Raspberry Neapolitan Party Cake

Raspberry Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

Neapolitan is one of those words that makes me feel like a little girl the moment I hear it or think about it. And while I never actually ate Neapolitan cake as a child, I ate my fair share of Neapolitan ice cream (well, just the vanilla portion anyway). Chocolate and/or strawberry ice cream just wasn’t (and still isn’t) my thing, but I sure have fond memories of the visual — that big frozen block of tri-colour loveliness meant one thing and one thing only: a party (and where there was ice cream, there was usually cake).

And the thing is, you can really create so many variations using the beloved chocolate, strawberry and vanilla combination — remember this and these? Endless fun.

Raspberry Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

So, because I’d never done it before, I decided to switch up the strawberry with raspberry for this version, and rather than use a “pink” cake layer, just filled the cake with the fruity raspberry Swiss buttercream and compote, and then covered it all in a mix of dark chocolate buttercream, vanilla and more of the raspberry. The cake does take a bit of time to make because there are four components, but it comes together surprisingly quickly — especially if you make the raspberry compote and Swiss buttercream ahead of time.

The frosting job was a little more rustic looking than originally planned, but I hadn’t done it this way before, and had a vision. But once I started frosting it, I was worried that if I kept smoothing for more of a blended look (like this, this and this cake), my chocolate and vanilla would soon look like chanilla, which I imagine to be a little less than magical (although I bet it would still taste pretty delightful). This sort of sectioned style of frosting the cake reminded me of the block of childhood ice cream I mentioned above, so I stuck with that.

Bunting via Sweetapolita

And nothing says party like a tiny cake bunting, right?  This is one that I had from several years ago that was actually one single garland, but I just re-purposed it by tying it to two white lollipop sticks. You’ve likely seen cake bunting all over Pinterest and the like, and you can either MacGvyer your own (pretty much anything colourful tied between two sticks and stuck in the cake would look charming) using twine, string, cord, etc. or buy one of the seemingly endless versions on Etsy.

Raspberry Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

Party for one?

Raspberry Neapolitan Party Cake via Sweetapolita

Like a playful (and decadent) trip to childhood and back.

And before I go, I’d love to share my recent interview over at Best Friends For Frosting with you, where I got a chance to chat about my past life, balance and avoiding weight gain while surrounded by baked goods all day! ♥

Raspberry Neapolitan Party Cake

Yield: One 4-layer, 8-inch round cake

Alternating layers of moist vanilla and dark chocolate cake, filled with raspberry Swiss meringue buttercream and smothered in a trio of dark chocolate, vanilla and raspberry buttercream.

Ingredients

    For the Chocolate Cake:
  • 1-3/4 cups (225 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (120 g) Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder
  • 2 teaspoons (11 g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (240 ml) strong black coffee or espresso, hot
  • 1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Vanilla Cake:
  • 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 4 large egg whites (130 g), at room temperature
  • 1 whole egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.75 ml) almond extract
  • 2-1/2 cups (288 g) cake flour, sifted
  • 1-1/2 cups (300 g) sugar
  • 1-1/4 tablespoons (16 g) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (6 grams)
  • 1-1/2 sticks (170 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes
  • For the Raspberry Compote:
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries, divided
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) superfine or granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoons (15 ml) lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) water
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  • 8 large fresh egg whites (240 g)
  • 2 cups (500 g) superfine granulated sugar
  • 5 sticks (575 g) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2.5 oz (75 g) premium dark or extra dark chocolate, melted and cooled
  • Few drops pink soft gel paste colour

