6-Layer Neapolitan Macaron Delight Cake

Neapolitan Macaron Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

Well, all I can say is thank-the-cake-fairies that Neapolitan will never be oh-so-vanilla. It’s nearly impossible to get tired of making, serving, seeing, or eating anything with the beloved trio of chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. But since it’s such a classic, and many bakers love to create Neapolitan-themed treats, it never hurts to put a new spin on things. I’ve had some fun with this idea before with the Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake, which was a combination of chocolate butter cake with a trio of strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream flavours. I’ve also made it with a more classic flavoured cake layers variation with the Neapolitan 5-Layer Birthday Cake with Strawberry Frosting, which is perfectly delightful, but this time I wanted to kick it up a notch and make it a bit more unique and decadent. And since that’s what I love to do, I did!

Neapolitan Macaron Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

This time I opted to split the layers into 6 (one of the easiest ways to add instant wow-factor to a cake), fill them with dark chocolate ganache, strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream, vanilla Swiss buttercream, and whole neapolitan macarons. I frosted the entire cake with chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream, and then added a pink glaze for drama and topped with more of the macarons and a few small pink sugar beads. As with this lemony blueberry cake I made awhile back, the macarons add the most amazing texture inside the cake, as well as a unique visual when the cake is sliced. The distinct macaron crunch & chew factor is the perfect match for the rich and decadent ganache, satiny buttercream frosting, and of course the deep, dark, and moist chocolate cake.

Neapolitan Macaron via Sweetapolita

Okay, so let’s talk macarons. I know if you’ve had any type of macaron failure, like I had over the years, you might be somewhat traumatized and avoid them at all costs. Or, maybe you’ve never tried them but the baking world has freaked you out with all of this talk about how hard they are to make. Either way, I’m here to tell you that not only are they totally doable, but they are so quick to make as well. And while these facts are, well, facts, there is a trick to it. After trying many, many macaron recipes, I’ve discovered what works each and every time.

I’ve included the recipe below, but I thought it might be easier if I followed this post with one devoted to macarons. I will go ahead and make a little video as well, just to make it a little more visual. If you are comfortable with making macarons, and you’ve never made a neapolitan version, I know you will adore these! Dark chocolate macaron shell (which tastes just like a chewy brownie with a hint of almond) paired with strawberry macaron shell filled with vanilla buttercream. Simple and splendid.

Neapolitan Macaron Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

For such a quick and easy step, I love how much drama the pink glaze adds. Of course you could use this technique for any cake and have fun with other color palettes. A simple whisk of confectioners’ sugar and milk and you’ve got yourself a sweet and versatile white glaze, or of course you could have fun with other colors, play with adding extract or flavor oil, and use this technique for any cake (just remember to chill the cake first, so that the frosting is firm to the touch).

Weneapolitan.

And while this cake does have several components, most of them can be made ahead (see Sweetapolita’s Notes), making this recipe much less daunting. I promise.

In other news, I’m so thrilled about the upcoming launch of my new & improved site coming early September! While the new design makes me giddy, one of the things I’m most excited about is the visual recipe index–finally! So all of my recipes are grouped with images, and not just the recipe names, and the index categories are easy to navigate and super functional. There are many other updates and changes in the new design, and I can’t wait to show you. My graphic designer, Melissa, did such an amazing job, and I just know you will adore what we came up with. I can’t stop looking at it. Counting the days until the launch! ♥

And if you missed my update in my last post, Birthday Party Ice Cream Cake, my first book, The Sweetapolita Bakebook, hit shelves April 7th, 2015, but it is already on pre-order on Amazon, Indigo, and many other online retailers. Yay! (Just thinking that this would be a good time for me to grasp that this whole book thing is actually happening. Oh my!) The book’s cover will soon be added to the listing, and I can’t wait to share it here on the blog when it’s ready to go.

So here’s the recipe for this towering delight:

6-Layer Neapolitan Macaron Delight Cake

Ingredients

    For the Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  • 8 large fresh egg whites
  • 2 cups (400 g) superfine granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups (510 g) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 10 ounces (300 g) best-quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons strawberry puree OR preserves
  • Few drops pink gel colour
  • For the Strawberry Macarons:
  • 135 g almond flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
  • 125 g confectioners' sugar
  • 105 g egg whites, room temperature
  • 105 g superfine OR instant dissolving sugar (see Notes)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon strawberry flavor oil (I use Lorann)
  • Few drops AmeriColor Soft Pink gel paste
  • For the Chocolate Macarons:
  • 1 recipe Strawberry Macarons (above) but omit the flavor oil and pink food color, and add 3 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
  • For the Ganache:
  • 10 ounces (300 g) best-quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • For the Cake:
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (440 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1-3/4 cups (220 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (90 g) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups (360 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • For the Glaze:
  • 1 cup (125 g) confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Drop AmeriColor Soft Pink gel paste

