Love and Olive Oil

Buttermilk Chocolate Chip & Passion Fruit Naked Layer Cake

Buttermilk  Chocolate Chip & Passionfruit Naked Layer Cake Recipe from Cristina Tosi of Milk Bar

We could all use a little more naked baking in our lives.

No, not THAT kind of naked baking. That’s… um… potentially hazardous.

I’m referring to the naked cake trend, where the outside of the cake is left unfrosted and the layers underneath are the real stars of the show.

Christina Tosi of the Milk Bar in New York City is credited with starting this minimalist trend, although her creations are anything but boring. This is one of her recipes, one I’ve been meaning to try for quite some time now (because, hello, passion fruit!) Taylor’s birthday this past week turned out to be the perfect opportunity.

Milk Bar Chocolate Chip & Passionfruit Cake Recipe

I thought a naked cake would be perfect for frosting-averse Taylor, although upon eating this he claimed that it’s really a trick because I stuck all the frosting inside instead. And while it might appear that way, in reality the fillings are more varied than just a thick swath of buttercream between each tender layer. Passionfruit curd, for one, an ultra bright and tart flavor that breaks up the sweetness and butter, not to mention the delightful chocolate crumbles, which were maybe my favorite part of the whole thing.

In reality, the proportional makeup of this cake is more something like:
Cake: 60%
Passionfruit Curd: 15%
Chocolate Crumb: 15%
Frosting: 10%

Whereas a typical cake might be 70% cake and 30% frosting. So really, it’s much less frosting than a typical cake.

Buttermilk Chocolate Chip & Passionfruit Cake Recipe from Momofuku Milk Bar

The method of assembling the cake is easier than it looks, so long as you have the right equipment, namely acetate strips and a 6″ cake ring (though you can also use a removable bottom cheesecake pan like this one). There really is no substitute for the acetate (parchment/foil/waxed paper simply won’t produce the same results). Trust me on this one. Get the right supplies beforehand and your cake will be perfect.

The final cake comes out of its acetate wrapper looking like a geologic core sample of sugar, each layer a perfectly preserved band of texture and flavor.

Milk Bar Chocolate Chip & Passionfruit Naked Layer Cake Recipe

I did have two small issues with this recipe, with the passion fruit curd and the coffee buttercream.

First, I found the passion fruit flavor overpowering. And this is from someone who adores passion fruit. Now, it may be due to the passion fruit puree that I used, which was more of a concentrate than a fresh puree. So maybe my curd came out stronger than it should have. Still, if I made this cake again I’d reduce the passion fruit layer by about a third, either less curd overall or less passion fruit in the curd. I’d also reduce the gelatin a smidgen (I used powdered gelatin as I had no gelatin sheets), as I found the curd a bit thick and hard to spread after a night in the fridge. Although, I’ll admit that’s better than the alternative.

Buttermilk  Chocolate Chip & Passionfruit Naked Layer Cake Recipe

My other issue was with the coffee buttercream. The recipe does say to have patience, but this really took that request to an extreme. My mother-in-law and I sat there watching the mixer turn the butter/coffee-milk mixture into something that looked like chopped liver (seriously). The coffee milk simply refused to incorporate into the butter until it had been beaten for, oh, a good 30 minutes or more with some extra sugar for good measure. It eventually turned fluffy like I expected it to 20 minutes ago, although I wouldn’t go so far as to describe it as “wildly fluffy” like Ms. Tosi does.

I think a higher proportion of sugar might be a bit more practical, and would give the buttercream a bit more friction to come together. I mean, I add milk and cream to my buttercreams all the time, sometimes well in excess of the 1/4 cup used here, and I have never experienced this chop-liver effect before. Which is why I’m thinking maybe it’s the lack of sugar that makes it so difficult.

I’d also make more of it, as there wasn’t nearly enough for the 3 layers as called for in the recipe (especially when trying to spread it on top of the loose crumbs). Any coffee flavor was overpowered by the passionfruit, which was a shame.