Instructions

    For the Chocolate Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease, line with parchment and flour two round 8-inch pans. I use Parchment Paper Circles for ease.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift all dry ingredients. In a large measuring cup, combine eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredient mixture to the dry ingredients, increasing the speed to medium. Mix for 1-1/2 minutes (you may need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer) and divide among prepared pans (each pan will weigh ~590 g).
  4. Bake until toothpick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs, about 25 minutes. Try not to overbake. Cool on wire racks in pans for 15 minutes then gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
  5. For the Vanilla Cake:
  6. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease, line with parchment and flour two round 8-inch pans. I use Parchment Paper Circles for ease.
  7. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir 1/3 cup of the milk, egg whites, whole egg, vanilla and the almond extract. Set aside.
  8. Sift cake flour twice. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients, including the sugar, together on low-speed (I use the “stir” setting on my mixer) for 30 seconds.
  9. Add the butter blending on low-speed for about 30 seconds, then add remaining milk, and mix on low-speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 1-1/2 minutes (90 seconds), but no more.
  10. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg/milk/extract mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition.
  11. Pour 1/2 of your batter (445 g) into each prepared pan, spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife. If possible, weigh the batter in the pans to ensure 2 even layers.
  12. Bake cake layers two-at-a-time in center of oven and 2" apart for 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. Be so careful to not over-bake. Check cake at 20 minutes, but not before, and once you feel it’s almost ready, set the timer for 2 minute intervals. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes before loosening the sides with a small metal spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. Gently turn cakes back up, so the tops are up and cool completely.
  13. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. Best enjoyed day 1 or 2.
  14. For the Raspberry Compote:
  15. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1-1/2 cups of the raspberries, sugar, lemon juice, water, and salt until the berries start to break down, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
  16. Lower the heat and simmer until compote coats a spoon, about 15 minutes.
  17. Remove from heat and let cool down slightly. Using an immersion blender (carefully) or counter-top blender, pulse until smooth. Push compote through a fine mesh sieve into a clean glass bowl and discard the seeded pulp from the sieve. Stir in remaining raspberries. Keep covered and chilled for up to 3 days.
  18. For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  19. Wipe the bowl and whisk of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  20. Place bowl back on mixer and fit with whisk attachment. Whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 15 minutes, or longer). Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add softened butter one tablespoon at a time until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth).
  21. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
  22. Assembly of the Raspberry Neapolitan Party Cake:
  23. Divide buttercream in half. Add 3 tablespoons (one tablespoon at a time) of the raspberry compote to one half, along with a few drops of pink gel colour (if desired). Set aside.
  24. Take half of the remaining buttercream and add the melted chocolate, stirring until well incoporated. Leave the final portion of buttercream vanilla.
  25. Using a cake turntable if possible, place first chocolate cake layer face-up on a cake plate, cake board or pedestal and cover with ~3/4 cup of raspberry buttercream, spreading with a small offset palette knife, leaving about 1" clearance around the edges. Carefully place a few spoonfuls of compote on top, keeping it in the middle.
  26. Place a vanilla cake layer face-up on top and repeat with buttercream/compote. Repeat until you come to the final chocolate cake layer, which you will place face-down. Cover cake in plastic wrap, then use your hands to straighten any leaning or layers that aren't lined up. Chill for 30 minutes.
  27. Remove from refrigerator, remove wrap and cover cake a very thin layer of the vanilla buttercream. Chill for another 30 minutes.
  28. Cover top of cake with a smooth layer of raspberry buttercream (extending it over the edges), bottom third of the cake with chocolate buttercream and remaining area with vanilla buttercream. Using a medium straight spatula (or similar tool), smooth buttercream over the cake and create a blended look.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • You can make the raspberry compote from fresh or frozen raspberries, and can make up to 3 days ahead of time (keep chilled). 
  • You can make the cake layers a day ahead, wrapping them well in plastic wrap and leaving at room temperature.
  • You can make the Swiss meringue buttercream up to a week ahead and leave in the refrigerator, bringing to room temperature the night before you need it. You can microwave 1/3 of it for about 10 seconds, add it to the remaining buttercream and either whip in the mixer or with a rubber spatula until smooth and creamy.
  • You can also freeze the Swiss meringue buttercream for up to a month, bringing to room temperature straight from freezer.
  • You can also pre-flavour the buttercream before freezing/refrigerating.
  • The cake bunting in the photos was a bunting I had from a previous party –I trimmed it and tied to two lollipop sticks.
  • This cake can be left out for a day, but should be refrigerated after that and brought back to room temperature before serving (I recommend bringing it out about 4-5 hours before serving.

Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cupcakes & More About Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cupcakes

Happy Thursday! You know what’s funny? That very greeting always makes me laugh at myself, but yet I can’t help but write it — “Happy Thursday!” It’s so enthusiastic and peppy, yet, truthfully, when I’m composing these posts, 99% of the time it’s late at night, once the girls are asleep, and I’m often exhausted and feeling not even a wee bit exclamation mark-ish. Somehow, though, my inner enthusiast manages to get that out and keep it there. And not once, but twice: I had actually deleted it a few seconds after writing it, but then there it is again! Oh, and yet another. It’s a condition, I’m certain.

Before I get started with tonight’s post, I’m excited to announce the winner of this gorgeous print of the original painting “Violetta and the Tiny Tea Set” by Vanessa Valencia, (the incredible talent behind A Fanciful Twist) . This prize is courtesy of Vanessa, as a sweet gesture to one of my readers who visited and commented on my last post, “Ruffles & Roses: A Mad(ish) Tea Party.”  I was the lucky honorary guest this year to Vanessa’s popular virtual Mad Tea Party, and I had so much fun stepping even one pink-painted toe into her magical world. She is so unbelievably talented, and I adore her. So, the winner is…

#25 Bourbonnatrix: “Oh Rosie, what a pretty tea party! Love LOVE your cakes and sweets. Absolutely beautiful, and the rain, on some pics made it that much more special :) Great post!”

Congratulations, Bourbonnatrix (and thank you for the sweet words)!

So, tonight I want to chat about this fun cupcake version of my Inside-Out Neapolitan Cakes (truly, one of my favourites), and I also want to talk more about Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Would you believe that I get more emails with Swiss Meringue Buttercream related questions than anything else? Many readers write to tell me how it’s changed their lives, and they adore it with all of their being, and others write perplexed and filled with questions about troubleshooting, or just general concerns, etc. I thought it may be helpful to shed more light on the topic of the beloved Swiss Meringue Buttercream tonight, based on your questions and experiences.

I’ll quickly talk about these yummy cupcakes, which are, incidentally, filled with 3 flavours of Swiss Meringue Buttercream. A few months back I decided to turn a few of my favourite cake recipes/combinations into cupcakes, and it was a lot of fun and kind of a refreshing change from lofty layer cakes. After posting about the Campfire Delight Cupcakes, followed by the Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Buttercream Cupcakes, this was my third cake-into-cupcake experience, and they were as flavourful and moist as the mama version, but definitely a simpler alternative for those who don’t feel like embarking upon the layer cake process. If you do make the layer cake (and I do urge you to; it’s a crowd pleaser!), the cupcakes are a great addition to it — you can bake a quick batch of the cupcakes and then use your remaining Swiss Meringue Buttercream trio and fill the cupcakes. Who wouldn’t love their own little layered Neapolitan cupcake?

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

So here is the original Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake: 3 layers of a southern take on Devil’s Food Cake, including some rich and decadent ingredients such as mayonnaise, butter, and, of course, my favourite cocoa powder, (Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark), which makes every chocolate cake rich and incredibly chocolaty, in my opinion, and filled with a layer of each Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I particularly love the contrast of the cloud-like buttercream and the rich chocolate cake, and when the Neapolitan flavour combination comes from the filling and not the cake itself, it adds an interesting (and delicious) dynamic to Neapolitan cake.

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cupcakes

For the layered cupcake effect, I simply baked the cupcakes as muffins (in greased and floured muffin tins with no cupcake liners), and then, once cooled, sliced each one into 3, then piped each flavour of Swiss Meringue Buttercream between and on top, then added some chocolate sprinkles. I was happy with the cake-to-buttercream ratio in the end, after worrying it would be too much buttercream. The Swiss Meringue Buttercream is not overpowering, so is the perfect pairing to these cupcakes, and the dark, rich, southern Devil’s Food Cake can definitely hold its own surrounded by all three flavours. If you’d like to try these, I’ve included the recipe below. In the meanwhile, I want to chat more about making, using, eating, and storing Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream, or SMB, or SMBC as most call it can be an intimidating endeavour, but, honestly, once you get the hang of it, you may never look back. Let’s just get it all out in the open right  now. Truly, let’s just stay up all night talking it through until we’ve run the gamut of emotions and can, finally, share a group hug and skip off into the horizon, armed with our whisks and unwavering confidence to make it, use it, and decorate with it. Since this post comes as an answer to your emails and questions following my previous post, Swiss Meringue Buttercream Demystifyed, I’ll put it in point form and  Q&A format, and hopefully I cover it all. So, let us talk Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMB):

*If you would simply like to read the cupcake and buttercream recipe, they are at the bottom of this post.

A few quick facts about my deep and meaningful relationship with Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

1. No, I didn’t invent SMB, but I love its not-too-sweet taste and satiny texture, and I use it for all of my wedding cakes, gourmet cakes, and even many casual cakes and cupcakes. I’m not an SMB expert, but I make it often, love it, and was taught how to make it by professionals at Bonnie Gordon Confectionary College in Toronto.

2. The first time I tried SMB, I was used to sugary confectioners’ sugar-based , and I didn’t like the taste of SMB at all; I felt it tasted oily and too buttery. I didn’t think there was hope  for my converting to an SMB lover, or even liker.

3. I still love sugary frostings from time to time (as you will see some of my other posts), but once I acquired a taste for it, SMB quickly became my favourite frosting (after a few tries).

4. The first few times I made SMB, I used a lower grade butter, and it would not hold  my batch together; it wasn’t creamy, or satiny, but rather almost separated. It wasn’t until I was advised to try a better quality butter, that I figured out how to make the ultimate batch of SMB. I now use only premium butter, with my favourite being Lactancia.

5. One of my favourite treats in the entire world, and out of everything I’ve ever made, is a dark chocolate cake frosted with vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream. It’s just that good.

Now, onto the questions and answers:

Q: My SMB was coming along fine, but then, once I added all of the butter, it was still too runny. What did I do wrong, and is there hope at this stage?

A:Yes, there is hope! Actually, there’s nothing hopeless about this situation, but rather just an extra step involved. If you added your butter and the SMB is still runny, then 1 of 2 things (or both) has likely happened, in my opinion: 1. Your butter was much too soft (should be cool, but  not cold, which is about 20 minutes out of fridge for me) when you added it to your meringue. 2. Your meringue was still too warm when you started adding the butter. Be patient, because I know it takes seemingly forever for the bottom of the mixing bowl to feel neutral before you add the butter, but it needs to be, or, as you can imagine, the butter essentially melts when you add it. As for repairing this runny batch, you can take the entire mixing bowl, cover it, and place it in the fridge until it chills up a bit, say 30 minutes or so (or even in the freezer for 15 or so), and then re whip. It’s not an exact science, as far as how many minutes, or how cold, etc, but I can tell you this: in my experience, it is practically impossible to ruin a batch of SMB to the point of no repair. If your meringue has whipped up nicely, then you can get away with a lot from that point on, and it’s most often fixable. I promise, promise, promise!

Q: My SMB suddenly curdled, and looked like scrambled eggs in the bowl. Why did it do this, and is it ruined?

A: It often does hit this “scrambled egg” stage, and this happens to my batches occasionally as well. Basically, from what I can tell, this happens when the meringue is a little “shocked” by butter that is too cold, but after mixing for a few more moments, the butter blends in nicely, and it magically becomes smooth and satiny. Is it ruined? Never!

Q: I had no problem making my SMB, and it looked so beautiful and satiny, but when I tasted it, it tasted like pure butter. What did I do wrong?

A:You did nothing wrong, and I have a feeling you did everything right! Here’s the thing about SMB: It tastes much like butter and not a lot like sugary sugar, which to many is the draw, but if you are used to sugary frostings, chances are your palate hasn’t developed the tastebuds for SMB yet, and you simply aren’t used to it. There is also a chance that you just don’t like it – as with any food, it’s not for everyone. If you’re making it for fun, for your own friends and family, you may want to stick with the frostings you love, and revisit it at a later time, or not at all. If you’re aspiring to make wedding cakes and gourmet cakes, you will likely need to continue making it, in which case, trust me, you will probably find yourself licking the bowl and spatula clean, begging for more, a few batches down the road. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Q: Why do I have to use pure vanilla extract in my SMB when I have imitation vanilla extract on hand? Will anyone taste the difference?

A:If we’re being honest, then yes, they will. And so will you, I imagine. You have to keep in mind that sugary frosting (those made with icing sugar/confectioners’ sugar) are dominated by the taste of sugar, and the vanilla can be a little overpowered by the intense sweetness. With SMB, the sugar takes a backseat (albeit delightfully sweet, it’s still subtle), and the flavours, let it be simply vanilla, or others, shine through. That’s why it’s such a great base for almost any flavour you can dream of: coffee, liqueur, citrus, chocolate, berries, and more. It’s also important to add that pinch of salt, particularly when opting for vanilla flavoured SMB, because no, it doesn’t result in a salty flavoured frosting, but it really pulls the true flavours out — kind of crazy, but true.

Q: I refrigerated my SMB, then thawed it on the counter overnight, as suggested, but when I went to use it on my cake, it wasn’t satiny or smooth anymore, but rather airy and thick. What can I do to fix it?

A: The great thing about SMB is that it can be made in big batches and frozen, or refrigerated for up to a week. The only thing is you need to take a moment to reconstitute it back to its glorious satiny texture when you’re ready to use it. If it’s frozen or refrigerated, you need to thaw it at room temperature; this can take overnight if it’s frozen, and several hours if it’s refrigerated. There are a few ways you can revive it, but I do 1 of 2 things: 1. I take the thawed (but sometimes still cool) SMB in a microwavable container, and I warm it up for about 10 seconds, then remove container from microwave and stir it aggressively with a rubber spatula in kind of a back and forth motion, repeatedly until it’s smooth. If I think I need to warm it up a bit more, I microwave again but am careful not to melt it. I mix it really well with the spatula, to remove the air bubbles. 2. I take about 1/3 of the SMB I thawed and I warm it up by the above method, and put the remaining 2/3 in the electric mixer bowl. I add the 1/3 warmed SMB to the 2/3 cool SMB and mix on medium or medium-high speed with the paddle attachment (flat beater) until smooth and satiny.

Q: After I make my SMB, and add gel food colour to it, the SMB seems to “reject” the colour. What am I doing wrong?

A:I’ve been asked this question many times, and I hate to do this, I really do, but it’s seemingly the truth: In my experience, using Wilton brand colours are the culprit here. I know this can be an issue as far as availability goes, because sometimes the premium colour brands such as Sugarflair, Americolor, and Ateco colours are difficult to get, particularly outside of North America, but if you find you will be doing this kind of work often, I personally feel it would be worth it to get your hands on these colours.

Q: Is SMB stable enough to pipe such things as flowers, basketweave, etc.?

A:Yes! SMB is what you will see Martha Stewart uses for all of these techniques, and for good reason: it’s so light and fluffy yet super stable and resilient. Kind of perfection, really.

Q: Once my cake is frosted in SMB, does it have to be refrigerated?

A: Well, you know, it seems that all baker’s have a different opinion on this topic, but all I can do is tell you what I do. Many will tell you that it’s okay to leave SMB frosted cakes out for a few days, but, personally I like to refrigerate my cakes overnight, and then take them out first thing in the morning so that they are nice and soft and fluffy when I serve them. If I’m making it on the day of serving, I would just keep it out. I just find that Swiss Meringue Buttercream that is too warm isn’t appealing, and it if it’s too cool, it’s too buttery in texture. Definitely a fine line, but mostly, it’s just heaven.

I hope this helps in some way! All of that being said, I promise you with all my heart that it’s A. Not really as difficult as it may seem, and B. Even if it was, it’s worth it!

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cupcakes

Yield: 18 layered cupcakes

Ingredients

    For the Cupcakes:
  • 6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (230 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup + 2 teaspoons (115 g) all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons (38 g) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (5 g) kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) mayonnaise
  • For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  • 5 large fresh egg whites (150 g)
  • 1-1/4 cup (250 g) superfine granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups (340 g) (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter and flour standard cupcake pans as you would for muffins, tapping out the excess.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder into a medium bowl. Add the salt to the dry ingredients after sifting, and whisk dry ingredients.
  4. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated, or finish by hand gently.
  5. Fold mayonnaise into batter with a whisk, until just blended.
  6. Fill cupcake pans 2/3 each (I like to use a 1.5 oz cookie scoop) and bake for approximately 17 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center of cupcakes comes out just barely clean (a few crumbs). This works well for moist chocolate cake (not vanilla).
  7. Let cupcakes cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then gently remove from pan and continue to cool on a wire rack. Let cool completely.
  8. For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  9. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  10. Place bowl back on mixer and fit with whisk attachment. Whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes, or longer). Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth).
  11. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
  12. You can also add a wide variety of flavourings, extracts, and more, but always add the vanilla first, as it brings out the true taste of the other flavours.
  13. Assembly of the Inside-Out Neapolitan Cupcakes:
  14. Divide buttercream evenly into 3 bowls. Flavour 1/3 chocolate, 1/3 strawberry, and leave final 1/3 vanilla (using instructions above). Add a few drops of pink gel colour to strawberry buttercream.
  15. Using a very sharp serrated knife, slice cupcakes twice, horizontally, resulting in 3 "layers."
  16. Fill one layer of each flavour (chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla), and top with sprinkles, if desired.
  17. Best eaten at room temperature on the day they were made, but can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days (in refrigerator overnight).

