices, and then assemble it at the venue. I say venue, because I’m assuming we’re talking about hipster weddings. I guess Pink Tool Belt didn’t want cake assembly happening in the middle of a party?

  9. Aurora Clarke says:

    FWIW – sponge cake is NOT the same as Pound Cake or Chiffon cake!

    Regardless, all very tasty and yours looks Fab! Yum!!

  10. Christie says:

    LOVE the cake stand!!! Wherever did you find it?!!!! Just kidding – don’t want to start a rant.

    On the melting cake… did you think about your homemade air conditioner in the trunk? The transport would also have been my most anxious moment of the Naked Cake Experience.

    Love Betty’s manicure – so festive! And the cake looks delicious – I would totally have smashed my face into it!

  11. Tigersmom says:

    Stunning! Both the cake and Betty. She totally rocks those fabulous red glasses.

    Happy Birthday, again, Betty!!!

  12. jainegayer says:

    Well done, naked cake lady!

  13. Marta says:

    Thanks for the laugh out loud. : )

  14. Su says:

    Lovely cake…. your Mom looks divine….. I saw Aunt Betty on FB this morning and she’s rocking 101 too!

  15. Susan says:

    Call me a prude, but I like the equivalent of a down jacket of good light fluffy frosting on my cake. However, I do like a lemon glaze on pound cake, about as close to naked as I want to get. Your cake did look delicious though and you weren’t skimpy with the fillings, so I wouldn’t turn down a piece.

  16. Korrine Johnson says:

    Hands down that is the best looking cake I’ve ever seen.

  17. Heather says:

    Absolutely awesome!

  18. IRS says:

    I’ve been away, so I missed the post about Betty’s party prep. I just read it, and I shall have to go back and leave her a belated birthday wish. Her cake looks both lovely and delicious, which are dual qualities that not all cakes have. I would love to have the recipes, so I can pay/guilt someone into making one for me. The party looks like it was terrific. In my family, I too, am in charge of birthday celebrations. Those entail dropping into Swiss Chalet to pick up a 1/4 chicken dinner with fries per person. Then I grab a Twinkie (birthday cake) for the birthday person at the corner store, when I swing by to get lottery tickets. If I’m feeling generous, I get an extra lottery ticket as a gift, but if it’s a winner, I want half. Finally, I bring along a 2 gallon jug of wine to cut down on the fights, and to make my sister mellow enough that no one wants to kill her. By the way, you have introduced us to many members of your family, both human and non, but I have yet to hear a word about “The Fella”. Is he real, or just occasionally mentioned as a literary device? If he is real, what is his name? If you refuse to tell us, I will have to refer to him from now on as “Skippy”. So what does Skippy do? For all we know, you work so hard because you have to support both of you, because Skippy is unemployed, due to either house arrest, hiding from the Feds, or under Witness Protection. I mention Skippy here mostly because a far better alternative to playing Cake Roulette in the trunk of your car, would have been to plop Skippy in the front passenger seat, put a large serving tray on his lap, and then place the cake stand on the tray. He would then have been instructed to grip the stem (base) of the stand for dear life. I’m sure you could have put the fear of God, or Martha Stewart, into him should he fail.

    • Pam says:

      The Fella is person non grata around these parts as he was kicked to the curb a while back. It was a traumatic time for us… and pretty tough on Karen, too.

    • Karen says:

      Skippy was real. Skippy ran away from home 2 years ago after 11 years together.There are many stories and photos here about him and his running away. ~ karen!

      • IRS says:

        Oh my. So sorry; I could have sworn there was mention of him more recently than that. As I am still mining your archives, I guess I didn’t get to that yet. If you like, I can send my sister (deprived from wine, and mean as a snake) after him to teach him how to behave.

        • Karen says:

          Nope. It was 2 years ago. You’ll come across the post when he left (wherein I took a month long break from blogging) and then my love letter to Idris Elba when I returned to the keyboard. ~ karen!

        • IRS says:

          I found the correct post, read it, and was profoundly sad. I certainly did not mean, in my colossal ignorance, to open up old wounds. I’ve been there too, and you seem to have recovered faster than I did. Brava! Now, years later, I wonder what I ever saw in the guy who eviscerated me emotionally, and I’m so glad he dumped me so that I could go on to meet the REAL love of my life. As for Idris…..yup, that boy is fine! I guess I should not say boy, since he is black, and so that sounds horribly racist. I do not mean it to sound at all racist, just very sexist, as in “that is one fine slab of meat”. Since I am well aware that he is also intelligent, and a talented actor, hopefully that helps atone for the female chauvinist piggishness of my comment. As far as imaginary lovers go, you have chosen wisely. P.S. I now refer to the Fella the way he referred to your garbage man.

