This Chocolate Layer Cake Recipe is nearly 80 years old, but it makes a perfectly modern semi-naked cake. The caramelised edge makes it much easier to scrape the cream from the sides and top to get that lovely “semi-naked” effect (more tips below on going semi-naked!).

This recipe uses arrowroot as an ingredient. I’d never used arrowroot in cooking before – though I am a fan of the Arnott’s Arrowroot biscuit. I added it to the shopping list and discovered that it’s commonly used as a thickener.


Let’s bake layer cake

This recipe for Chocolate Layer Cake really is quite simple and easy to mix up and bake off.

I used a set of five 18cm layer pans that I bought from Aldi a few months ago (and ended up ditching one wonky layer during the process of making this cake).

Look out for the next Aldi baking sale or buy a layer cake tin set at your local kitchenware store.

My tips for this baking part of the process are:

1. Make sure your layers are even by using a soup ladle to measure the cake mixture into the tins.

2. Grease the tins well and line the bottoms with baking paper to avoid any trouble in removing the cakes from the pans.

The trickier part in the whole process was turning the layers into a cake and decorating it “semi-naked” style.

Assembling and decorating your Chocolate Layer Cake

My cake wasn’t completely perfect, mostly because the sides weren’t absolutely straight. I would have liked to see more of the sides of cake coming through the butter cream layer. But, hey, practice makes perfect and I now have another excuse to make a cake!

I was happy, though, with the result and learnt plenty along the way.

Here are a few tips to save you time when you bake a layer cake and go “semi-naked” for the first time:

Tips for making a layered semi-naked cake

  • Use a knife to trim the tops and sides to ensure cakes are level, even and flat on top and around the sides
  • Make sure your cream is a nice, fluffy consistency that can be spread and scraped easily
  • Using this recipe means the cakes should be caramelised a little, which helps when spreading the butter cream
  • Use the cream to fill in any gaps, then add a little extra to the top and sides before spreading and scraping
  • Experiment with different spatulas to see which works best (I found using a soft spatula and then finishing with a metal cranked spatula worked best)
  • A cake turntable is your best friend during the process
  • Watch tutorials beforehand: I spent 10 or 15 minutes watching a couple of YouTube clips on the topic and worked out which tips made sense to me.

The great thing about making a semi-naked layer cake is that it looks beautiful and rustic with minimal decoration.

Our decorating inspiration came from Miss Z, who looked no further than our front garden. Our flowering plum tree was in bloom and completely spectacular against the later-winter skies. And our other inspiration was my Dad’s August birthday – Happy Birthday, Poppy!

Nana Ling’s Chocolate Layer Cake recipe

Keep scrolling for the tested and tweaked version.

Chocolate Layer Cake

A chocolate layer cake with a spring-themed semi-naked finish.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Australian, British
Keyword: chocolate layer cake
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 785kcal


Chocolate Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups caster sugar
  • 150 grams butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 dessert spoons cocoa
  • 1 1/2 dessert spoons arrowroot
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 cups SR flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Butter Cream

  • 250 grams butter
  • 250 grams icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup cold water


Chocolate Cake

  • Mix cocoa and arrowroot with warm water until it reaches a smooth consistency. Put aside to cool.
  • Cream butter and sugar.
  • Add one egg at a time and continue mixing well.
  • Slowly add cooled cocoa and arrowroot mixture while mixing well.
  • Sift flour, cream of tartar, bicarb soda and salt.
  • Add vanilla essence to milk.
  • Add a little of the dry ingredients and milk alternately until mixture is well combined.
  • Pour mixture into 4 or 5 well-greased layer cake tins. (Line bottom of tin with baking paper)
  • Bake in a moderate oven for 20 minutes.
  • Allow cake to cool in tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.
  • Allow to cool completely before decorating.

Butter Cream

  • Beat butter until soft.
  • Add enough boiling water to the icing sugar so it can be poured into the butter gradually.
  • Continue beating butter while adding the sugar mixture.
  • Add a little cold water alternately with a little boiling water until the mixture is soft and creamy without the grainy, sugary texture.


  • Trim cake layers with a knife to make them consistently flat and round in shape.
  • Use a piping bag to add cream between each layer of chocolate cake.
  • Add a little cream on top and side and then smooth and scrape with a spatula to get the "naked cake" effect.
  • Decorate with flowering peach blossoms or your choice of edible flowers.


Calories: 785kcal | Carbohydrates: 95g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 43g | Saturated Fat: 27g | Cholesterol: 172mg | Sodium: 466mg | Potassium: 170mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 70g | Vitamin A: 1390IU | Calcium: 60mg | Iron: 1.8mg