Notes

*Keep in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, re-whipping in mixer for 5 minutes.

**Can freeze for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer.

***For Chocolate Buttercream, add 150 g (3/4 cup) melted bittersweet Belgian chocolate (the best you can get--I use Callebaut) to Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream and beat until incorporated.

****For Strawberry Buttercream, add strawberry puree to taste, OR a few drops of LorAnn Strawberry Flavor Oil.

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Southern Devil’s Cake Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking, by David Guas.

Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians, and Happy Independence Day to our American friends! Wishing you all a safe and happy weekend!

Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Inside-Out Neapolitan Layer Cake

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

I have great news! My temporary cake-diet, you know, the one during which I stopped eating cake, is over, and I’ve resumed my more permanent cake-diet, the one where all I think about and often indulge in cake. And, let me say, I ended it and restored order just in time: 3 layers of rich Southern Devil’s Food Cake stacked between fluffy Neapolitan flavoured Swiss Meringue Buttercreams: Belgian Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry, and topped with pure dark chocolate sprinkles from Holland. If you read the past post of mine, Neapolitan 5-Layer Birthday Cake with Strawberry Frosting, you’ll recall that I adore Neapolitan. In that case, the cake itself was Neapolitan. The flavours really bring me back to my childhood, and I was so happy to see that so many of you felt the same way after reading that post. Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about Neapolitan and how I think there may be a serious shortage of it in my day-to-day life, so I’ve been dreaming up new ways to incorporate it into my world. This was a really fun start to that mission!  

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

If someone was ever cruel enough to force you to choose, would you say that you’re a cake person, or a frosting person? I find the older I get, the more I appreciate the cake itself. I would say that most times I would be perfectly content with a fresh piece of cake icing free, but wow, Swiss Meringue Buttercream makes me so very happy, and I’m pretty sure, with some focus, I could sit down and eat an entire bowl of it. Of course, its rich-but-light texture that’s not too sweet but just sweet enough is a dream in itself, but working with it, well, there’s just nothing better. It’s so satiny and holds up so well under fondant, on its own, in ruffles, smooth & perfect, or just about any way at all. You can flavour it with just about anything, and it can be frozen, then thawed, refrigerated, then room temperature–it will take just about anything! It may seem intimidating to make at first, but it’s really quick once you get the hang of it, and you will never look back. It’s also a really great way to take a simple layer cake and make it a bit more special and luxe.

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

As for the cake itself, I decided to take a break from my favourite Dark Chocolate Cake and go for a really rich and decadent Southern Devil’s Food Cake recipe I found, from Fine Cooking, that’s made with a few different ingredients than my usual recipe, such as mayonnaise, butter, and dark brown sugar. I did, though, make sure to include my must-have cocoa powder, Cacao Barry Extra Brute, for that really dark and rich taste. Divine. I really can say that I notice that extra richness that the butter and mayonnaise add–incredible!

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

What better way to show off all of these buttercream flavours, than to just tie it into the design of the cake, and leave the frosting off of the outside? I personally love cakes that are left open like this, and I think it’s a really refreshing change once in awhile, particularly when you play with interesting filling flavours, textures, and colours. Now, I did go quite generous with this filling because of the gorgeous, not-so-sweet Swiss Meringue Buttercream, but I wouldn’t recommend this with sugary frosting. As a “rule,” not that I’m big on those, you would aim for your layer-cake filling to be about 1/2 of the thickness of your cake layers.

