Neapolitan 5-Layer Birthday Cake with Strawberry Frosting

5-Layer Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

Well, hello! What an exciting few days it’s been. Lots going on, and as usual, no two days have been the same. As I mentioned in my last post, I was thrilled when Ree (The Pioneer Woman) chose two of my cake photos for her Food Photo Assignment–another one of her wildly popular photo contests. It meant so much to me, considering I’m pretty new at all of this, and there were, as usual, so many amazing entries.  My blue birthday cake photo ended up winning as a finalist in the competition, so I could not be more pleased!

Coincidentally, most of what I learned about photography was from Ree. I find her photography tutorials to be particularly helpful, down-to-earth, and as always with The Pioneer Woman, charming. If you’d like to take a peek at my blue birthday cake photo and more about the results of the Pioneer Woman Photography Food Photo Assignment, you can view it here, along with the gorgeous winning photo by Jennifer Glass.

Speaking of birthday cakes, I was in a layer-cake kind of mood this week, both making and eating, of course. One of my favourite layer cakes is Neapolitan Cake: layers of rich chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla cake, layered with homemade strawberry jam. The flavours really work so well together, and I personally find it really unique and quite appealing, if not striking, once sliced. What’s interesting, is that most people know of it, and I think really enjoy it, yet I don’t see it often. I made Neapolitan cake for the first time last year for Neve’s birthday.

I had the idea to make a Neapolitan Cake based on the colour-scheme of her party, but wasn’t sure what would work for filling. I noticed Martha Stewart had done a 3-layer version using  jam as filling, which I thought was perfect. The guests seemed to really enjoy it, and I had a lot of fun making it. I love when a cake looks pretty traditional and simple on the outside, but has an unexpected appearance on the inside. No matter how many cakes I make, I’m always secretly (or not so secretly) excited and eager to slice it and see what it looks like inside–particularly when it’s a multi-flavoured cake, like this one. Such anticipation! It seems people can’t resist peeking over my shoulder with curiosity when I first slice into a cake, and this one usually earns an “oh, wow!”

 Neapolitan Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

Kind of crazy looking inside, right? I love the contrast, but most importantly (always), it is really, truly a delight to eat. I find you don’t really taste the jam filling, but it adds a great strawberry flavour and makes the cake even more moist and yummy. It tastes so very Neapolitan and, to me, very reminiscent of my childhood. I feel as though even the cake itself with its colour-combination has a retro feel to it, which I really like.

Neapolitan Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

This time, I went for a sugary pink Strawberry Frosting, for more of a fun birthday cake taste, and to carry through the strawberry flavour a bit more.  The possibilities are endless, though, as you could opt for chocolate frosting, ganache filling, Swiss meringue buttercream and fondant, and more. Visually, I think I prefer it with a nice chocolate fondant over buttercream, but really, pink is never a bad idea (or rarely, at least!), and this Strawberry Frosting is so delicious.

I used simple homemade strawberry jam between the layers, which I prefer both for taste and look with the Neapolitan Cake. It’s also very quick and easy to fill that way. If you filled it with frosting, I feel it might be a bit much, since there’s already so much going on, but that is definitely personal preference, and the cake flavours lend to vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry fillings and frostings.

If you’d like to recreate this one, here’s what I did:

1. Baked my favourite Strawberry, Vanilla, and Chocolate cake recipes for 9″ round pans. You can layer any way you like, but I chose to torte my chocolate and strawberry 9″ round cakes into 2 each, and just used one vanilla. Each of the 5 layers are about 1″ high.

2. Using a thin 9″ round cake board, I placed the first layer down, filled with jam,  and repeated until the cake was stacked. I then covered the whole cake in airtight container and placed in fridge for about an hour.

3. I made a batch of Strawberry Party Frosting, tinted it Strawberry pink, using a few drops of AmeriColor Electric Pink (I tend to use this brighter version of pink gel often, because with buttercream being a yellow tinge, it seems to cut right through the yellow, making the result a nice bright pink.). Once the cake was chilled, I frosted it, added my favourite white sprinkles, and then piped a classic birthday cake star tip border and shell border on the bottom, using a Wilton Open Star Tip #22 for both.