Milk Bar Chocolate Chip & Passionfruit Cake Recipe

Now, don’t let the sprawling, multi-part recipe scare you. In reality, this was one of the easier cakes I’ve put together, especially because everything except the buttercream can be made ahead of time. If you did it all in one day then sure, it’d be exhausting, but put in 30-60 minutes a day and in 4 days you’ll have yourself one stunning, stark naked cake.

Here’s what I did (and these pieces can be mixed and made in just about any order, this is just how I happened to do it).

Day 1: Make the chocolate crumbles. These will keep in an airtight container for up to a week (though put them out of reach otherwise you might be tempted to snack on them because they’re so good).

Day 2: Make the passionfruit curd. It needs to chill for a bit anyway to properly set, so really, you have no choice but to make it ahead of time.

Day 3 AM: Make the cake. It’s a one-bowl cake recipe, poured into a single quarter sheet pan, so vastly easier than the majority of layer cakes out there. You’ll be cutting out your layers from this single sheet cake. It’ll keep covered in the refrigerator or even in the freezer for longer if necessary.

Day 3 PM: Make the buttercream & assemble. If you use the recipe as written, give yourself a bit more time than you think you’ll need. It doesn’t come together quite as quickly as a typical buttercream. The assembled cake then gets frozen overnight.

Day 4: Unmold and thaw. The frozen cake needs at least 3 hours in the fridge before serving. After that, however, you are free to devour at will.

Chocolate Chip and Passionfruit Layer Cake

This towering cake may seem complex, but it’s really quite manageable with a bit of planning. I recommend starting 3-4 days before you’ll need to serve the cake: make the chocolate crumbs one day, the passionfruit curd the next, then the cake itself, and finally assemble it all together and freeze overnight.

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For Chocolate Chip Cake:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (185 g) cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

For Passionfruit Curd:

  • 1/2 cup (100 g) passionfruit puree, plus more for brushing
  • 1/3 cup (65 g) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 gelatin sheet or 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For Chocolate Crumble:

  • 2/3 cup (105 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • 2/3 cup (65 g) good quality dark cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted

For Coffee Buttercream:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (40 g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


Prepare Cake Layers:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and mix on medium-high again for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once more.
  3. On low speed, stream in the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and paddle for 4 to 6 minutes, until the mixture is practically white, twice the size of your original fluffy butter-and-sugar mixture, and completely homogeneous. Don’t rush the process. You’re basically forcing too much liquid into an already fatty mixture that doesn’t want to make room for the liquid. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. On very low speed, add the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix for 45 to 60 seconds, just until your batter comes together and any remnants of dry ingredients have been incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. If you see any lumps of cake flour in there while you’re scraping, mix for another 45 seconds.
  5. Spread the cake batter in an even layer in the pan. Give the bottom of your sheet pan a tap on the countertop to even out the layer. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the cake batter.
  6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until puffed and doubled in size and the center is set. When gently poked with your finger, the cake should bounce back slightly.
  7. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Stored in the fridge or freezer, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 5 days.

Prepare Passionfruit Curd:

  1. Put the passion fruit puree and sugar in a blender and blend until the sugar granules have dissolved. Add the eggs and blend on low until you have a bright orange-yellow mixture. Transfer the contents of the blender to a medium pot or saucepan. Clean the blender canister.
  2. Sprinkle the gelatin over 2 tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl to bloom. Set aside for 5 minutes.
  3. Heat the passion fruit mixture over low heat, whisking regularly. As it heats up, it will begin to thicken; keep a close eye on it. Once the mixture boils, remove it from the stove and transfer it to the blender. Whisk a few spoonfuls of the hot passionfruit mixture to the bloomed gelatin until softened and smooth, then add to blender along with butter and salt. Blend until the mixture is thick, shiny, and smooth.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a heatproof container. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap (pressed down to touch the surface of the curd) and refrigerate until the curd has cooled completely, at least 30 minutes. The curd can be refrigerated for up to 1 week until ready to use; do not freeze.