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

I sliced this piece for the photo, and then covered it with wrap once I was done with the photographs. I wasn’t going to eat it (I promise), but then as the girls were walking to the bathroom for bath-time, they discovered it, and well, there we sat in the upstairs hallway sharing this with 3 forks and a lot of “mmmm”s. Nothing could have prepared me for the extreme cute that is watching a 4-year-old and a 19-month-old eat cake and sprinkles while sporting bare bums.

Sprinkles via Sweetapolita

Speaking of sprinkles, I have to tell you about this incredible range of imported sprinkles I found at the cutest little bakery and European grocer located in a wee little town near me, Orono, where I buy most of my antiques. I was there this past weekend, and I discovered an entire shelf of these gourmet sprinkles from the Netherlands. Aside from the fact that they offer pure dark chocolate, milk chocolate, anise, and many more sprinkle variations, they won me over at first glance–can you guess why? Yes! They have smothered these sprinkles all over toast, and this is, what I since discovered something the Dutch love to do! I can’t say it ever crossed my mind to do that, but I think I need to give that a try–immediately. Besides, any country that swears by mayonnaise and french fries is clearly on the brink of culinary genius (did I mention that the little grocer also sells large squeeze bottles of the french-fry-designated mayo?), and I trust them completely. I sprinkled a handful of the dark chocolate variety as the finishing touch to this cake. Love them! You can learn more about these De Ruijter sprinkles here or buy them here.

I hope you enjoy this cake as much as my bare-bummed little cakelets and I did.

Inside-Out Neapolitan Layer Cake

Yield: One 3-layer, 8-inch round cake

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (460 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-3/4 cups (220 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (90 g) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon (7 g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (10 g) kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 cup (360 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) mayonnaise
  • For the Buttercream:
  • 5 large fresh egg whites (150 g)
  • 1-1/4 cup (250 g) superfine granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups (340 g) (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 oz (150 g) quality bittersweet chocolate
  • Few drops Strawberry Flavor Oil, or 2 tablespoons (30 ml) strawberry puree
  • Few drops pink gel colour

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder into a medium bowl. Add the salt to the dry ingredients after sifting, and whisk dry ingredients.
  4. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated, or finish by hand gently. Fold mayonnaise into batter with a whisk, until just blended.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan for 454 g each (excluding the pans--you will want to tare the scale each time.) This ensures even layers. Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once after 20 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes barely clean. Try not to over-bake. I tend to under-bake a few moments, so the skewer is a little bit gummy. This works well for a moist chocolate cake (not vanilla).
  6. Let pans cool on wire rack for 20 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.
  7. For the Buttercream:
  8. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  9. Place bowl back on mixer and fit with whisk attachment. Whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes, or longer). Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth).
  10. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
  11. Assembly of the Inside-Out Neapolitan Layer Cake
  12. Divide buttercream into 3, and flavour 1/3 chocolate and another 1/3 strawberry. Leave remaining buttercream vanilla. For chocolate, add melted and cooled bittersweet chocolate and blend until combined. For strawberry, add a few drops of Strawberry Flavor Oil (minimal) or 1-2 tablespoons of strawberry puree. Add a few drops of pink gel food colouring to strawberry buttercream
  13. Trim any doming on your cake layers with a very sharp, serrated bread knife. Wrap layers in plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes in freezer.
  14. Spread a 1" circle of icing onto an 8" round thin cake board using an offset palette knife and place the first cake layer on top, face-up.
  15. Using a small offset palette knife, spread 1 cup of chocolate buttercream on top, leaving about a 1" gap from edges. Place second cake layer on top, face up, and repeat, using Vanilla Buttercream.
  16. Place final layer on top, face-down and repeat using Strawberry Buttercream.
  17. Fill 3 piping bags with remaining buttercreams fitted with Wilton 8B decorative tip, or the tip of your choice, decorate edges, filling in gaps. Top with dark chocolate sprinkles.

Notes

*Keep buttercream in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, rewhipping in mixer for 5 minutes.

**Can freeze buttercream for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer.

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[Southern Devil's Cake Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking, by David Guas]

Good luck & enjoy!

 

 

PS. I love receiving your baking questions, and I find it works really well if you ask them in the comments section, so that when I reply to post-related questions in the comment section as opposed to via email, other readers with the same questions can read the information as well. Thanks so much!

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My Heart Belongs To U: Neapolitan Milk & Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Neapolitan Cookies via Sweetapolita

I hope you are having a great Saturday! So far, I’ve had a great day. I was able to drive into the city (Toronto) this morning (all alone!) for a much-needed trip to the hair salon, a leisurely shop at the most fabulous gourmet grocer, Pusateri’s, and, naturally, a quick stop to Starbucks for my drive home. I hope you’re also having a fabulous weekend, and that you’re able to fill it full of love-y treats and projects.

If you read my last post, you’ll remember that I just can’t get enough of the Valentine’s Day treats this year (and just love-inspired sweets all-around). I really wanted to get one more love-themed treat in before the weekend was over, so although this will be a short & sweet post, I’m so happy I was able to share these cookies with you. You know what else I can’t get enough of? Neapolitan! Strawberry, Chocolate & Vanilla–is there anything better? It makes me so happy with its fun colours and flavours combined; it really is the perfect trio.

Here’s the photo that was a big part of the inspiration for this Neapolitan Milk & Chocolate Sugar Cookie collection, from the Real Simple website. Don’t you just love these little milk bottles? I also love the little plate the bottles are on, because I have & adore the silk pillow and pencil case from this amazing collection from thomaspaul. Adorable. I also used my own Neapolitan 5-Layer Birthday Cake as inspiration, because I thought it really needed some matching cookies!

Neapolitan Cookies via Sweetapolita

These really are fun to make–they’re kind of like little fondant puzzles, and I would say that in the grand scheme of confection design, they’re pretty quick and easy! As you’ve probably noticed, I love using fondant for cookie decorating. I personally love the sweet vanilla taste of Satin Ice brand fondant, the beautiful texture, and lovely porcelain finish it creates for my cookies. Since I love not just the visual appeal of Neapolitan, but also the flavours, I couldn’t resist using the corresponding flavours for each cookie. I used a dark chocolate fondant for the chocolate bar and chocolate milk bottles; I flavoured the “strawberry” milk bottle/hearts fondant with LorAnn’s strawberry flavour oil (I haven’t done this before, and it is SO yummy!); and, of course, I used the vanilla fondant for the vanilla milk bottles/hearts.

Neapolitan Cookies via Sweetapolita

If you would like to make these cookies, here is the how-to:

Neapolitan Milk & Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Milk Bottles:

1. Cut out/bake/cool milk bottle sugar cookies  (or the cookies of your choice).

2. Dye white fondant strawberry pink (I used AmeriColor “electric pink”) and add a few drops (to taste) of LorAnn Strawberry Oil.

3. Roll pink, white, and chocolate fondant about 1/8″ thick, cut out milk bottle shape using cookie cutter, and cut out heart/hearts using small heart cutter.

4. Spread very thin layer of royal icing on cooled cookie and gently place fondant shape on cookie.

5. You will use the cut out chocolate bar heart to fill in your “puzzle” milk bottle heart (confused yet?).

Chocolate Bars:

1. Cut out/bake/cool rectangular sugar cookies (or the cookies of your choice).

2. Roll chocolate fondant (I use Satin Ice dark chocolate fondant and mix 50/50 with white fondant for milk chocolate colour) 1/8″ thick.

3. Using ruler edge, create a bar grid. Then, using same ruler, create diagonal lines across entire bar.

4. Cut out heart using same small heart cutter from bottles and place inside the missing heart in milk bottles.

5. Roll, cut, and insert a pink heart into the missing heart on chocolate bar.

6. Cut out an “I” and “U” using small letter fondant cutters and fill in with white fondant.

7. Spread a small amount of royal icing on cookie, and gently place the fondant on top.

This may sound confusing, but it’s so simple. Like I mentioned, it’s just like a fondant cookie love puzzle! Although they do make for ideal Valentine’s Cookies, I think they would also be gorgeous for wedding showers, weddings, birthday parties, and pretty much any celebration. Love seems to be the perfect theme for any party. Don’t you think?

I want to wish you all an amazing Valentine’s Day filled with love & cookies!

Good luck & enjoy!

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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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