You can use your favourite Chocolate and Vanilla recipe, or you can use my favourites (links attached). I’ve included a recipe for Strawberry Cake, since it’s seemingly hard to find a good one. I really like this one that I found online last year and modified slightly. Keep in mind that with all of the white sugar in this Strawberry Cake recipe, the crust of the cake gets a bit more golden brown than the other flavours. This recipe makes two 9″ rounds, but I made cupcakes with the extra batter. You could divide the recipe in half.

Strawberry Cake          {click here for printable recipe}

Ingredients:

2 cups white sugar

1 (3oz) package of strawberry gelatin (JELL-O)

1 cup butter, softened

4 eggs, room temperature

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup whole milk, room temperature

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup strawberry puree made from frozen sweetened strawberries (or you could use unsweetened and add a tablespoon of white sugar)

Method:

1. Prepare two 9″ round pans (butter and flour, or parchment lined).

2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and dry strawberry gelatin until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Mix vanilla and milk together. Combine and whisk dry ingredients, adding to creamed mixture and alternating with milk/vanilla until just combined. Blend in strawberry puree. Pour into prepared pans.

3. Bake in 350 F for about 25 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes, then inverting onto wire rack to finish cooling.

Recipe for Strawberry Cake adapted from allrecipes.com, submitted by GothicGirl.

Strawberry Party Frosting         {click here for printable recipe}

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
8 cups icing sugar (confectioners’)
120 ml whipping cream
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon water
pinch of salt
few drops of LorAnn Strawberry Flavor Oil (to taste)
few drops of AmeriColor Electric Pink Gel Color
Method: 
Beat the butter and icing sugar in an electric mixer on low with the paddle attachment for about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla, water, whipping cream, salt, and strawberry oil, and whip on high speed until fluffy and smooth–about 4 minutes. Add colour and mix until well blended. If consistency is too thick, add more water 1 teaspoon at a time, then whip again for 30 seconds or so.
Makes enough to fill and frost a 3-layer (or 5-6 thin layers) 9″ cake.
For the Neapolitan Cake, you will also need chocolate and vanilla layers:

One 9″ round (sliced in 2 horizontally) Rich Chocolate Cake from Rich & Ruffled Chocolate Celebration Cake post, or click here for printable recipe.

One 9″ round Snow White Vanilla Cake (sliced in 2 horizontally) from Old-Fashioned Party Cake post, or click here for printable recipe.

I hope you love this cake as much as we do! Seeing as Grant rarely eats cake, and he’s had 3 pieces so far, I think it’s a hit!

Good luck & enjoy!

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Artist’s Palette & Paintbrush Cookies (with a special “Twist”)

Art Palette Cookies via Sweetapolita

Happy Friday! Okay, I won’t lie: this is one of the happiest Fridays I’ve had in quite some time (and I really have had some lovely Fridays in my day!). I’ll warn you that this paragraph really has nothing to do with the artist palettes, paintbrushes, paints, or even cookies, but I feel that you should know as I sit here typing, I keep clicking back to The Pioneer Woman’s Photography website. This week she is having another one of her amazing Photo Assignments, and the theme is Food Photography…you may see where this is going! Being such a newbie food photographer and submitting among so many outstanding photographers, I’m so excited to report that 2 of my cake photos were selected by Ree to be in the running: one in yesterday’s group and another tonight. Somebody, pinch me, please. Truly, I didn’t know it would affect me so much, but I am downright giddy, and I hope you don’t mind my sharing that with you. If you’d like to see those photos, along with so many unbelievable entries, you can click here for Group 3 and here for Group 4.  Now, let’s talk colourful artist confections!