Instructions

    Make the Buttercream:
  1. 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 125°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  2. 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 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).
  3. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined. Keep in airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, refrigerated for up to 7 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. !Make the Strawberry Macarons:
  4. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats. Fit a large pastry bag with a large plain round tip, such as #1A.
  5. Into a medium bowl, use a fine mesh sieve to sift the almond flour, confectioners' sugar, and salt, twice. It might take a little effort to push through the larger bits of almond flour, for which you can use a wooden spoon. Discard any bits that won't fit through the sieve.
  6. Wipe a stainless steel bowl and whisk attachment with lemon juice to eliminate any grease (or beaters and bowl if you are using a hand mixer). Whisk the egg whites on low speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and add the superfine sugar one tablespoon at a time. Increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes Add a drop or two of pink color and the flavor oil to the meringue and beat until combined, about 20 seconds.
  7. Add one-third of the dry mixture to the meringue and fold in with a rubber spatula, but working deflate the meringue at the same time. It should take about 15 stirs/folds (strokes) before the dry ingredients have been incorporated. Add the remaining dry mixture to the bowl and fold/stir/deflate in the same manner until the batter "flows like magma," about 25 more strokes.
  8. Fill the pastry bag two-thirds full with the mixture and pipe 1-inch circles about 2-inches apart on each tray. Lift and drop the trays firmly on the counter a few times to rid of air bubbles.
  9. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Let the piped macarons sit while the oven preheats. Bake one tray at a time in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes. Let cool on trays. When completely cool, carefully peel the macarons off of the paper/silicone mat. If you find they are sticking even slightly, use a thin metal spatula to pry them off.
  10. Make the Chocolate Macarons:
  11. Repeat the steps for the Strawberry Macarons, but omit the strawberry flavor oil and pink color, and sift 3 tablespoons of dark cocoa powder along with the dry ingredients.
  12. Assemble the Neapolitan Macarons:
  13. Pair one of each strawberry and chocolate macaron with the closest in size and pipe a dollop of the vanilla buttercream on the flat side of each chocolate macaron. Sandwich each one with the strawberry macaron. Reserve the "best" macarons that are the most uniform for the top (8-10). For best results, let macarons sit in an airtight container in the fridge for at least a day. Bring macarons to room temperature when ready to use/eat.
  14. Make the Ganache:
  15. Place the chocolate in a medium saucepan or bowl with tall sides. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the cream, corn syrup, and salt just until the edges start to bubble (watch carefully, as it's easy to scold the cream). Remove from the heat and pour the mixture over the chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute and then use an immersion blender to combine the mixture until glossy and smooth. Add the butter and vanilla and blend until well incorporated. Let sit at room temperature until spreadable, about 2 hours. Refrigerate for up until 5 days. Bring to room temperature on counter, or microwave in 10-second increments until desired consistency is reached.
  16. Make the Cake:
  17. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease three 7-inch round cake pans and line the bottom with parchment.
  18. 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 8 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
  19. 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.
  20. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated, or finish by hand gently.
  21. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan (about 450 grams per pan, excluding the pans--you will want to tare the scale each time.) This ensures even layers. Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs, about 25 minutes.
  22. Let pans cool on wire rack for 20 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.
  23. Assemble the 6-Layer Neapolitan Macaron Delight Cake
  24. Spread a small dollop of buttercream onto an 7-inch round cake board. Cut your 3 cake layers each once horizontally with a long, serrated knife, so you have a total of 6 thin layers.
  25. Transfer about 2 cups of buttercream to a medium bowl and stir in the strawberry preserves and a drop or two of pink gel paste color.
  26. Place your first layer face-up on the board (or plate) and spread one-fifth of the ganache using a small offset spatula, leaving about 1/2" around the edge. With a clean offset spatula, spread about one half of the strawberry buttercream on top. Place another cake layer to top, face-up, and spread another fifth of the ganache on top, followed by a layer of macarons. Press the macarons gently into the ganache.
  27. Place another layer on top and spread more ganache, followed by about 1 cup of the vanilla buttercream. Place the next layer on top and spread more ganache, followed by another layer of macarons, gently pushing them into place.
  28. Place the next layer on top and spread the remaining ganache followed by the strawberry buttercream. Place the final layer on top, face-down. Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and use your hands to wiggle and straighten the cake into place, if necessary. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  29. In a medium microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup, melt the 10 ounces of dark chocolate in small increments, about 90 seconds total. Once the melted chocolate cools slightly add it to the remaining buttercream and beat to combine.
  30. Remove the cake from the fridge and place on cake turntable, if using. Frost the entire outside of cake with a thin layer of the chocolate buttercream to seal in crumbs. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes. Repeat with another layer of frosting, this time working to get the frosting as smooth as possible. Chill again until firm, about another 30-60 minutes.
  31. Make the Glaze: In a small bowl, whisk the confectioners' sugar and milk. Add the color until desired shade of pink is achieved.
  32. Use a small offset spatula to spread the glaze over the top of the cake, pushing it slightly over the edges to allow the glaze to drip down the sides. Top the cake with 8-10 neapolitan macarons, pushing them gently into the glaze to secure. Add sugar pearls or other decorations of choice, if desired.
  33. You did it! Hooray! Serve cake at room temperature, but keep refrigerated if not serving the day it's made. Cake will keep for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature several hours before serving.
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://sweetapolita.com/2014/08/6-layer-neapolitan-macaron-delight-cake/