        • Karen says:

          Kay first of all he’s not an imaginary lover. Second of all you don’t have to worry about having opened old wounds, lol. They scabbed over grew new skin after about a year. I keep the scabs in a jar which I plan on feeding to him if I ever see him again. ~ karen!

        • IRS says:

          Did you know that Idris will be at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), which starts in about a month? Of course you did! We shall all expect to see you walk the red carpet with him, arm in arm. :D

    • Nancy Blue Moon says:


  19. Beckie says:

    For *proper* British sponge cake, look up “Victoria sponge cake”. Usually, it is one layer, cut into to layers, traditionally served “naked” with buttercream & jam in between. It is divine, really.

    I love the idea of such a grand sized cake being quite simple. Betty looks amazing, as always.

    Great job with the cake!

  20. Ann says:

    The secret is to make all the layers and the fillings ahead of time. Then transport it all not put together. You just get where you are going ahead of time and put it together there. It works quite well for beautiful naked cakes like yours. Ones that are frosted would not work out nearly as well, although I have seen people frost the layers separately and do some decorating, then assemble the cake once they get to the site and throw on a few last minute decorating frills.

    • Karen says:

      I thought of that Ann, but honestly things are always so crazy when you’re getting ready for a party that I didn’t want to set up shop at my sister’s house decorating an entire cake. I *almost* just spread the layers and then decorated it there but I wasn’t sure how long it was going to take me etc. etc. So I took my chances. Like an idiot, lol. It really could have gone very very wrong. ~ karen!

  21. Victoria says:

    I made one of these last year for my brother’s wedding. As I had to drive it over 100 miles, I assembled it on site, on arrival. Also, it was England in November so no chance of melting!

  22. Kim says:

    Wow! The cake and Betty look awesome Karen! Fantastic job and I bet it was delish!

  23. Tracy says:

    Your cake is beautiful, for sure. For me, though, the point of cake is that it is a carrier for frosting; a naked cake rather misses the point of having cake. If there was a way to make “cakeless frosting” beautiful, THAT would be mine!

  24. Ev Wilcox says:

    Other than my once a year Boston Cream Pie, my favorite cakes are pounds, with no frosting. I too hate making, buying, eating frosting! I make huge layer cakes (not pound) often, all from scratch (for the cake eaters that surround me)! I use popsicle sticks to hold the layers. Easier to see than toothpicks. If I was to make a beauty like yours I would prob use at least three tall dowels. Please post your recipes! Have been trying to make a really good lemon curd for years. And, I can’t imagine transporting that cake! Shudder…. Well done Karen!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ev! The lemon curd actually came from Signe Langford, a chef I’ve Intermet. It’s her recipe that’s coming out in her cookbook. She gave it to me in my state of emergency, lol. So I’m not positive I can share the recipe. :( ~ karen!

    • Karen says:

      (and the lemon curd was everyone’s favourite part!) ~ karen

  25. Grammy says:

    At first I was going to tell you that your cake is a thing of beauty, but then you screwed it all up. No cake can hold a candle to Betty’s stunning looks.

    Please tell her that it is so not fair for her to look so good. I’d like to hear that she has said some kind of penance for getting to 80 in such fine shape. Either that, or that she lifted her lovely face to the sun and downed another martini in celebration of a life well-lived.

    What a fabulous day it must have been! Cheers to you and all who brought together such a lovely not-a-party for such a lovely lady.

  26. Shanelle says:

    I’m making a chocolate cake for my boyfriend’s birthday this weekend…now it’s going to be a naked chocolate cake :) off to Pinterest I go…

  27. peg says:

    the cake is a thing of BEAUTY!

  28. Laura Bee says:

    Wow – they CAN be naked!. My daughter has been bugging me for a cake all week. The thing that is holding me back is the frosting. I hate making it & I hate buying it more. Wonder if she’d notice…she really just wants the sprinkles.

  29. KimS says:

    So beautiful! I read everyday, but rarely post….however, after 20 some odd years of making (decorating) my kids birthday cakes, I had to give you kudos! Cakes are a LOT of freaking work! Great job!

  30. Cindy M. says:

    The Naked Cake…’s a good thing

  31. Kathleen says:

    Gosh Betty looks good! I’ll have some of what ever it is she’s taking!
    Hope she had an awesome day.

    Have a great weekend.

  32. Anne says:

    Geez Karen, is there anything you can’t do? First, I thought you were a carpenter, then a decorator, gardener, farmer (chickens) crafty type and now, I find with all of that, you are also cake baker/decorator. Wow! Oh yes a TV personality AND a comic. I open your “articles” before going to bed no matter how tired.

  33. Stacie says:

    I had one at my wedding last year. Guess that makes me a hipster.
    Whatever. Like I care. Cakes are stupid. I prefer craft beer. *puts on glasses and rides away on old-timey bicycle.

