Naked Lemon Layer Cake recipe and tutorial | Simple Bites

Rustic Lemon Layer Cake for a baby shower

November is the season of comfort food, which for me roughly translates into coffee and cake – at least today it does.

Lately I’ve taken to retreating into my warm kitchen in the morning with a stack of the fall’s latest baking books and only emerging when I feel adequately caffeinated and something delightful is cooling on the counter. We can only eat so much, and I gift a good portion of my baking, but it is always welcome to have a little assignment.

So last weekend when a few close friends and I teamed up on an (actual, not virtual, although today’s is virtual) baby shower, I volunteered to bake the cake. I’d been thumbing through both Homemade Decadence and Butter Baked Goods dreaming of layer cakes and fluffy frosting and this was the opportunity I needed  to break out the cake pans. I chose a recipe from each book and both were so spectacular, I requested permission from the publishers to share them with you here.

The recipes can be scaled up or down, should you one day find yourself committed to making a wedding cake or just want a crumb of something sweet for Sunday dinner.  I think you’ll agree, few things in life are as enjoyable a frosted slice of cake, so read on for the tutorial, recipes and virtual baby shower you can join, too!

Naked Lemon Layer Cake recipe and tutorial | Simple Bites

The Naked Cake

Call it ‘exposed’, ‘rustic’ or ‘naked’, this new cake trend merely means an unfrosted cake. It’s a down-to-earth approach that fits well with my simple baking style and I’ve been itching for an excuse to whip one up.

It’s almost too obvious to be mentioned, but this naked cake trend has just made our lives a lot easier. I couldn’t believe how fast this cake came together (scroll down to see the finished dessert); basically, I’m sold. Now of course you can still dress up a naked cake to the nines – just take a peek at Pinterest and you’ll get the idea. But be they truly naked or adorned with flowers, I think they are stunning.

Visually, a naked cake needs to be able to stand alone, meaning it needs neat and tidy sides, even layers, that sort of thing.  Remember, there are no mounds of frosting to hide behind. Also, the cake must taste superb on its own. If it’s dry and crumbly, it’s just going to be one big disappointment.

Thankfully, we have Joy the Baker to guide us to success on these points. Have you seen her latest book, Homemade Decadence? Oh. My. Heck. It’s worth the price just for the brunch chapter alone, but is obviously out to win hearts and minds with an impressive line up of cookies, bars, pies, crumbles and, of course, layer cakes.

Naked Lemon Layer Cake recipe and tutorial | Simple Bites

Basic 3-Layer Yellow Cake
5.0 from 1 reviews
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves/Yield: 9-inch layer cake
Recipe slightly adapted from Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson. Published with permission.
  • 4 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  1. Put oven racks in the centre and upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 300F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round baking pans. (Aimee's note: I used two 9-inch and three 5-inch pans)
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3, to 4 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add half of the flour mixture, and beat well.
  5. Add the buttermilk in a slow stream and beat well. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula.
  6. Divide the batter among the prepared cake pans.
  7. Bake until golden brown on top and a wooden pick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
  8. Let cool in the pans for 20 minutes before inverting onto wire racks to cool completely before frosting.
1. Baking the cakes at a lower temperature helps them rise evenly, without peaks in the centre. This is better when preparing a naked cake. I still trimmed my top, but not by much
2. If you’re not using right away, double-wrap the cake layers in plastic wrap, and freeze for up to 7 days. When ready to frost, remove from the freezer, unwrap, and frost frozen.

Rustic Lemon Layer Cake: filling and assembly

Once I had a recipe for Joy’s yellow cake cooling in two 9-inch and three 6-inch pans, it was time to move on.

I knew I wanted to elevate the cake experience with a filling of sorts. I wanted to make a cake that didn’t scream ‘BABY’, and even though my friend is expecting a boy, blue was out of the question. I wanted it neutral enough to be adaptable for a wedding shower or Easter Sunday, so lemon filling was the obvious choice.

For this, I went with a reliable recipe for lemon curd from the beautiful Butter Baked Goods cookbook. I adore this book for many reasons, quaint Canadian bakery among them, but mainly because I know I can trust the results of my efforts.