Prepare Chocolate Crumble:

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until combined.
  3. Add the butter and mix on low speed until it starts to come together in small clusters.
  4. Spread the clusters on prepared baking sheet, breaking up into pea-sized pieces as needed. Bake for 20 minutes, breaking them up occasionally. The crumbs should still be slightly moist to the touch at that point; they will dry and harden as they cool.
  5. Let the crumbs cool completely before using. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week at room temperature or 1 month in the fridge or freezer.

Prepare Coffee Buttercream:

  1. Combine the butter and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes, until fluffy and pale yellow.
  2. Meanwhile, make a quick coffee milk: whisk together the milk, instant coffee, and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. On low speed, gradually stream in the coffee milk. The butter mixture will clump up and separate upon contact with the coffee milk. If it does, turn up the mixer speed and mix until the milk is incorporated before adding more. This WILL take a good deal of time (more than you think), just keep on mixing and it will come together eventually into a light and fluffy frosting. Use immediately.

To Assemble:

  1. Put a piece of parchment or a Silpat on the counter. Invert the cake onto it and peel off the parchment from the bottom of the cake. Use a 6-inch cake ring to stamp out 2 circles from the cake. These are your top 2 cake layers. Cut out two half-circles (as large as you can) from the remaining cake. These, along with any leftover scraps, will come together to make the bottom layer of the cake.
  2. Clean the cake ring and place it in the center of a sheet pan lined with clean parchment or a Silpat. Line the inside of the cake ring with 1 strip of acetate.
  3. Piece together the two half circles and additional cake scraps as needed to form a flat even layer, using the back of your hand to tamp the scraps together. Brush with a bit of extra passion fruit puree.
  4. Use the back of a spoon to spread half of the passion fruit curd in an even layer over the cake.
  5. Sprinkle one third of the chocolate crumbs evenly over the passion fruit curd. Use the back of your hand to press them in place.
  6. Use the back of a spoon to spread one-third of the coffee frosting as evenly as possible over the crumbs.
  7. With your index finger, gently tuck the second strip of acetate between the cake ring and the top ¼ inch of the first strip of acetate, so that you have a clear ring of acetate 5 to 6 inches tall – high enough to support the height of the finished cake. Set a cake round on top of the frosting, and repeat layers of passionfruit puree, curd, crumbs, and buttercream.
  8. Nestle the remaining cake round into the frosting. Cover the top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Garnish the frosting with the remaining chocolate crumbs and a few chocolate chips as well, if desired.
  9. Place the sheet pan in the freezer and freeze for a minimum of 12 hours to set the cake and filling, or up to 2 weeks.
  10. At least 3 hours before you are ready to serve the cake, pull the sheet pan out of the freezer and gently pop the cake out of the cake ring. Carefully peel off the acetate, and place the cake on a platter or cake stand. Let sit in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours to thaw before slicing and serving. The finished cake can be refrigerated, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 5 days.

Recipe from Milk Bar.

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  1. I just made this and the frosting was insane! I ended up throwing a lot more powdered sugar in there. And yes, not enough! I an searching to see if there was a typo-it happens!

  2. This recipe looks amazing! Would the cake recipe work well for cupcakes? Either 12 or 24?

  3. Finally made this cake for the first time last week and it was so good! I made it all with a hand mixer with the regular whisk attachments for reference.

    First tip: DOUBLE THE AMOUNT OF COFFEE FROSTING. I did this based on the author’s notes and I still feel like I barely had enough for the layers. I really didn’t have an issue with the frosting coming together, I just kept using the hand mixer for probably a total of 12 minutes and it eventually came together. Make sure to get instant ESPRESSO, I accidentally bought instant coffee instead and it would have been too muted of a flavor if I hadn’t gone out to Whole Foods to get some.

