Neapolitan Cake

Neapolitan CakeI make a lot of cakes—a lot. In any given month, I make at least ten, plus any that are tested and posted on this blog. What can I say? I have friends who like to celebrate and like my cakes. I’m flattered.Neapolitan CakeOf course, this means that making cake—something that once only brought joy—can sometimes be a slog. I don’t necessarily mind when baking feels like work (because it is my work), but I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t wait to come home and bake layers after a long day of blogging and personal cheffing. The joy understandably gets a little lost when I’m making a double batch of vanilla layers at 11pm on a Tuesday.Neapolitan CakeBut when inspiration strikes and I can be creative, it could be 4am and I’d be psyched to be baking. My roommate might not particularly like it, but I’d be in heaven.Neapolitan CakeSuch was the case last month when I made a cake for a friend whose only instruction was that it should have something strawberry involved, at his young daughter’s request. Other than that, I could go wild.Neapolitan CakeAnd so that request for a strawberry element somehow meshed with vanilla and chocolate and became Neapolitan…and I went wild. Wild! And it was so much fun (and so delicious!) that I went and made a second cake for this blog. You’re welcome 😉Neapolitan CakeY’all. Y’ALL. This cake. It is a thing. A real undertaking. A project best done over the course of two days. The most intricate cake work that’s ever been on this blog (aside from the wedding cake, of course).Neapolitan CakeBut I am also completely obsessed with it. I mean, what’s not to love about this checkerboard chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry interior and the ruffled tricolor buttercream exterior? It’s the most fun!Neapolitan CakeThe cake layers are all made from one batter. Once it’s mixed together, it’s divided in thirds. One is left plain—that’s the vanilla layer. Another is spiked with freeze-dried strawberries, and the last with cocoa powder and melted chocolate.Neapolitan CakeThey’re baked, cooled, evened…Neapolitan Cake…and then punched into rings and reassembled.Neapolitan CakeAnd layered in a specific order with thin layers of vanilla buttercream.Neapolitan CakeNeapolitan CakeNeapolitan CakeNeapolitan CakeNeapolitan CakeAnd then decorated in the most fun (and shockingly easy!) ruffle pattern. Or, you know, however you like.Neapolitan CakeWhen all is said and done and sliced and served, all your friends’ minds will be blown at your Neapolitan Cake prowess. As they freaking should be.Neapolitan Cake

Neapolitan Cake
makes one 3-layer 9-inch round cake

Cake Batter:
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted & cooled slightly
5 large eggs, room temperature
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups whole milk, room temperature
1 cup full-fat sour cream, room temperature

For the Strawberry Layer:
1 1.2 ounce package freeze-dried strawberries, pulverized
2 tablespoons whole milk
red food coloring (I used 6 drops red gel), optional

For the Chocolate Layer:
1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup whole milk

Special Equipment:
6 inch round cake ring/cookie cutter
3 inch round cake ring/cookie cutter

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 3 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment and grease again.

Make the cake batter. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and granulated sugar. Set aside.

Pour melted butter into a medium mixing bowl. Whisk in eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla.

In a large measuring cup, use a fork to stir together whole milk and sour cream.

Whisk half the butter mixture into dry ingredients, followed by half the milk mixture. Add remaining mixture, followed by remaining milk mixture.

Make the flavored layers. Pour 3 1/4 cups of batter into one of the pans. This is the vanilla layer. Set aside.

Pour 3 1/4 cups of batter into each of two small mixing bowls.

To make the strawberry layer, whisk pulverized freeze-dried strawberries, whole milk, and food coloring into one of the bowls of batter. Transfer to another prepared pan. Set aside.

Make the chocolate layer. Whisk cocoa powder into the last bowl of batter.

Put chopped dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between, until melted and smooth. Whisk into batter, followed by whole milk. Transfer to remaining prepared pan.

Smooth the tops of all the pans-full of batter. Tap each full pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Bake cakes 32-37 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans for fifteen minutes. Run a small thin knife around the edges of the pans and invert the cakes onto cooling racks to cool completely. Layers may be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Even the layers. Working with one layer at a time, use a serrated knife to trim all layers until they are of even height (mine were each 1 1/4 inch tall).

Assemble the layers. Working with one layer at a time, place layer on a cutting board or other surface. Use the 6-inch ring to cut out the center. Use the 3-inch ring to cut out the center of the 6-inch circle of cake. Wipe rings clean. Repeat with remaining layers.

Separate all circles/rings of cake so that you have 3 3-inch center pieces, 3 6-inch middle rings, and 3 9-inch outer rings. Make layers by pressing pieces together like a puzzle. Layers should be as follows:

• chocolate outer ring, vanilla middle ring, strawberry center
• vanilla outer ring, strawberry middle ring, chocolate center
• strawberry outer ring, chocolate middle ring, vanilla center

For Layering & Assembly of Cake

Simple Syrup:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water

Vanilla Buttercream:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3-5 tablespoons heavy cream

Strawberry Buttercream:
1 1.2-ounce package freeze dried strawberries
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
5-6 tablespoons heavy cream

Chocolate Buttercream:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
6 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Make the simple syrup. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Make the vanilla buttercream. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in confectioner’s sugar in three installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Beat in salt, followed by vanilla. Add in heavy cream until desired consistency is reached.

Make the strawberry buttercream. In a medium-large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, beat in confectioner’s sugar, strawberry powder, and salt. Mixture may be alarmingly crumbly—this is normal. Add vanilla and 5 tablespoons of heavy cream. Beat until very fluffy, about 2 minutes. If desired, mix in another tablespoon of heavy cream until the proper consistency is reached.

Make the chocolate buttercream. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Beat in confectioner’s sugar, followed by cocoa powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add in vanilla and heavy cream. Beat on high for 1-2 minutes, until very fluffy.

Place the layer with the chocolate outer ring on a serving plate or cake stand. Brush with simple syrup. Top with a thin layer of vanilla buttercream. Place the layer with the vanilla outer ring on top. Brush with simple syrup. Top with a thin layer of vanilla buttercream. Place the layer with the strawberry outer ring on top. Brush with simple syrup. Frost the entire cake with a very thin layer of vanilla buttercream (a “crumb coat”). Refrigerate for 15 minutes or up to 1 day.

Load remaining vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate buttercreams into piping bags (or ziplocks with smalls corners snipped off). Remove the cake from the refrigerator.

To decorate the cake as pictured, working with one buttercream at a time, pipe a ring of dollops around the entire bottom of the cake. Use the back of an offset spatula to press into each dollop and drag upward to create a “ruffle” effect, wiping clean as needed. Use another buttercream to make a ring of dollops above the first (now-ruffled), and repeat the same pressing/dragging method to create the same pattern. Use the remaining color of buttercream, and continue the method, alternating in a pattern until you have frosted your way up the cake, onto the top, and to the center.

Slice and serve. Leftover cake may be kept covered at room temperature for up to two days or in the refrigerator for up to five.Neapolitan CakeNeapolitan CakeNeapolitan Cake

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