Sweetapolita‘s Notes: 

  • When making a French meringue, as we do with the macarons (this is a meringue made without heating the sugar and/or egg whites prior to mixing), I splurge on instant dissolving sugar (aka fruit and berry sugar). This is basically granulated sugar that is even more fine than superfine sugar, and it dissolves much quicker than superfine sugar. You can make your own superfine and dissolving sugar by pulsing regular granulated sugar in the food processor for about a minute for superfine, and about 90 seconds for the fineness of dissolving sugar. I have to admit that for dissolving sugar I tend to buy it prepackaged, just to ensure it’s fine enough. For superfine sugar in everyday baking, I use the food processor.
  • For the chocolate cake, I used my favourite cocoa powder, Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Brute. It’s fabulously dark and lends an intense chocolate flavor to cake and tons of other desserts.
  • For the ganache and chocolate buttercream, I used Callebaut Semisweet Chocolate Callets.
  • For the macarons, I always use Bob’s Red Mill Flour Almond Meal–since we use such a small amount for each batch of macarons, the splurge is worth it, as this is the only almond flour I’ve had great success with.
  • True, having three 7-inch round cake pans on hand might be a bit of a stretch, but if you think you will be baking a lot of layer cakes (especially those from this blog), I do recommend investing in them (I love Fat Daddio’s brand, but any good quality pan would work). They are just the right size to bake up three layers that are easily cut horizontally into 2. If you are eager to make this cake and don’t have access to those pans, you can bake in three 8-inch round pans, but will likely find the layers a bit too thin to cut into two, so you could stick with a 3-layer cake.
  • To make this cake recipe a lot less daunting, I recommend making a few of the components ahead of time. Make the Swiss buttercream up to 5 days ahead, or up to 2 months ahead if you freeze; make the ganache up to 5 days ahead; and make the macarons up to 2 days ahead.
  • Just a reminder that I will be back soon with a macaron-devoted post!

Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Strawberry & Lavender Buttermilk Cake

lavcake-1

Happy May to you!

Before I chat about this springy cake, I want to say thank you so much for all of your enthusiasm and kind words about my Sweetapolita cookbook news. Between twitter, facebook and blog comments, I felt some serious baking-book-love and support! I’m so excited to share more of those details along the way. A book filled with all new, inspired cakes and confections–it’s kind of, sort of, totally and utterly my dream come true.

So, it’s been a busy few weeks around here (and quiet on the blog–sorry!). I’ve started working on the book, of course, and I also managed to sneak in a much-needed trip to San Francisco, where I was thrilled to connect with my friend, Shauna (and her gorgeous newborn baby boy), for an afternoon of sweets and girl-talk. After two and a half years of blogging, this was actually my first-ever virtual friend meet-up, but I knew it would be as though I’d known her forever. And it was. She’s just as funny, warm and all-around-awesome as I expected. (And she has amazing taste in bakeries.) We spent most of our time in a cozy window seat at the lovely new (and highly celebrated) b.patisserie, talking blogs, babies and books over the most incredible kouign amann, fancy vanilla cake, cremeux, and sugar brioche tart. (And yes, that is 4:2 dessert to girl ratio–we don’t mess around.) We topped off the visit with a trip to Miette, where I bought an array of the most delightful sweets for, you know, later.

After an amazing (and fattening) journey to SF, I returned home just in time to get working on the festivities and cake for our little cakelet Reese’s 6th birthday. Now, millions of people might say that a dozen 4-6 year old princesses in one tiny room armed with paintbrushes and fueled with cake might be pure, unthinkable craziness . . . and they’d be exactly right. But we made it. Nah, it wasn’t so scary and besides, what’s a little chaos, when your child has “the best birthday ever?”

So now that we’re back to “normal,” I was able to bake a sweet and simple cake that was completely inspired by the joy that is spring. It’s actually more of a summer cake, but where there is spring . . .

Lavender & Strawberry Buttermilk Cake via Sweetapolita

The cake is a super-moist vanilla buttermilk cake, filled with a light-as-air vanilla whipped cream filling and fresh strawberry & lavender compote, and frosted in a creamy, sweet lavender frosting (the same frosting I made for these). I did something I rarely do, which is top the cake with fresh flowers, but it felt right. (I’m no florist, so I kept it simple, but if you’ve got some florist wizardry in your blood, the possibilities are endless for topping a cake with fresh flowers.)