Art Palette Cookies via Sweetapolita

A few months back, I noticed a comment on one of my blog posts from “A Fanciful Twist.” I have to say that it jumped out at me, and I was curious as to who was behind this enchanting name. After clicking the link, I was suddenly immersed in an artistic world like none I had ever seen before. I knew whoever was behind all of this beauty, magic, and intrigue had to be pretty special. Well, she is, and her name is Vanessa Valencia. She is the kindred spirit behind A Fanciful Twist. We became fast friends, and her talent astounds me daily. Not only is she talented, but she is the most unique and curiously mysterious girl I’ve ever come to know.

Her artistic range is broad, including original paintings, prints, cards, dolls, jewelry, pottery, and so much more. Her portfolio is seemingly endless, as she is experienced in the art world, yet each piece she creates is fresh and captivating. I immediately connected with her confection-themed pieces, in particular, and wanted to share some of my favourites with you. Here are some of the pieces that truly inspire me:

At the Patisserie

 

Cupcake Macaron Fete

 

A Perfectly Sweet Day

 

 Sweet Cake

 

The Party

And, ah yes, my current favourite:  The Party. Now that’s my kind of party! And that cake? She’s just so beautiful, and I love everything about this–the entire piece speaks to me. Reese (my 3 1/2 year old) fell in love with her at first glance too. She, being the painter she is, ran for her brushes, paint, palette, and paper, and said “Mommy, I want to paint her too!” And so she did. In about 2 minutes flat, she brought me this perfect little painting–her version of Vanessa’s The Party:

 Oh dear me. Let us not even speak of the unmeasurable pride and joy that this painting brings me, or I may cry. Mama-love x infinity.

 Art Cookies via Sweetapolita

Between my sweet and infinitely creative friend, Vanessa Valencia, and my little Reese, painting inspiration surrounds me. Not a day goes by at our house when there isn’t a handful of paintbrushes, open jars of colourful paint, and a string of finished works of art hanging on the fridge to dry; Reese simply cannot get through the day without painting a picture. I think these artist palette and paintbrush cookies are so much fun, and they fit right in at our house. Both of these cookie designs are decorated with a combination of fondant and royal icing. Now, I will admit that they are not a quick and easy design; they’re not difficult, but just a wee bit time-consuming (but worth it, if you ask me), particularly the brush cookies. However, to me, life is in the details!

A potentially confusing tidbit: I painted the paint and paintbrushes with paint and paintbrushes. Ouch; my brain hurts.

If you’d like to make these artist cookies, here’s the how-to:

Let me start by saying that I wish I had a photo tutorial for you! I believe, though, that if you are going to give these a try, that you won’t have trouble with these steps:

Artist’s Palette Cookies:

1. Bake & cool round (or oval) sugar cookies. Roll out white fondant to approximately 1/8″ thickness, and cut out circle (or oval) using the same cookie cutter as you did the cookie itself. Cut a small “bite” out of the side and, using your fingers, shape and smooth edges to look resemble a palette (I use a bit of shortening on my fingers.). While the fondant is still soft, take a small round cutter and score 5 circles in fondant. You can set the entire piece aside, or you can attach to cookie now. I prefer to do all of the palettes and then adhere to the cookie all at once.

2. Using an offset palette knife, spread a very thin layer of royal icing onto one cookie, then lay the fondant circle on top and very gently press onto cookie. Set aside.

3. Colour royal icing any “paint” colours you like, and pipe little swirls onto each circle. For this project, I filled a small disposable Ziploc-style bag with a small amount of each colour and cut a small triangle out of corner, rather than using piping bags or tips. For the gold “paint” I let the white royal icing swirl dry, and I painted it with gold non-toxic paint. I won’t lie to you: it was my 24 karat gold paint. I cannot stop using this stuff.

And there you have bright and colourful artist palette cookies! Now, onto the paintbrushes:

Artist’s Paintbrush Cookies:

For the wooden brush handle:

1. Bake and cool 7″ x 1/2″ (or so) sugar cookie “sticks.”

2. Dye some white fondant (depending on how many you’re making) light brown, and taking equal parts white fondant, make two long rope-shapes using each colour. Twist loosely into braid, then roll into ball, followed by long handle shape pieces. I did about 7″ wooden handles. Cut one end of flush. Set aside.