  34. Jay says:

    Clarifying transatlantic baking terms:
    Your pound cake is our Madeira cake – a denser structure than a sponge cake so better for stacking tiers.
    A sponge cake would get squished under the weight.
    A “true” sponge cake uses eggs for the volume and no butter/fat. But most people mean a “Victoria sponge” when they say sponge cake – equal amounts of egg, butter, sugar and flour. (Plus raising agent like baking powder if you’re not using self-raising flour)

    Hope this is useful – I’ve been a self-employed baker for 6 1/2 years so I’ve got the hang of swapping between different regions’ terms
    (Don’t get me started on crochet!)

    • Karen says:

      Yes, it’s a Victoria Sponge. I meant to say that in the post! I got so worked up over telling about the transportation of it that I forgot. ~ karen!

  35. Lin N says:

    Awesome looking cake…you going to supply recipes for cake, and fillings? Does tilting cake taste the same as straight up cake? Inquiring minds wish to know….

  36. Carol Hudson says:

    You nailed it! Bravo!

  37. Mindy says:

    Mine wasn’t quite as homemade as yours, I took some shortcuts, but it was friggin delicious. And the best part, I didn’t have to transport it. ;)
    Four thumbs up. It turned out really pretty and I’m sure slanted Betty loved it.

  38. Keelea says:

    Recipe, yo!

    • Bobbles says:

      I was looking for a likely spot to insert the same request. Karen! Recipe! Or it didn’t happen! (Especially the recipe for that Swiss something something buttercream!)

  39. Madhu Ramakrishnan says:

    looks really yum and delicious

  40. You had me laughing so hard as I read this!!! The cake is beautiful and the story is priceless!!!

  41. Pam says:

    I would gladly smash my face into that gorgeous naked cake!

  42. Rondina says:

    It’s gorgeous and looks yummy. I love the little flags and that tablecloth.

    So, the British sponge cake is a pound cake? That thing had to weigh quite a bit.

    Please tell Betty that those red glasses look great on her. I almost bought a pair, but chickened out. I’m going for red next time because she looks so good in them.

  43. Donie Jensen says:

    Congrats to you for your courageous transport and to Betty for turning eighty!! She looks so beautiful! I just lost my Mother last month at seventy-eight… I envy you but am happy to see and read of your celebration! Here’s to many, many more birthdays… Cheers!

  44. brenda says:

    OMGosh … green tailed amaranths … at first I thought it was broccauliflower babies strung together WOW … so much work and I can’t believe you put it in the trunk (I would have put it on the floor of the passenger seat so I could watch it disintegrate and fall apart while I drove there) … you are one smart cookie

    the banner made me want to weep … I can’t wait to make one for my Mom now (she’s going to be 92 or 93 next birthday) she seriously has lied about her age all her life and has promised to be buried without us knowing (Dad was a year younger so it was a big deal then as liars do – they get stuck in their lies and have to go to hell if they believe in that sort of thing) … she has recently stopped going to church – she’s a smart cookie, too

  45. Heather Eggert says:

    “I prayed to Martha Stewart”. Crap you make me laugh. All of the time. You are my favorite blogger ever.

  46. Nancy C says:

    It looks scrumptious and yes, traveling with fragile food can initiate a religious experience. It is my understanding that atheist caterers are few and far between.

  47. nancy says:

    That’s beautiful! Uber Pinworthy. Every Easter my grandmother made a fresh coconut cake with 4 layers and 7 minute icing and used so many toothpicks to keep it all straight it was frightening. We were always afraid and hopeful of Uncle Albert getting too drunk and getting somehow impaled on toothpicks.
    Happy Birthday Betty!!!

  48. Thanks for the info about those crazy British and their so-called sponge cakes. Coming from that part of the world myself, I have tried to make English sponge cakes and couldn’t figure out why the recipes didn’t call for the egg whites to be whipped up and folded in like we do here. Now I know why my cakes turned out dense and flat!

  49. Becky says:

    I made a three tiered cake for my cousins wedding. I stacked it after transport…..It was fine until the music started. The vibrations, and the base from the DJ made it start to tilt.
    The bride and groom had just finished smashing it in each others faces when it fell over. Luckily, I caught it.

    lesson learned? make darn sure all your dowels are exactly the same length. I had one that was a smidge taller and I think that was the culprit….. that and the fact that the DJ was one level down, exactly under the cake.

  50. TucsonPatty says:

    It looks beautiful and sound absolutely delicious. Makes you wonder how the heck did all those hipsters get their cakes there without melting and sliding. The cakers (I just made that word up) have to make it at the venue, but that took exactly how much time? Longer than the ride over to the party, yes?
    Wonder ful photo of Mama Betty. I trust she loved it!

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