Cakes are arguably one of the most essential and remembered parts of any celebration. Whether it's a birthday, baby shower, or a wedding, a cake's decoration usually takes centre stage in the room.
So, why would a cake with little to no outer icing layer be a refreshing alternative to big white wedding cakes?
By definition, rustic wedding cakes are classic country-inspired cakes served with little to no frosting on their sides. The cake styling intentionally omits the heavy icing you would typically see on the exterior of a cake. Instead, the cake layers are stacked with plenty of filling to add moisture and flavour to the cake.
The decoration is often remarkable, quirky, and boho, with a styled tablescape that mainly features a rustic wood cake stand, creative confections, fresh greenery, edible fresh flowers, ganache drips, fresh strawberries, and lots of other farmhouse aesthetics.
Check out our range of beautiful cake stands ranging from wooden, pedestal, and platform here.
How did rustic cakes become popular?
They were popularised by Christina Tosi, the owner of Milk Bar, back in 2014. Tosi loved the exciting, country-looking texture and decadent layers and didn't understand why people didn't like them. Barely a few months later, a naked rustic cake was served at Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's wedding, making the craze popularise even faster!
In the last few years, rustic wedding cakes have grown from a trendy rustic wedding idea to a mainstay dessert item in recent weddings. However, contemporary rustic wedding cakes don't just have a homemade look –they have an incredibly refined look that is definitely deserving of any wedding dessert table.
How To Make A Rustic Wedding Cake
A rustic cake design can be achieved in various ways. Of course, you have to start the process with baking.
The good news is, baking a rustic wedding cake follows the same process as any other cake.
The difference comes in decorating, and while these creations can be elaborate in nature, you don't necessarily have to be a professional wedding cake decorator to create a more stripped back wedding cake with a rustic theme.
One easier option is to create a rugged country, rustic nature-inspired look with naked cake layers and minimal imperfect frosting. Or, you can opt to try an earthy-inspired feel and look using dark 'country farm colours' (brown & green) or botanical accents such as berries, herbs, edible leaves, and flowers.
Tip: For your first attempt at a DIY wedding cake, it's best to start with a single-tiered cake. It requires minimal equipment, ingredients and it's easier to design and decorate. With just a few fresh fruits, you can beautifully decorate a rustic naked or semi-naked cake for any home celebration or practice.
there are hundreds of different ideas and recipes, but the technique is what mainly matters when it comes to rustic wedding cakes.
Once you are decided on creating a naked wedding cake, go all in! If you've been experimenting using boxed cake mixes and pre-made icing between layers, why not step it up to create custom fillings using your favourite ingredients. For instance, you can make a delicious frosting by mixing French custard, raspberry jam, pastry cream, and sweetened whipped cream. You can also expand into a range of different homemade buttercream's using ingredients such as egg whites, hot sugar syrup, and unsalted butter!
Simple DIY Rustic Wedding Cake
Modest and simple, homemade cakes can also be considered rustic.
In fact, this humble style is what ignited the craze surrounding rustic wedding cakes.
While many people go to the extreme of getting bark-designed wooden cake stands and animal toppers to add to the appeal, a rustic chic cake, no matter how simple, is bound to look good.
With that said, here is a quick step-by-step recipe idea to create your rustic cake at home.
- Bake 3 single sponge cake layers using (ideally) an 8-inch round baking pan. You can also use whatever size tins you have if you don't have 8-inch rounds. However, please bear in mind that the size of your baking tin will impact the cooking time of your sponge cake so please adjust accordingly.
- If the cake has a rounded top, trim off the crown with a serrated knife. The cakes must be flat for easy & stable stacking. If you bake the cakes in advance, you can freeze them until you start decorating.
- Add a dab of frosting on your cake platter to help hold the cake in place.
- Place your first cake layer.
- Use a pastry bag to create a dam of icing on the edge of the layer to help prevent your filling from escaping out. The icing barrier allows you to use non-buttercream filler like custards, curds, or other DIY options.
- Add your favorite jam.
- Centre the next cake layer on top
- Repeat the icing and filling process for the second layer.
- Top with the last layer making sure it's upside-down with the baked bottom on top.
- Optional Step –place the cake in the refrigerator for a few minutes to help to make the frosting dam slightly stiffen.
- Add just enough frosting between the cake tiers to cover the 'cracks.'