Naked Lemon Layer Cake recipe and tutorial | Simple Bites

Butter Baked Goods Lemon Curd
5.0 from 1 reviews
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves/Yield: 3 cups
Recipe from Butter Baked Goods by Rosie Daykin. Reprinted with permission. This lemon curd is mind-blowing, I tell you. The recipe makes a big jar full and you'll be sorely tempted to dip a spoon into it every time you open the refrigerator. It was lovely as a cake filling, but try it in tart shells, spooned over meringues, or stirred with whipped cream and served over berries.
  • 1 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 4 lemons)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the lemon juice, eggs, sugar and salt. Measure the temperature with a candy thermometer and whisk until it reaches 180F. The eggs should be quite thick and pale in colour. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few moments.
  2. Carefully pour the hot curd into the blender and securely affix the lid. Blend on medium to high speed and add the butter piece by piece. Make sure each piece is fully incorporated before adding the next. Once all the butter is incorporated, the curd should be thick and creamy.
  3. Use a sieve to strain the curd into a glass or ceramic mixing bowl. The curd will be quite thick at this point, but still too loose to use.
  4. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the curd and refrigerate overnight. Once set, the curd should be thick enough to spread with a knife.
1. This curd can be kept in the refrigerator, in a covered bowl or an airtight container, for up to 1 week.
2. Excerpted from Butter Baked Goods by Rosie Daykin. Recipes Copyright © 2013 Rosie Daykin, Photography copyright © 2013 Janis Nicolay. Excerpted by permission of Appetite by Random House, a Penguin Random House company. All rights reserved.

Once I had Joy’s cake and Rosie’s lemon curd, it was assembly time. I made a lemon cream cheese frosting to hold the layers together, which separated a little, so I’m not posting the recipe. In hindsight, a basic cream cheese or vanilla frosting would be best.

As depicted in the photos above, I piped a double circle of frosting around the layers and filled the centre in with lemon curd. Repeat x4, then frost the top cake. I garnished the end result with a dozen macarons.


It’s a virtual Baby Shower for Jessica of How Sweet It Is! Naturally, I’m bringing my naked lemon layer cake. It’s decked out with macarons that have been personalized with food decorator pens. Simple and sweet.

Jessica, I’m so excited for you! Motherhood is absolutely the best adventure and you’ve never been one to shy away from adventure. You embrace everything with such enthusiasm, I know you’ll be an incredibly special mama. Hugs to you!

Naked Lemon Layer Cake recipe and tutorial | Simple Bites

(Apologies for the lighting in this photo, but by the time I had added the finishing touches, it was late in the evening in someone else’s kitchen! That’s just real life, people.)

Last but not least, here is the full round-up of brand new recipes from some of the best food bloggers in the biz! We’re so thrilled to celebrate Jessica and the pending arrival of her little one with this virtual shower. A big thank you to Bev and Ashley for organizing all of us.

Now, who’s hungry? 


  1. Gimme Some Oven – Asian Broccoli Salad with Peanut Sauce
  2. The Lemon Bowl – Brussels Slaw with Tahini Dressing and Za’atar Crostini
  3. With Style & Grace – Kale Salad with Apple, Hazelnuts & Bacon


  1. Dine & Dish – Hot Buttered Rum Cocktail
  2. Food For My Family – Cranberry Orange Dark and Stormy Cocktail
  3. Minimalist Baker – Bourbon Pumpkin Milkshakes
  4. Stylish, Stealthy & (sometimes) Healthy – Apple Cider Shandy
  5. A Spicy Perspective – Preggy Punch Mocktail
  6. Girl vs. Dough – Boozy Maple Peanut Butter Cup Milkshake
  7. Honestly Yum – Maple Bacon Pisco Sour
  8. Cookin Canuck – Pink Grapefruit Margaritas
  9. A Thought For Food – Mezcal Citrico Cocktail
  10. A House in the Hills – Pomegranate Rosemary Spritzer
  11. The Novice Chef – Ginger Bourbon Apple Cider
  12. Bran Appetit – Citrus Cider Punch Floats


  1. Edible Perspective – Meatloaf Veggie Burgers with Mashed Potatoes + Gravy
  2. The Little Kitchen – Salmon BLT Sliders with an Avocado Aioli & Brie
  3. Daisy At Home – Balsamic Beef Burger with Mac and Cheese
  4. Cookies & Cups – Candied Bacon Maple Cheddar Burger
  5. Climbing Grier Mountain – Trashed-Up Steak Burger with Chicken Fried Bacon & Dijon Gravy
  6. Dessert For Two – Bleu Cheese Burgers + Sweet Potato Fries
  7. Country Clever – Fig Rosemary Roast Chicken Brie Panini
  8. Foodie Crush – The Best Cheeseburger Soup
  9. Lady and Pups – Spicy Sambal Chicken Meatball Sub with Eggs
  10. Two Peas & Their Pod – Sweet Potato and Kale Grilled Cheese
  11. Bake Your Day – Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich


  1. Spoon Fork Bacon – Crunchy Ground Beef and Cheesy Tacos
  2. The Fauxmartha – Boozy Beef and Butternut Tacos
  3. With Food + Love – Harvest Hash Breakfast Tacos
  4. Mountain Mama Cooks – Crispy Kale and Brussels Sprout Tacos with Bacon
  5. Heather Christo – Bahn Mi Tacos with Spicy Sriracha Honey Sauce
  6. A Couple Cooks – Loaded Huevos Rancheros Tacos
  7. Fitnessista – San Diego Lobster Street Tacos
  8. Bakers Royale – Trash’d Street Tacos