Lavender & Strawberry Buttermilk Cake via Sweetapolita

The cake itself is a very slight adaptation of this cake, but I made a few changes to the mixing technique after reading more about using cold butter in my preferred two-stage mixing method on baking911. Gradually adding cold (they have to be cold) pieces of butter to the dry ingredient mixture and letting it mix long enough to become a cornmeal consistency before adding the wet ingredients, seems to create an even lighter, fluffier cake. Loved this cake.

I went with a whipped cream filling because, aside from being one of my favourites, it’s ideal when your frosting on the cake is very sweet, as with this lavender frosting. And who doesn’t love whipped cream and strawberries? So essentially this cake is sort of a frosted version of lavender & strawberry shortcake. Infusing lavender into the strawberries and frosting gives it a strangely addictive and unexpected flavour, and if you’re not sure about lavender in your baked goods, just know I wouldn’t steer you wrong. If you know you don’t like the subtle taste that lavender brings to a dessert, you could simply omit it completely from both the compote and frosting. (Oh, but it’s so good.)

Either way, it’s sweet, fluffy, creamy, fruity burst of summer.

Strawberry-Lavender Buttermilk Cake

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

Serving Size: 10-12

3 layers of moist, fluffy buttermilk cake filled with vanilla whipped cream & strawberry-lavender compote, and frosted with creamy, whipped lavender frosting.

Ingredients

    For the Buttermilk Cake:
  • 4 whole eggs, room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cups (297 ml) buttermilk, shaken
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract OR Princess Bakery Emulsion
  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour, sifted
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon (17 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small even pieces
  • For the Strawberry-Lavender Compote:
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Vanilla Whipped Cream Filling:
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) cold water
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) unflavoured gelatin (such as Knox brand)
  • 1-3/4 cups (420 ml) whipping cream (35-37% fat), cold, divided
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) icing/confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Whipped Lavender Frosting:
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender
  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons (375 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 4 cups (500 g) icing/confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Few drops purple gel colour
  • You will also need:
  • Medium or Large Pastry Bag fitted with plain round tip (a resealable Ziploc bag will do in a pinch)
  • Small Offset Spatula

Instructions

    For the Buttermilk Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment round, butter the rounds and dust with flour.
  2. In a large measuring cup with a spout, lightly whisk the eggs, yolks, 1/4 cup of the buttermilk and the vanilla. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer set to low speed, add the cold butter one piece at a time, about 10 seconds apart. Continue mixing on low speed until all of the butter has been blended and there are no clumps. Mixture should have a fine crumbly, cornmeal-like texture.
  4. Add the remaining 1 cup buttermilk to these dry ingredients, and mix on medium speed for 4 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the egg mixture; once the mixture has been added, increase speed to medium and beat for 1 minute, but no more. Gently fold batter once or twice (but no more) to ensure the egg mixture has all been incorporated.
  5. Divide batter evenly among the 3 prepared pans (use a kitchen scale to ensure 3 even layers). Place two of the cake pans on a baking sheet and bake until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs but no batter, about 28 minutes. Repeat with the final layer. Let the layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then loosen sides with thin metal spatula or knife, and carefully turn out onto wire racks, peel of the paper liners, and let cool completely.
  6. For the Strawberry-Lavender Compote:
  7. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup of the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, lavender and salt until the berries start to break down, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
  8. Lower the heat and simmer until compote coats a spoon, about 15-20 minutes.
  9. Remove from heat and let cool down slightly. Using an immersion blender (carefully) and pulse a few times, or use a handheld masher. Stir in remaining fresh strawberries. Keep covered and chilled for up to 3 days. (Be sure it has completely chilled before using to fill cake.)
  10. For the Vanilla Whipped Cream Filling:
  11. In a small stainless steel bowl, place the cold water and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring 1/3 cup of the cream just to a simmer, then stir into the gelatin mixture until the gelatin has dissolved. Refrigerate, stirring frequently, until cool but not set, about 8 minutes. (Be careful to keep your eye on it, or you'll end up with Panna Cotta!)
  12. In a chilled stainless steel mixer bowl with a chilled whisk attachment, beat the remaining whipping cream, icing/confectioners' sugar, vanillla and salt until it thickens just slightly and soft peaks begin to form, about 1 minute. Very gradually add the gelatin mixture and continue beating until medium-firm peaks form (should be thick enough to spread). Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.
  13. For the Whipped Lavender Frosting:
  14. Add the lavender blossoms to 1/4 cup (59 ml) whole milk, cover, and refrigerate overnight (or at least several hours). Strain into clean bowl/glass.
  15. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  16. Add sifted icing sugar, vanilla, salt and lavender milk, and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy and fluffy. Tint with a few drops of purple gel colour.
  17. Assembly of the Strawberry-Lavender Buttermilk Cake:
  18. Trim any dark edges or crust from cake layers with a very sharp serrated knife. Place your first cake layer, face-up, onto a cake stand, plate or 8-inch round foil cake board. Fill your pastry bag with about 1-1/2 cups of the Whipped Vanilla Frosting and pipe a dam around the perimeter of the cake layer (this will keep our compote and Vanilla Whipped Cream Filling in place). Spread about 1 cup of the cream filling on top of the cake layer and spoon a few tablespoons of the compote and berries inside of the dam. Gently spread the filling using a small offset spatula.
  19. Repeat until you come to your final cake layer, which you will place face-down. If you find the cake too soft and unstable, put in refrigerator for a few moments to firm it up, then resume. If you see any spots where the compote is peeking through or starting to ooze out (ahh!), use your piping bag to squeeze more frosting over it, between the layers. Use your clean offset spatula to carefully smooth the frosting so it's flat against the cake.
  20. Cover the entire cake gently with plastic wrap (I like Press n' Seal), and then, once covered, use your hands to carefully ensure the cake is lined up straight and flattening any lumps or bumps of frosting. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  21. Once cake is stable and chilled, apply an even layer of lavender frosting to the entire cake, to seal in crumbs. Chill again until frosting is firm, about 30 minutes.
  22. Place cake plate/board with cake onto a turntable, if possible. Be sure your remaining frosting is smooth and fluffy, working it with a rubber spatula for a few moments. You can even warm in microwave for a few seconds to soften it up. Apply a final layer of frosting to the cake. Top with fresh non-toxic flowers, strawberries, or decoration of your choice.
  23. Keep cake refrigerated for up to 2 days, but serve at room temperature. Remove flowers before eating.