- Use a large flat-edged plastic scraper or long spatula knife to scrap and smoothen the sides as you go. A turntable is ideal for this process but not a must. You can also use a non-stick kitchen acrylic workboard.
- Add the frosting to your liking, but less is better. If you are confident, you can be more creative here – cover the whole cake with frosting leaving bits and portions of the wedding cake peeking out all around.
- Add a thin layer of buttercream coating at the top (you can make it slightly thicker in the middle).
- Set your berries, flowers, or other decorations that might bring out earthy colours for a rustic look.
- Optional Step: To add shine to your fruits, you can create a simple syrup by briefly warming some apple jelly and painting the fruits once you've set them on the cake.
You can also sprinkle powdered sugar, place sprigs of fresh mint or other pretty herbs to dress up your cake even more.
And that's it! Your first rustic, delicious, and beautiful naked rustic wedding cake!
Flavour Ideas To Consider For Your Next Rustic Wedding Cake
The lush flowers, fresh fruit, laid-back greenery, and rustic appearance are all great ideas for a naked wedding cake. But, for it to be memorable, it should taste as good as it looks.
Since people generally can't tell the flavour by looks, choosing a confection flavour that will taste delicious and complement the rustic vibe you're after is essential.
Here are our favourite cake flavors for rustic wedding cakes:
Berries and Cream
You can't go wrong with berries and cream! Plus, it can be combined with a vanilla cake for a classic taste and colour combination that will satisfy any guest in a rustic wedding. Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are best suited for spring and summer, while cranberries are great for fall and winter.
Banana or Carrot
Carrot and banana flavours have an earthy taste that works well for rustic cakes. The orange/yellow contrasting colors between the naked layers and the icing are beautiful.
The brown, darker colour of chocolate cake contrasts nicely with shiny fruits, fresh herbs, and hints of white frosting. Also, chocolate cakes are slightly more moist on the outside compared to vanilla cakes. You can go the extra mile and add an authentic country taste to your chocolate cake by adding in a darker beer like Guinness. It's a fantastic and more dramatic twist, but not something you should try if you at the beginning of your journey into baking wedding cakes.
Combined with blueberries, blackberries (or other deeper berry colours), white frosting, and a few herbs, the red velvet cake vibrant hue is pretty and to die for! Guests will love it!
Vanilla / Almond / Coconut
Perfect for light-coloured naked or semi-rustic cake designs. These classic flavours never tire and can always be relied upon to elevate your taste buds.
4 Tips for Homemade Naked Cakes
- Create a plan. Think through how you want the cake to look like, what garnishes you will use, and the cake style –naked or semi-naked. This will help you determine the ingredients needed.
- Prepare your baking pans. Evenly grease your pan (preferably using non-stick spray) to release the cakes easily (without crumbling) once they are ready. To ensure you bake even layers, use a kitchen scale to ensure each pan has an equal amount of batter. The easiest way to measure precise amounts is to set the scale, place your pan then slowly add the batter to your preferred amount. Repeat the same for the other pans.
- Trim off the top of your cakes. Use a cake leveler or large serrated knife to make sure that both sides of your cakes are flat. Flat even layers add to the overall stability of your cake. This is important because balanced and consistent layers add strength to your finished cake.
- The fridge comes in handy. For better results and added stability, always chill your rustic cakes in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving. Why? This helps the frosting to adhere in between the cake layers and to the sides of the cake. It also allows you to get smooth and neat slices.
Pros and Cons of a Naked Wedding Cake
Benefits Of A Rustic Wedding Cake
- They are easier to decorate
It's a perfect option for your first celebration cake. You don't need to be super-experienced to create a simple rustic wedding cake.
With good baking skills and creativity, you can create a masterpiece. Of course, you'll need to neatly stack the cake layers and come up with tasty fillings to complement the cake.
As far as cake decoration goes, you only need a simple swipe to smoothen the frosting. The rest, placing the fruits and flowers, is only limited by your imagination.
- Rustic wedding cakes are beautiful.
The raw beauty of a rustic cake will be the highlight of any wedding day!
The lack of icing highlights the rich fillings and makes the beautiful naked cake layers to look fantastic! It fits in so well with rustic, countryside, vintage, or woodland farm wedding themes as well as older wedding venues or barns.
If you or your client plan to have an open-air wedding ceremony, a rustic wedding cake will be a brilliant finishing touch.
- Taste's delicious
The lack of frosting makes the cake aesthetically appealing. It also lets you enjoy the original flavours of all the components in the cake –especially if the cake tiers/layers have been made with different tastes.
- Opportunity to be unique
The texture and decoration of naked and semi-naked cakes are hard to replicate. It's hard to recreate the exact cake twice. This creates a unique vintage authenticity and appeal that harkens to old school times and beautiful country life.
- You're only limited by your imagination.
You can decorate a rustic wedding cake in a thousand different ways, and it'll still look good!
From fruits and berries to mini shortbread hearts and fresh flowers from your local florist, you can go as wild as you want. You can also add a touch of edible silver/gold leaf for a metallic rustic cake theme.
Depending on the decorations you want, a rustic naked or semi-naked rustic wedding cake can be very affordable compared to other wedding cakes. They take less time and cost to decorate.
Downsides Of A Rustic Wedding Cake
- They easily dry out
The outer layer of frosting helps the cake to remain moist even in the hot summer heat. However, since rustic cakes have a minimal frosting layer, they are prone to drying and don't hold up well, especially in direct sunlight, so be careful about the display.
Many bakers prefer semi-naked cakes as they can hold up well and for a little bit longer while remaining moist on the inside. The additional preservation makes them an ideal choice for outdoor summer occasions and weddings.
- Naked cakes are hard to transport.
Naked wedding cakes have a delicate structure which makes them hard to transport over long distances. Without frosting, the tiered cakes can quickly move and cause damage to the intended style and design.
In most cases, you will have to transport then assemble and decorate the cake at the wedding venue.
- They have a short shelf life.
Unlike fondant and frosted wedding cakes that can take centre stage and be admired all day long besides your rustic wedding decor and theme, naked rustic wedding cakes have to be eaten earlier in the day as they'll dry out. For a full naked cake to last till evening, you have to assemble and decorate it on site.
- It's not as easy as it looks.
It's easy to brush it off as an easy cake until you experience how hard it can be. As with all wedding cakes, producing the ultimate masterpiece takes experience, skill and dedication.
From trying to prevent and save it from collapsing to evenly piping buttercream, evenly trimming the cake layers, and positioning support dowels correctly, a naked wedding cake can go from being 100% beautiful to disaster in a short amount of time.
You have little room for mistakes. Decorating a cake without a thick icing casing means you have almost no room to cover up for mistakes. You have to get it right from the word go!
From homegrown ceremonies to barn receptions, rustic weddings have become the industry's mainstay. This once simplified dessert offering is now more earthy and creative with woodland details and natural touches. It's not uncommon to find a rustic wedding cake featuring crawling twigs and twine beautiful foliage, and Faux-Bois frostings.
Rustic wedding cakes don't just taste perfect but are also seriously Instagram Genic. Plus, regardless of the cake budget, there'll always be a rustic wedding cake for you.
Rustic Wedding Cakes: FAQ's
How many days before a wedding can you make the cake?
To avoid cake chaos, you should bake your cake 2-3 days prior to your event and tightly wrap it using plastic wrap or an airtight container to lock in the moisture. Refrigerate the cake to keep the fruits fresh, the cream & fillings tasty. Lemon curd, custard, pudding, or cream-based ganache will lose the fresh taste if not well stored.
How much is a rustic wedding cake?
Rustic wedding cakes fall on either side of the coin –they can be affordable or expensive. Like frosted cakes, the more decorating confections added to a rustic-themed cake, the more expensive it gets.
For instance, a three-tiered wedding cake with a light buttercream design, a few edible flowers, and fruits can cost anywhere from £400-£800. A complex one featuring the same, plus more berries, garden roses, cream cheese frosting, and maybe a gold leaf, can cost upwards of £1000
What is a dirty wedding cake?
A dirty wedding cake, also known as a naked wedding cake, rustic wedding cake, or distressed wedding cake, is made with minimal to no frosting on the outside. It's intentionally designed to expose the cake layers and fillings.
What is a traditional wedding cake made of?
A traditional English wedding cake is usually three tiers or more and features a wedding cake topper on the top of the cake. It's typically a fruit cake made with rum or brandy and covered in marzipan and icing.