    Second tip: I could not for the life of me find passionfruit puree near me (Goya Fruta frozen pulp seems to be the most common type) at Target or a nearby Mexican grocery store but I found Goya Fruta Mango pulp and that worked perfect. If you use mango for the curd, add 1-2 Tbsp of lemon juice just to up the acidity a little. I was disappointed in the flavor when I finished making the curd but once it cooled overnight in the fridge it tasted amazing, so definitely make your curd ahead of time. I also agree that the curd was like a very thick frosting after being in the fridge so it was hard to spread onto the cake (had to use my fingers so the cake wouldn’t rip).

    Tip three: Measure your cake pan – I’ve never baked tiered cakes before so I went to the grocery store and picked up a 9×13 dark metal sheet pan that was a little shorter than 13inches so one of the cake layers was a little cut off. Also if you use glass or dark metal pans for the cake, lower the oven temp by 25 degrees!

    Tip four: Order your cake ring and acetate paper on Amazon, they have several varieties.

    Hope these tips can help the next person making this cake! It’s truly so unique and tasty.

  4. What are your thoughts on subbing mango for the passion fruit? I haven’t made this cake before so I’m guessing that mango will work ok.
    (And THANKS for your awesome step by step guide & helpful tips. I’ve made a few Momofuko naked cakes so I know what I’m getting myself into but not this particular flavour combination.)

    • Technically it should work, though I might up the lemon juice just to add more tang (passionfruit is much tangier than mango). Let me know how it turns out!

  5. I’m planning to use only the cake layer of this recipe for my cake. I need to distribute between three 9″ cake pans. Would you recommend to double the recipe? Also would canola oil be a good substitute for the grape seed oil?

  6. Hi! So is this cake supposed to be served cold? It seems like it would be better at room temp, but then will it fall apart? (With the bottom layer being packed and everything. . . )

    • I am also wondering about this! All my favorite cakes have to be refrigerated, and I’m looking for one that I can leave out on the table during a party as a center piece before serving. I was hoping that the buttercream frosting in this [as opposed to a whipped cream frosting] would mean it could be left out. Not so??

    • You should be fine at cool room temperature. In the middle of summer, probably not, but it doesn’t need to be super cold. If it’s refrigerated overnight the layers meld together pretty well.

  7. Hi, thank you for the recipe. I will be making it over the weekend. PLEASE tell me: Do you recommend buying passion fruit puree WITH or WITHOUT seeds?. Also, do yo think it matters if the puree is bought pasteurized or not? Thank you!!

    • Definitely no seeds (you’d need to strain it anyway) – it’s very hard to find where I am, so you’re lucky you even have the choice!

  8. This cake looks absolutely amazing! I want to do a play on this but with strawberry in place of the passionfruit and use a light vanilla, cream cheese buttercream for the frosting. Based on your experience with this cake, do you think this would work? Thanks in advance!

    • Any fruit that can be made into a curd could easily be substituted in this recipe. :) Just be sure you make it thick enough (via added gelatin) so it stays nicely in place.

  9. Can I use AP flour ?

  10. I am making this cake this weekend and was wondering if I could make the frosting on Day 2 and store in the fridge instead. Does it really have to be used immediately?

  11. Hai! I love this cake. Can i do a buttercream at the outsite? And what type of buttercream do you recommend doing this with?
    Love to hear from you.

  12. I have this cookbook, and made one of the cakes for Thanksgiving. It was the cranberry gingerbread cake. While tasty, not everyone likes cranberry nor gingery cakes. I plan on doing this one for Christmas, because who doesn’t love chocolate chip ?

    Although, I personally am not a fan of coffee. Do you think I could leave out the instant espresso and maybe sub in some vanilla or something? I didn’t check my cookbook vs your listing, but did you adjust anything like you mention in the article itself? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Sure, you could definitely leave out the instant espresso. Although to be honest you might be better off finding a more traditional swiss meringue buttercream and going with that (since without the coffee there’s really no need to do the milk part either). Might be easier overall. :)

      Let me know how it turns out!

  13. The cake is beautiful…but where did you get those amazing forks?! Thanks. 

  14. I found that when I made the coffee frosting it was also a bit liquidy, but was better as I added the sugar. This was what mine looked like:

  15. Hi! Where do you find your passionfruit puree? I LOVE passionfruit and would love to make this cake, but have no idea where to find the necessary puree. Thanks!