Notes

[buttermilk cake recipe adapted from the book Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes]

Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://sweetapolita.com/2013/05/strawberry-lavender-buttermilk-cake/

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • I used this Princess Bakery Flavor for the buttermilk cake, which is an amazing emulsion that gives the cake a vanilla-almond sort of flavour and doesn’t lose taste when baked. You can simply use vanilla if you can’t find this.
  • You can buy Culinary French Lavender online or or in gourmet food shops.
  • I use this MAC Knife for all of my cake layering and trimming. It’s super sharp and makes clean cake layers, ideal for building not-so-crumby layer cakes.
  • To achieve the lavender shade on this cake, I used 3:1 ratio Electric Purple and Violet. It will darken once it’s on the cake, so be careful to not over-tint.
  • For added richness, you can fold in 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese to the vanilla whipped cream filling (as the very last step).
  • You can bake the cake layers the day before needed, keeping them wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and at room temperature.
  • You can make the compote the day before needed, and keep it covered and refrigerated.
  • You’ll want to keep this cake in the fridge between servings for up to 2 days, but it’s best served at room temperature and day 1.
Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Strawberry Layer Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting

Strawberry Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

Well, hello there! I’m here, I’m here! Life got a little crazy for the past 2 weeks–cakes and beyond (beyond and beyond), but I’m so glad to be back and focused on my personal mission to never wear a bikini again share all of my favourite cakes and baked goods with you, one by one. Strawberry cake has been on my recent would-love-to-make-again list, because, well, I just love the old-fashioned taste of strawberry cake and strawberry frosting. I did recently (my birthday) make a strawberry Swiss buttercream to top a dark chocolate cake (here), but I was still craving double strawberry cake, and, dare I say, more sugary-but-satiny frosting. Then, it happened: I was officially inspired by a jelly bean. Yep, a tiny, little, harmless jelly bean. See, a few weeks ago, while doing some “candy research” for another project, I found the discovered the yummiest jelly beans ever created, and I’m not even a “jelly bean girl.”

I bought a bunch of Jelly Belly’s “Cold Stone Ice Cream Parlor Mix,” and these little things pack some serious ice cream flavour–I actually couldn’t even believe it. I think I may need to revisit the whole I’m-not-really-into-jelly-beans thing. This particular bunch I bought is a variety of ice cream related flavour combinations, including a pink one they call “Our Strawberry Blonde.” One little wee, pink jelly bean manages to pull together the flavours of strawberry ice cream, graham cracker pie crust, strawberries, caramel, and whipped cream . . . can you imagine? So, although I didn’t incorporate graham cracker pie crust or caramel (yet), I was inspired to create a sweet strawberry cake with an overall ice cream parlour taste.

Strawberry Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

For the cake, I went with a moist strawberry butter cake, frosted with whipped strawberry frosting that, for some inexplicable reason, tastes like strawberry ice cream (remember it in vanilla form, here?). I topped it with some whipped cream swirls, and, of course, the ice cream parlour jelly beans. I should say, though, that although I’m usually a bit more of a dessert purest, the cake recipe itself does use strawberry gelatin (yep, Jell-O) to boost the colour and flavour, in addition to the real strawberry puree. Although there are bakers out there that strive and succeed to use only puree and/or strawberry pieces to flavour the cake (and those recipes do look gorgeous), for some reason, I’m personally not offended by incorporating the gelatin. I was really close to going the purest route as well, but in this situation, I find the sweet strawberry flavour really reminiscent of my childhood, and I love it: I love that it’s pink, and I love the taste. Overall, it has a really ice cream parlour feel to me, and nothing bad ever comes from an ice cream parlour, does it?