*Tip: When rolling fondant or gumpaste into long uniform pieces or “snakes,” I roll with my hands until it takes on the basic sausage shape, and then I hold a big plastic cutting board and roll the piece underneath in a back and forth motion. This ensures it’s of uniform diamater.

3. Using white fondant, make a tear drop shape for each brush tip. Using a knife, or other sharp tool, make little tip lines to create the illusion of the brush tip. Set aside.

4. Mix a drop of brown gel colour with some clear lemon extract or vodka, and with a paintbrush (yep, painting-the-paintbrush-with-a-paintbrush thing again: weird.) brush the liquid onto each handle. Because woodgrain is characteristically imperfect, this can be a very quick paint job. It looks great no matter what you do! Set aside to dry completely.

5. Once dry, using a dab of royal icing, on end  of handle and secure to the straight end of the handle. Let dry.

6. Roll small and very thin piece of fondant for the metal wrap, and cut it to about 1 1/2″ length, wrapping around the joint between the tip and handle, using a few dabs of water to adhere. Taking a pin or toothpick, make small dot markings and lines for realistic finish (see photo of paintbrush). Let dry.

7. Paint the wrap piece with a metallic non-toxic paint (lustre dust mixed with clear lemon extract or vodka). Because I have been sniffing too many paint fumes around here lately, I, again, used my 24 karat gold paint. I just love the look. Then, if desired, paint the very end of the paintbrush tip with corresponding colours to your palettes).

8. Using a very thin bit of royal icing, gently secure the paintbrush to the cookie. Let dry and voila!

A little bit of extra work, but I think these cookies are worth it.

To be properly dazzled and mystified by the wonder that is Vanessa Valencia from A Fanciful Twist, visit her on her official website, or her blog, or over at her Etsy shop. She’s exceptional. I promise.

Have a wonderful (and colourful) weekend!

*All art images via Vanessa Valencia.

Good luck & enjoy!

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Frosting for the Cause and Winner of the IceMilk Apron Giveaway!

Happy Sunday, everyone! It’s a beautiful (and freezing) sunny morning here on Lake Ontario–a perfect day to share a guest blog post I did over at a wonderful website called Frosting for the Cause. Frosting for the Cause is a 365 day baking project that highlights a different baker/blogger each day of 2011, sharing stories, recipes, and decorating tips, all to raise money and awareness for cancers that affect women. Paula, also known as The Vanilla Bean Baker, is the mastermind and heart behind this cause, and I was so honoured to be part of something so special.

Stop by Frosting for the Cause to read my guest post on Pinkalicious Cherry Cupcakes and learn about a woman in my life who was affected by cancer. If you’re a baking blogger who hasn’t yet signed up for this project and would like to make a difference, I believe there are some dates available. If you’re a reader who would like to take part and make a difference, you can go to the convenient Donate section of the Frosting for the Cause website. Thank you, Paula, for all of your hard work in putting this project together.

It’s also a perfect day to announce the winner of the gorgeous IceMilk Apron! It wasn’t a surprise that you all adore these heirloom aprons as much I do!

The winner of a monogrammed IceMilk Apron of their choice is…

 #129 Anna. Anna said, “these aprons are beautiful! I just sent the link to my mom for her catering company. I am convinced we need these!
my all time favorite pie is my mom’s peanut butter meringue or my Mammie’s hand-picked-full-of-love raspberry.”

Congratulations, Anna! Please contact me at rosie@sweetapolita.com for details and to claim your gorgeous prize!

To check out the complete line of heirloom aprons, pop over to IceMilk Aprons.

I hope you’re enjoying this beautiful Sunday!

Love, Rosie xo

*The winner of this giveaway was randomly selected using random.org. Prize courtesy of Sweetapolita.

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