    • I got mine at a specialty food store who was able to order it for me, a concentrated puree from “The Perfect Puree”. I have heard it’s something you can find frozen in many Mexican grocery stores, though I haven’t found any myself.

  16. Wondering what should we do with this and now I have an answer :)

  17. yum, yum and yum!! my baking skills are terrible but so trying this over the weekend. pinning for later!

  18. My friends and I are obsessed with the Milk Bar cookbook and they picked different cakes to make for all our birthdays last year. I requested this one. They couldn’t find passion fruit so they used mango and it was delicious! I very highly recommend trying it with mango!

  19. Love your food photography and details, really helps,
    thank you so much for sharing

  20. This looks absolutely delicious Lindsay and such beautiful photos – the background works so well!

  21. Beautiful cake and helpful instructions. Did it taste good as is looked?? Lovely pictures.

  22. What a gorgeous cake! Momofuku cakes are the best–so many layers of carefully crafted goodness. Love the passion fruit flavors here :) 

  23. This looks beautiful! I made Milk Bar’s confetti birthday cake a few months back and attended one of their chocolate chip cake classes just a few weeks ago… Needless to say I’m obsessed! Great job on this :)

  24. Um, HI! You basically turned my favorite flavors into a cake. I swear you can read my mind sometimes when it comes to recipe development. LOVE.

  25. This cake was a labor of love! Well, all Tosi recipes are, for me at least! Nothing of hers is every ‘quick and easy’….ha!

    And I have found that the recipes don’t always translate into home kitchens where we don’t have industrial strength equipment doing the mixing, beating, etc. super well. Hence your coffee buttercream situation. But if you can get them to work, they’re worth it and always unique tasting! Amazing job tackling this cake!!!

  26. I’m a sucker for a pretty cake recipe – yours is beautiful!  I love that you left the outside naked (teehee) so that we can see all of the gorgeous layers inside!  I’m also OBSESSED with Christina Tosi and have been wanting to get both of her books.  One day I’ll get to go to Milk Bar… One day…

  27. Ohhh this cake is beauuuutiful! And the flavours sound amazing :)

  28. This is one of the last Milk Bar cakes I have to conquer! I think I’ve been avoiding it because the passionfruit/chocolate/coffee combo makes me a little nervous, but I’m glad to hear that it works. I’ve been so inspired by the cake-ring-acetate style that now all the cakes I make look like this (up on my blog, if you’re interested)! Thanks for the great, detailed step-by-step! 

  29. So glad you put this together, recipes on Milk Bar’s website are always vague and lacking. I do have to disagree on the no substitute for acetate, I’ve made two of Milk Bar’s cakes at home and used silicone mats in place just fine! :)

    • That is good to know! I was imagining parchment or waxed paper or something and it just wouldn’t support the layers enough. Silicone mat is brilliant!

  30. This looks like the best cake ever!! sounds and looks so good 

  31. The cake looks beautiful. Where did you find passion fruit purée and what brand is it please? Thank you. 

    • I used a concentrate puree from “The Perfect Puree”. I have heard it’s something you can find frozen in many Mexican grocery stores, though I haven’t found any myself.

  32. This looks delicious! But, if I don’t like passion fruit, what could I use in its place? Blackberry? Blueberry? Cherry?

    • Sure, I would think you could swap in just about any fruit puree. Anything that you could make into a curd, I would think would definitely work!

  33. What a beautiful cake! I’ve been wanting to try a naked cake for some time now…so I guess I should just buy the supplies and get to it! Did you eat all the cake in one sitting, or did you have leftovers? My only concern with a naked cake is that without the frosting covering all sides (like a traditional cake) that it would dry out a bit over the next few days. 

  34. It looks soooo gooood. You rocked it :D

  35. I love the look of this, so original! And I’ve never thought of combining chocolate and passion fruit but it sounds delicious! 

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