On a sidenote, I get oodles of emails asking about slicing cakes, and how I get mine to slice “so perfectly,” so here are my thoughts on that–I’m not a cake-slicing expert, but I hope it helps in some way:

Tips for Cutting the Perfect Layer-Cake Slice:

1.  All Cakes are Not Created Equal: The first issue is the type of cake you’re slicing–some varieties simply slice and serve neater than others. I find that very moist, light cakes, such as the Fluffy Vanilla Cake, tend to want to fall not so perfectly when sliced (although, we won’t hold that against it, or other cakes like that, because they are so yummy and uniquely delicious). That being said, I find that if I refrigerate those cakes for an hour or so after frosting, it does tend to set them a bit. The only issue with that, is that typically refrigeration butter cakes can dry them out a touch. Chocolate cakes I have no problem slicing neatly at room temperature, but they are particularly easy to slice when they are refrigerated for a short time as well. The great news is that oil-based chocolate cakes stay so moist, even once refrigerated, so that’s a definite win-win.

2. The Right Stuff: Slicing a cake with a sharp, long, thin knife is key for me when slicing layer cakes. I use a large glass of hot water to dip the knife into and dry cloth to wipe clean between each cut. This makes a huge difference, I find.

3. Method to the Madness: I believe that the method you use to slice your cakes is really important. I press the tip of the knife gently into the centre of the cake once I’ve placed it where the slice will be cut, then slowly begin to slice the cake with the knife’s tip cutting the cake just slightly before the rest of the knife, so that it is the first part of the knife to hit the bottom of the slice/cake plate. I use one relatively clean cut, but never a sawing motion. Once the entire knife has reached the bottom of the slice and is touching the cake board/plate, I slowly remove the knife straight out towards me, never letting the bottom of the knife lift from bottom of slice. To remove the slice from the plate, I like to slide the flat side of the knife under the cut slice, so it is supporting the entire piece, and gently remove it so it is resting on the knife. Then I usually lay it flat on a plate to serve. For photos I do often place the slice upright, which works for many cakes–you can judge the likeliness of that once you pull out the first slice, and go from there.

4. Size Matters: This may go without saying, but you’ll find that the taller your cake, the more difficult slicing the perfect slice can be, but it’s definitely not impossible. You’ll likely notice that two-layer cake will cut much cleaner than a 4, 5, or 6+ layer cake. Even a 3-layer cake can give you trouble if it’s too fragile or if you’re not using the right knife or method. If you follow steps 1-3, though, you will likely find that you can make it work.

5. Let Them Eat Cake: Just remember that my efforts to achieve super-neat slices of cake is mostly because I want to photograph a cake in its loveliest possible moment. When I serve cake at home, it’s not always neat and tidy because I insist on serving it as fresh and soft as possible. If it means a yummer-but-messy cake, I recommend just doing whatever it takes to get the cake to your guest in its freshest, tastiest form–even if it is a little messy. If you follow the above steps, really, it shouldn’t be sloppy, but some just may be cleaner cut than others.

I hope this helps!

Strawberry Layer Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting

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

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 1-3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 (85 g) package strawberry flavored gelatin (such as Jell-O)
  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 eggs (room temperature)
  • 3 cups (300 g) sifted cake & pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) strawberry puree made from frozen strawberries (puree itself should be closer to room temp, not frozen or icy)
  • For the Frosting:
  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons (375 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 4 cups sifted (500 g) confectioners' sugar (icing, powdered), sifted
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) milk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon (7.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) strawberry puree made from frozen strawberries (if you want the frosting seed-free, you can put the puree through a sieve before adding to frosting)

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. If you're making your own strawberry puree, remove frozen strawberries (about 2 handfuls) from freezer and place in a single layer in a flat dish to thaw slightly. Place into food processor and puree the strawberries until smooth. Stir to ensure it is nice and smooth and not icy. Measure out 1/4 cup for cake and 3 tablespoons for frosting, and freeze the remaining puree for another use.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter, line with parchment, and flour three round 8-inch pans, tapping out the excess. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the milk, strawberry puree, and the vanilla. Set aside. Sift and whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl, and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar, gelatin, and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with spatula.
  6. Add the wet & dry ingredients to the creamed mixture by alternating--beginning and ending with dry ingredients and mixing just enough after each addition to incorporate, but not over-mix.
  7. Divide the batter in three, spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh each pan filled with batter, to ensure 3 even layers. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. Be so careful to not over-bake. Check cakes 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.
  8. 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 eaten day one.
  9. For the Frosting:
  10. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use "4" on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  11. Add remaining ingredients, except strawberry puree, and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy and fluffy. Add strawberry puree (can be cool, but not frozen or icy) and mix until incorporated.
  12. Assembly of the Strawberry Layer Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting:
  13. Place a cake layer face-up on cake plate or 8" round thin cake board. Place 1 cup of frosting on top, and spread evenly with a small offset palette knife.
  14. Repeat until you come to final layer and place final layer, face-down. Place a generous scoop of frosting on top, spreading evenly with a small offset palette knife and working your way down the sides until you have a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake. Use a bench scraper to achieve very smooth sides. Chill until set, about 30 minutes.
  15. Remove from refrigerator and cover with a final layer of frosting. Finish with any decorations of choice, or frosting borders.