  1. Bev Cooks – Beer Battered Fried Calamari Pizza
  2. Rachel Cooks – Apple and Chicken Sausage Pizza with Macaroni and Cheese Stuffed Crust
  3. Foodie With Family – Trashed Up Barbecue Turkey Pizza
  4. Shutterbean – Pesto Potato Bacon Pizza
  5. i am a food blog – Grilled Cheese Pizza
  6. My Life as a Mrs – Chili Cheese Dog Pizza
  7. Simply Scratch – Steak + Blue Cheese Pizza with Crispy Fried Shallots and Honey Balsamic Drizzle
  8. The Beeroness – Beer Cheese Tater Tot Pizza
  9. Yes I Want Cake – Roasted Pumpkin Pizza
  10. Two Red Bowls – Bacon Mashed Potato Pizza
  11. Dula Notes – Pork Bahn Mi Pizza
  12. Weelicious – Trashed Up Mexican Pizza Pockets
  13. Take a Megabite – Roasted Beet Pizza
  14. Hungry Girl Por Vida – Hard Cider Braised Pork with Sour Cherries and Cheesy Polenta


  1. Table for Two – Salted Caramel, Dark Chocolate, and Brown Butter Shortbread Bars with Sprinkles
  2. My Name is Yeh – Mini Vanilla Loaf Cakes, All Trashed Up
  3. Picky Palate – Pumpkin Spice Butterscotch Sprinkle Cupcakes
  4. Sprinkle Bakes – Cake Batter Confetti Cupcakes
  5. Averie Cooks – Easy Homemade Funfetti Cake with Vanilla Buttercream
  6. Sweet Phi – Trashed Up Shortbread Cookie Bars
  7. Love & Olive Oil – Loaded Junk Food Brownies
  8. Lauren’s Latest – Bakery Sugar Cookies
  9. Cookie + Kate – Peanut Butter, Banana, Honey and Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies
  10. Flourishing Foodie – Triple Layer Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
  11. The Sugar Hit – Salted Caramel Popcorn Ice Cream Cake
  12. Hummingbird High – Breakfast Cereal Cake Donuts
  13. Top With Cinnamon – Triple Chocolate Vanilla Swirl Crumb Cake
  14. Bake at 350 – Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sundaes
  15. Bakerella – Baby Block Cake Pops
  16. She Wears Many Hats –  Chocolate Covered Grapefruit


Hungry yet? Thanks for reading!

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Love how you decorated it! What a perfect baby shower cake.

  2. This cake!!!!! You’re speaking my lemon love language!! So adorable!

  3. Gorgeous!

  4. Just beautiful Aimee!! Love everything about it!

  5. Congratulations to Jessica! Motherhood is an incredible gift!

    I am all for a more easily decorated cake. Cake decorating is not a strength of mine

  6. Adorable cake! Perfect for Jess’s shower!

  7. aimee!!! thank you!! XOXO

  8. Both homemade lemon curd and naked cakes? You’re winning my heart over here!
    That looks seriously good, I might recreate it for my Mum’s birthday at the end of the month. Thanks!

  9. I really like the look of these naked cakes. I think they are elegant yet simple

  10. How delicious and beautiful!

  11. love the little decorations on the cake – so precious!

  12. This is such a cute cake for a baby shower. It looks so scrumptious

  13. THIS is incredible. I love love love it. Thank you so much for participating!

  14. this is the sweetest little cake ever 🙂
    i love how you filled it with lemon curd (my fave) and how it’s naked!!


  15. Oh HOW BEAUTIFUL is this, Aimee!!! Those macarons are so precious. And the cake sounds absolutely divine — lemon curd sounds so perfect and is so gender-neutral appropriate 🙂 This is lovely. (P.S. That note about the light made me smile — it just goes to show how beautiful this cake is. Artificial light or natural light, it’s gorgeous either way!)

  16. What a gorgeous cake! I am legit crazy for lemon curd, so I would be all over this thing! And it’s so beautiful too, I love this whole naked cakes trend.

  17. I’m completely embracing naked cakes because I love the rustic look of them. I also don’t like too much frosting, so this is a win-win for me. But even more than the way it’s decorated, I’m really into tiers with an uneven number of layers! I just had a cake made for my friend’s wedding and we went with two layers on the bottom and three on the top – just like you’ve done here. I think it looks fantastic this way. Great job!!

  18. Gorgeous cake for the baby shower!! I love the rustic look of cakes – why frost it all pretty if you can get the same look and feel with a rustic one? 🙂 the macarons on top are just the perfect finish!

  19. it is the sweetest cake ever! I love the bebe part 🙂

  20. Naked cakes are the best–easy and so classic looking.

  21. Mmm 🙂 I love lemon cake!

  22. This is so adorable! I love the way you decorated a cake, and I love that frosting a cake can be so much easier these days due to new trends. I’ll be doing something like this for sure.

  23. This is adorable!! And I’m a lemon dessert [especially cake] fanatic. YUM! Thanks so much for joining the part-ay!

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