Notes

*I used stabilized whipped cream (1 cup whipping cream whipped with 1/4 tsp unflavoured gelatin) and Jelly Belly's "Our Strawberry Blonde" jelly beans (combines the flavour strawberry ice cream, graham cracker pie crust, strawberries, caramel, and whipped cream...um, yummy!)

**A little tip to help make evenly spaced whipped cream (or other decoration) touches: Take a cake pan the same size and shape as your cake, trace onto a piece of parchment paper and cut it out. Fold it in 1/2, then again, and once more for 8 servings. Unfold, and gently place onto top of chilled cake, and using a toothpick make a little mark in the center of each "slice," where the whipped cream will go. Remove paper and keep for next time. Pipe your whipped cream over of each mark.

Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://sweetapolita.com/2011/08/strawberry-layer-cake-with-whipped-strawberry-frosting/

[cake layer recipe adapted from allrecipes.com]

Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Six-Layer Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake

Six-Layer Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake via Sweetapolita

Well, since my last post, I aged a year . . . yes, a year! I celebrated my birthday this past weekend, and, although we kept it cozy here at home, I couldn’t resist baking two different cakes. The truth is, I couldn’t decide what to bake, and since it was just going to be my little family, and I wanted to spend some time relaxing,  I didn’t want to get too fancy or crazy, but I still couldn’t decide what to make. Sadly (sort of), I can’t blog about the first cake I made because we (and by “we” I mean “I”) ate most of it and it was quickly out of the running to be photographed. If you’re curious what it was, I found the recipe here. It was delicious and intense in its chocolate-ness, and it had been on my mind for months. It was a perfect opportunity to give it a try! This 6-Layer Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake was the second cake I made, and I made it because I wanted to bake a different version of the one-bowl dark chocolate cake I normally use, and I was craving Strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream. It’s really a simple combination, but I love the deep, dark chocolate cake paired with the light, creamy strawberry buttercream. The strawberry version of the buttercream is simply a matter of adding strawberry puree or fresh strawberries to your vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream. I don’t make this version as much I should, actually, and it gave me a much-needed hit of strawberry and chocolate!

I couldn’t resist splitting the 3 layers into 6, since it’s a fast and easy way to create some drama in an otherwise classic birthday cake, and of course it’s a chance to include that much more Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I don’t think I could do this with a sugary frosting, as it would just be too much sweet (and, yes, I really do think there’s such as thing!), but it works well with this cloud-like, and not-too-sweet buttercream. As with the Rich Chocolate Cake recipe I use so often, this is a simple one-bowl recipe that offers a dark, super moist, and chocolate-y cake made with oil and my favourite extra dark cocoa powder: Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark. I love the intensity of this cocoa powder, both in its flavour and colour, and it really comes through in this cake. You may notice that I can’t stop baking with it!

Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Cake via Sweetapolita

I topped the cake with a dark and shiny (and simple) glaze, made with my favourite Callebaut Belgian bittersweet dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) callets, which also have a touch of real vanilla in them, and butter melted over a pot of simmering water. A quick and yummy way to add another hit of chocolate to the cake. I love this chocolate! I use it for brownies, ganache, buttercream, and more. It comes in callet form (like chips), which is so easy to melt without having to chop from a huge block. If you’re not a huge fan of such dark chocolate, you can always use semisweet, or in some cases milk chocolate. I use milk chocolate sparingly in baking because I find it so sweet, but there is definitely a time and a place for it–especially when it’s Belgian milk chocolate. In any case, I tend to use the extra dark variety in most cases.

For those of you who have requested a few more caking-baking tips, I’ve included a few below, and you can also refer to one of my earlier posts on the subject, 50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes.

Here is the recipe for all of the components of this cake–use them all, or any of them on their own, or mixed and matched with some of your other favourite recipes!

Six-Layer Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake

Yield: One 6-layer, 6-inch round cake

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 1-1/2 cups (180 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/3 cups (275 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) dark cocoa powder
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons (6 g) baking soda
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons (6 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 140 ml (5 liquid oz) buttermilk
  • 130 ml (4.5 liquid oz) espresso or strong, hot brewed coffee
  • 75 ml vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  • 5 large, fresh egg whites (150 g)
  • 1-1/4 cups (250 g) sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks)(340 g) butter, cut into cubes and cool, but not cold
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml)(or to taste) strawberry puree OR a handful (about 1 cup, or more to taste) of fresh, washed, and dried strawberries, chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • few drops pink food colouring (optional)
  • For the Glaze:
  • 4 oz (115 g) high quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or callets
  • 1/3 cup (76 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F (180°C). Prepare three 6-inch round cake pans with butter, parchment paper rounds, and flour or cocoa powder. Tap out excess.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients and with paddle attachment on mixer, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer) and pour into prepared pans. If possible, use digital kitchen scale and weigh pans for even layers. Batter will be liquidy.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Cakes are done when toothpick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs, about 30 minutes total. Try not to over-bake.
  5. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes then gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
  6. For the Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  7. If using strawberry puree, place a handful of frozen strawberries in a food processor, and process until a smooth puree. Measure approximately 1/4 cup and set aside (you may want to add more puree to taste).
  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. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to 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 so). *Don't begin adding butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral, and not warm.
  10. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one 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). *If mixture is too runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes and continue mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
  11. Add strawberry puree to taste or the finely chopped strawberries, and blend until combined. Add small amount of pink food colouring, if desired.
  12. For the Glaze:
  13. Place the chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir the mixture using a rubber spatula until melted and smooth. *Be careful to not get even a droplet of water into your bowl of chocolate and butter.
  14. Assembly of the Six-Layer Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake
  15. Slice the 1st cake layer in half horizontally, using a large serrated knife and place cut side up on your cake board, pedestal, or plate.
  16. Using a small offset palette knife, spread approximately 1/2 cup of buttercream evenly on the top.
  17. Repeat this with remaining cake layers, until you come to the final layer, which you will place face-down on the top of the cake.
  18. Place cake on a turntable (if possible), and using a small offset palette knife for the top of the cake, and medium straight palette knife for the sides, cover the cake in a thin layer of buttercream to seal in crumbs. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or more). *This does not need to be perfect, as that will come with the top "coat" of buttercream.
  19. Repeat the previous step and for best results, use bench scraper held at 90° against the side of the cake, slowly turning the turntable and keeping your hand steady--let the turntable do the work. Clean up edges with your small offset palette knife.
  20. Chill cake.
  21. If glazing the cake, make the glaze and set aside for a few moments to cool a bit. Pour glaze over chilled cake, smoothing the top with a clean small offset palette knife.
  22. Chill again to set.
  23. *Bring to room temperature before serving--about 2+ hours. Never serve Swiss Meringue Buttercream until it is soft and room temperature.
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://sweetapolita.com/2011/07/6-layer-dark-chocolate-strawberry-buttercream-cake/

For more about making Swiss Meringue Buttercream (and troubleshooting), you may enjoy reading these previous posts: Swiss Meringue Buttercream Demystyfied and Inside-Out Neapolitan Cupcakes & More About Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

A Few More Steps to Baking/Making Better Cakes

1. I always use a kitchen scale to weigh my ingredients. They’re small, light, and don’t have to be fancy or expensive; here is what I use: Salter 1020 Aquatronic Electronic Kitchen Scale. It’s just a great habit to get into. You wouldn’t believe the difference in what one person may scoop as a cup of flour, versus another, and weighing it to the exact gram/oz is your safest bet. Having too much flour can sure dry out a cake in a hurry, just as too little will throw it off kilter. I really believe that using a scale is one of the habits that made me a much better baker, and definitely more consistent. Trust me! I even use mine to weigh my coffee grinds for a perfect pot, my serving portions (when I’m eating clean), homemade burgers, and when dividing batches of pizza dough, etc.

2. You may notice that I bake “layer by layer,” so rather than baking a higher cake and slicing layers for a standard 3-layer cake, I bake 3 more shallow layers in 2″ high pans. This way, the cakes seem to come out more moist, with no “doming,” and ready to be frosted. It may seem an inconvenience at first, because you have to buy 3 cake pans in each diameter, but you get used to it quickly, and it’s so worth it. You also save the time trying to slice even layers, unless of course you are turning 3 layers into 6. But, then again, that’s worth it too!

3. Never open the oven before 20 minutes, or you could disrupt the baking process. Always wait 20 minutes, and then, if you’re baking 3 cake layers at a time, rotate the pans and then continue baking.

4. There are a few tools that I mention in almost every post, and since I’ve been receiving many emails asking more about the cake baking/decorating essentials, I thought I would take this chance to create a list of some of my favourite things in the kitchen, and things that I believe really make a difference:

I hope that helps those of you who were curious! See you soon with another baked treat.

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.

Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://sweetapolita.com/2011/07/inside-out-neapolitan-cupcakes-more-about-swiss-meringue-buttercream/

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: