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Neapolitan Cake

Neapolitan Cake | browneyedbaker.com #recipe

Let’s talk neapolitan ice cream. Yay or nay? I was seriously terrified of neapolitan ice cream when I was a kid. I would only entertain vanilla or chocolate as possible ice cream options, so if I was at a birthday party and someone whipped out a carton of neapolitan, I had a legit meltdown. You could scoop me the chocolate and/or vanilla, but oh my goodness, if you got even a speck of strawberry into my ice cream, I lost my mind. I don’t know why I was so opposed to strawberry; I’ve always loved strawberries! However, something about strawberry ice cream just didn’t seem right to my little mind.

Of course, I eventually got over it (fresh strawberry ice cream is now one of my favorites!). So over it, in fact, that I made an entire cake based on the neapolitan flavors.

Neapolitan Cake | browneyedbaker.com #recipe

To say that this cake was a labor of love is a massive understatement. I had seen some neapolitan cakes online, but they all consisted of cake from a box mix, and freezing the other half, neither of which I wanted to do. So, off to create single-layer cakes for each flavor. Trust me when I tell you that this was easier said that done. Over the course of three days, I must have made 9 or 10 different cakes, trying to get them just right.

The good news? It finally happened, and if you like strawberry, chocolate and vanilla, you are going to go bonkers over this cake. I thought that the flavors would be perfect for a fancy-pants Mother’s Day cake, and decided it needed some fancy-pants frosting work, as well.

Neapolitan Cake | browneyedbaker.com #recipe

I remembered seeing a ruffle cake online and definitely felt that a frilly finish was perfect for Mother’s Day. I mirrored the cake layers with the frosting on the outside, going with strawberry, then chocolate, then vanilla. It makes for a super impressive cake and is a lot less difficult than I imagined (albeit a bit time consuming).

I describe in the instructions below how to achieve this look, but I also had my Chief Culinary Consultant take a short video of me while I was frosting the cake to give you a visual:

Neapolitan Cake | browneyedbaker.com #recipe

I’m so glad that I’ve grown up enough to appreciate the combination of strawberry, chocolate and vanilla.

We’ll just ignore all of my other weird food tendencies ;-)

Neapolitan Cake | browneyedbaker.com #recipe

One year ago: Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Two years ago: Strawberry Cream Cheese Crumble Tart
Four years ago: Toffee Pretzel Bark

Neapolitan Cake

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours

Inspired by neapolitan ice cream, layers of strawberry, chocolate and vanilla cake, frosted with the same flavors using a ruffle design.

Ingredients:

For the Strawberry Cake Layer:
⅓ cup whole milk
⅓ cup strawberry jam
3 egg whites, at room temperature
½ teaspoon strawberry extract (optional)
4¾ ounces (approximately 1¼ cups) all-purpose flour
6 ounces granulated sugar (approximately ⅔ cup)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes
Red or pink food coloring (optional)

For the Chocolate Cake Layer:
1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
½ cup whole milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup boiling water

For the White Cake Layer:
½ cup whole milk, at room temperature
3 egg whites, at room temperature
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 tablespoons cups cake flour
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into small cubes

For the Vanilla Frosting:
1½ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
3¾ cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream
4½ tablespoons vanilla extract

For the Strawberry Frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons strawberry jam
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon strawberry extract (optional)
Red food coloring

For the Chocolate Frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Directions:

1. Make the Strawberry Cake Layer: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease one 8-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with a round of parchment paper, grease the parchment, then flour the inside of the pan, tapping out excess; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, jam, eggs and extract (if using); set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt on low speed to combine. With the mixer still on low speed, add the butter and combine until the mixture resembles coarse sand, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add two-thirds of the milk mixture to the flour mixture and beat at medium speed for 1½ minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining milk mixture and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl again and beat on high for another 20 seconds. With the mixer on low add a few drops of food coloring until the desired color is reached (I used 8 drops of red food coloring.)

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely..

5. Make the Chocolate Cake Layer: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease one 8-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with a round of parchment paper, grease the parchment, then flour the inside of the pan, tapping out excess; set aside.

6. Whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add the egg, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the boiling water and mix on medium-low speed until combined (batter will be thin). Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

8. Make the White Cake Layer: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease one 8-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with a round of parchment paper, grease the parchment, then flour the inside of the pan, tapping out excess; set aside.

9. Whisk together the milk, egg whites and vanilla extract in a medium bowl; set aside.

10. Mix the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Add the butter and continue beating on low until the mixture resembles coarse sand, 1 to 2 minutes.

11. Add all but ¼ cup of the milk mixture to flour mixture and beat at medium speed for 1½ minutes. Add the remaining milk mixture and beat for an additional minute.

12. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 27 to 35 minutes. Cool for 20 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

13. Make the Vanilla Frosting: Using the wire whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and add the vanilla, mixing until incorporated. Whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.

14. Make the Strawberry Frosting: Using the wire whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, mix in the strawberry jam, heavy cream, vanilla extract and strawberry extract (if using), then increase the speed to medium-high and whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.

15. Make the Chocolate Frosting: Using the wire whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and add the heavy cream and vanilla, mixing until incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed to incorporate all of the chocolate.

16. Assemble the Cake: Place the strawberry cake layer on a serving plate and spread with about ½ cup of the strawberry frosting. Top with the chocolate cake layer and spread with ½ cup of the chocolate frosting. Top with the white cake layer and apply a crumb coat to the entire cake. Refrigerate until the crumb coat has set, about 30 minutes.

17. Frost the Cake: Fit three separate pastry bags with a #103 decorating tip. Fill each bag separately with the strawberry, chocolate and vanilla frosting. Starting with the strawberry frosting, hold the bag vertically, with the tip perpendicular to cake; use a swift back-and-forth motion 1-inch wide to make the ruffle, moving up the side of the cake as you go, going up about one-third of the way up the cake. Continue around the entire cake, then repeat with the chocolate, then the vanilla. Use the same technique to make a ruffle design on the top of the cake.

18. The cake can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 4 days. It can also be frozen, with slices wrapped individually, for up to 1 month.

(Chocolate Cake adapted from Hershey's;
White Cake adapted from i am baker;
Strawberry Cake adapted from The Toasted Sprinkle;
All frosting recipes from Brown Eyed Baker);
Ruffle frosting design from Martha Stewart

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59 Responses to “Neapolitan Cake”

  1. Ami@naivecookcooks on May 8, 2014 at 12:36 am

    Wow, this cake looks like lot of work but so gorgeous!! Hats off to you girl!

    Reply

  2. Karen @ The Food Charlatan on May 8, 2014 at 2:44 am

    It’s beautiful Michelle! I was exactly the same as a kid, except I was even worse, all I wanted was the chocolate. I still maintain that fake strawberry ice cream is pretty subpar. But I love this cake version! Have fun eating your 9 or 10 reject layers! :)

    Reply

  3. Ala on May 8, 2014 at 3:26 am

    Love this! So as kids….yeah, okay trauma as kids. My parents taught us growing up not that it was Neapolitan ice cream, but NAPOLEAN ice cream. So whenever we’d go to order this, we’d say, “I’ll have the Napoleon ice cream please!” This stayed cute until about high school (sort of) or college (not really), at which point one of my friends *finally* pointed out to me my mistake. And here I am, silently yearning for a Neapolitan ice cream sandwich but not daring to make a peep lest I slip into my Waterlooean ways. This looks like an awesome cake I could make at home without Waterlooing though!

    Reply

  4. Nazia @ This Baker Girl Blogs on May 8, 2014 at 4:46 am

    Just beautiful!

    Reply

  5. Averie @ Averie Cooks on May 8, 2014 at 6:03 am

    Wow this is definitely your most beautiful cake ever! What a showpiece and masterpiece! Neopolitan flavors sound so good to me right now. And your icing work is just perfect. So impressed and pinned a few times!

    Reply

  6. Mir on May 8, 2014 at 6:04 am

    This is gorgeous. My mouth literally dropped open when I saw the piping and then the matching inside cake! You deserve so much credit for this work of art!

    Reply

  7. Librarian Lavender on May 8, 2014 at 6:16 am

    What a fantastic cake! It looks divine! I love the colors!

    Reply

  8. Diana on May 8, 2014 at 6:55 am

    This is sooo pretty!! I def. need to try making this!

    Reply

  9. SusieQ on May 8, 2014 at 6:56 am

    I have always liked Neapolitan, it’s spumoni that freaks me out.
    Beautiful cake

    Reply

  10. bill @thewoksoflife on May 8, 2014 at 6:56 am

    This is amazing and probably not something I would attempt but then again, I have daughters and my birthday is coming up. I do bake enough to know that this recipe must be delicious, nice job!

    Reply

  11. lori.russo on May 8, 2014 at 7:21 am

    This is so impressive! You have really outdone yourself this time! I wish I could crawl through the monitor and get some. Thanks for all your hard work and perserverance. I wasn’t much of a strawberry icecream fan as a kid but now…there’s not much I wouldn’t eat!!!!

    Reply

  12. Reshana on May 8, 2014 at 7:25 am

    WOW!!!! Absolutely Stunning Michelle!!!! The icing looks gorgeous! Well done :)

    Reply

  13. joan trueblood on May 8, 2014 at 7:40 am

    Yowza! With 2+ # of butter in this baby, you just know it’s going to taste good! This is going right on my Cake board on Pinterest. I was kind of “meh” about Neopolitan as a kid. Like you, I didn’t much like the strawberry. I might just try using raspberry for the cake, though, just because I already have that extract, and the link that you left for the strawberry extract shows it costing something like $28.

    Reply

  14. Sally on May 8, 2014 at 7:44 am

    Gorgeous, and I”d enjoy eating a piece(once someone had cut it), but I’d never consider making it.

    Reply

  15. Heather on May 8, 2014 at 8:05 am

    I think I just found my birthday cake! I am normally a cupcake baker (and if I can throw alcohol in them, even better! HA), but I think I may give this a whirl! :) Just wish I could figure out how to layer cupcakes and turn these into cupcakes ;) But, yeah… I always get into days-long projects for my birthday creations! So, this fits the bill…

    Reply

    • Angela on May 8th, 2014 at 9:23 am

      Just layer a spoonful of each batter into each cupcake paper and bake them together. Then do a combined swirly frosting with all three flavors, like in this tutorial: http://www.ourbestbites.com/2011/08/tutorial-how-to-swirl-colored-icing-for-cupcakes/

      Reply

      • Heather on May 12th, 2014 at 2:24 pm

        Oooh!! Thanks!!! :)

        Reply

      • Heather M on June 25th, 2014 at 9:43 am

        So I made my birthday cupcakes last night! They turned out well… A couple of notes: 1- The Chocolate layer must go on the bottom! The consistency of the batter made it sink anyway. 2 – There may be a smidge too much vanilla in the vanilla frosting as it turned brown and I had to add more “white” (granted, I started with a half recipe, but I DID half all the ingredients) 3- I got 46 3-layer cupcakes (using one Pampered Chef small scoop of each) and 2 more 2-layer (vanilla and strawberry; 1 scoop each of the PC medium scoop); each cake cup came out of the oven filled exactly to the top of the liner, so I prob could have added more, I just didn’t have another method of being consistent 4- I REALLY need to learn how to use a piping bag LOL My Easy Accent Decorator does the job, it’s just not as crisp and clean as I envision my creations, though I’m sure that also has to do with a softer frosting)

        Reply

      • Heather M on June 25th, 2014 at 9:45 am

        Oh… and the instructions for the Vanilla Frosting leave out the heavy cream– I just put it in at the same moment as the other frostings’ instructions said…

        Reply

  16. Kim Q on May 8, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Holy CRAP, does that look good! But unfortunately for me, it also looks a bit too fussy. But should someone want to make me that cake, I would surely inhale it!

    Reply

  17. Wendy B on May 8, 2014 at 8:26 am

    So beautiful!!! What a lovely cake!

    Reply

  18. Beth Grussing on May 8, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Gorgeous cake, hilarious post. I was exactly the same way as a kid….well, who am I kidding, I still feel that way about Neapolitan ice cream and I’m 37!
    I’m going to give this cake a try and see if it cures me of my fear of the trifecta…chocolate, vanilla and strawberry!

    Reply

  19. Lynne on May 8, 2014 at 8:46 am

    Hi Michelle – hope you are enjoying your vacation. I bet the sea and sand are just wonderful right now – it’s still so chilly in the northeast! This cake is so beautiful, obviously a labor of love. It looks like a stretch goal for some, but it’s nice to have one of those every once in a while.

    Reply

  20. Laura @ Laura's Culinary Adventures on May 8, 2014 at 8:56 am

    I wasn’t a fan of neopolitan ice cream as a kid either. This cake is so fancy!

    Reply

  21. Katie on May 8, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Stunning cake! Looks absolutely delicious!

    Reply

  22. Stacy on May 8, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve always wanted to tackle a neopolitan cake, and this is inspiring!

    Reply

  23. denise on May 8, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Hi Michele, you out did yourself again! what tip did you use for you ruffles?
    thanks for sharing as always.

    Reply

    • Michelle on May 12th, 2014 at 10:56 am

      Hi Denise, Tip #103 (it’s in step #17 above).

      Reply

  24. Avra-Sha Faohla on May 8, 2014 at 11:43 am

    Wow!! That first picture . . . I’ve never seen a ruffled cake before. That’s probably the most dramatic cake I’ve ever laid eyes on. Wow.

    Reply

  25. Samira on May 8, 2014 at 11:52 am

    AMAZING CAKE!!! I LOVED!!!!

    Reply

  26. iscribbler on May 8, 2014 at 11:55 am

    What a gorgeous cake! I love the layers – even the icing inside is layered! Truly a worthy cake of a great occasion. Fantastic work and while I don’t think I could manage the ruffles, I love your strawberry cake recipe and want to give it a try! Thank you for sharing.

    Reply

  27. Shiran @ Pretty. Simple. Sweet. on May 8, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    This cake looks gorgeous! You did a fabulous job with the frosting! It looks perfect.

    Reply

  28. Kelly - LEFT SIDE OF THE TABLE on May 8, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    What a beautiful cake!! The layers of flavors looks so wonderful, and I particularly love the frosting design! I was always weirded out by Neapolitan too! Hated the strawberry layer! Love strawberries but hate it in ice cream! This cake seems like quite a process, I can’t imagine making so many of them in only 3 days! But looks like it was worth it, and you have a winning recipe :D

    Reply

  29. Alison on May 8, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    First–wow, wow, wow!! What a gorgeous cake! The colors, the ruffles–really amazing!! Truly a masterpiece!!
    Second–thank you for posting a recipe for a single layer strawberry cake! I am going to make cake pops for my kiddo’s school birthday celebration and have been desperately seeking a good strawberry cake recipe, not too big, for the occasion. This should fit the bill perfectly. Thank you!! :)

    Reply

  30. Phi @ The Sweetphi Blog on May 8, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    I am at a loss for words to express how much I not only want to try a make this amazingly beautiful cake, but how much I just want a big slice, like asap :)

    Reply

  31. My Linh on May 8, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    “Neapolitan ice cream. Yay or nay?” That question should be illegal! This looks so delicious ^^ Beautiful icing and beautiful pictures too. Great job :)

    Reply

  32. Laura (Tutti Dolci) on May 8, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    Such a beautiful cake, your layers are perfect!

    Reply

  33. Rosemary S on May 8, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Michelle that just looks so yummy you are great this is a lovely cake creation well thanks for sharing the recipe, the piping wow can see my self with a slice on Mother’s Day.

    Reply

  34. Martha in KS on May 8, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Well done – that’s one gorgeous cake! Above my skill level.

    Reply

  35. jenna @ just j.faye on May 8, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Blast from the past! I haven’t thought about Neapolitan ice cream in forever. Thanks for bringing it back. This cake is beautiful.

    Reply

  36. Tracy | Pale Yellow on May 8, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    Gorgeous! Love the ruffle video, so helpful.

    Reply

  37. Sues on May 8, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    This is an amazingly beautiful cake!! Such the perfect idea :)

    Reply

  38. The vegan 8 on May 8, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    This is stunningly beautiful!! Way too much work for me, I’m too lazy to do all those steps , haha, but I’m sure impressed with it’s beauty!!! Great job!

    Reply

  39. Angelyn @ Everyday Desserts on May 9, 2014 at 2:00 am

    Wow, the cake is stunning! Your photos are flawless – love this post!!

    Reply

  40. Kathy@Playin with my Food on May 9, 2014 at 7:18 am

    Impressive! I may just have to try this for a special occasion.

    Reply

  41. marcie on May 9, 2014 at 10:43 am

    I love the neapolitan flavor combination, and this cake looks so beautiful! It looks like it must’ve taken hours just to decorate — you did such a great job!

    Reply

  42. Steph in Lex on May 9, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    So pretty! As far as Neapolitan ice cream, for me, nay. I don’t like mixing my flavors like that. My husband has been trying to get me to agree to get Neapolitan ice cream for years but I’m always resistant and, since he’s opposed to buying more than one carton at a time, he misses out.

    Reply

  43. Laura Dembowski on May 10, 2014 at 8:18 am

    Such a beautiful cake, Michelle! Sometimes complicated desserts like this are the best – fun to make and such a treat to eat.

    Reply

  44. Amy on May 10, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    As soon as I saw this cake, I knew I had to make it for myself for Mother’s Day. Yes, I’m that kind of person – don’t want to leave my Mother’s day dessert to chance! Anyway, I made the cake last night with the plan of finishing it today. However, while the strawberry layer turned out perfect the first time around, both the vanilla and chocolate layers were disasters! They overflowed the 9 inch pans baked them in and ended up with huge craters in the middle. So I tried again today. The chocolate layer cratered again, but I just cut and fitted the two chocolate layers together so they’d look like the other two. The vanilla turned out fine, and I think it’s because I used 1 1/2 t baking powder instead of 2 as it called for. I’m at a high elevation and, while I never make adjustments (that’s just how I roll), apparently some were needed in this case. The frosting is delicious and since I’ve tasted cake scraps from my multiple layer attempts, I know the finished product is going to be fantastic! The frosting wasn’t too hard – at first I was doubtful that mine would look as nice as yours, but it really came together nicely.

    Bottom line: I can’t wait to eat this tomorrow, it looks amazing, and if you’re at higher altitude, you might want to adjust the leavening.

    Reply

    • Amy on May 10th, 2014 at 5:10 pm

      I should add that I used fresh strawberries instead of jam for both the cake and the frosting – just blended them up with a bit of sugar. No extract. I haven’t tasted the strawberry cake layer yet (since it worked the first time :) but the frosting was really good – much more fresh strawberry flavor than I expected (I might have used close to 4 T of puree).

      Reply

  45. Cheryll on May 10, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    Looks very delicious! I like Neapolitan but like the vanilla and strawberry better.

    Reply

  46. Rebecca on May 11, 2014 at 1:22 am

    the frosting……. cue gasp. This is a mightly effort and now i’m drooling.
    looks great :)
    http://www.dancingthroughsunday.typepad.com

    Reply

  47. Jaclyn on May 11, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    GORGEOUS cake! Perfect job frosting it!

    Reply

  48. Norma on May 11, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    OMG

    Reply

  49. Arlene on May 15, 2014 at 7:46 am

    Made this cake for Mother’s Day. It was wonderful! Will keep this one to pass down to the generations! Thanks for posting it!

    Reply

  50. Erik on May 26, 2014 at 12:10 am

    I made this cake this weekend for a family dinner along with Neapolitan ice cream (also used your recipes). Turned out great and were a big hit. I did have a little denser white cake, but the other two worked out perfectly). Could the density have come from too soft of butter. Your directions say, soft, but still slightly cool. I may have had room temp soft. Is it possible that’s my culprit? Otherwise I’m not sure what I did wrong.

    Reply

    • Michelle on May 26th, 2014 at 11:50 am

      Hi Erik, I’m so happy you enjoyed this cake! The butter may have done it, but I find white cake to be completely finicky (not my favorite thing to bake!).

      Reply

  51. Amelie on July 11, 2014 at 12:55 am

    Can I do the strawberry cake with raspberries?

    Reply

    • Michelle on July 14th, 2014 at 12:17 pm

      Hi Amelie, Yes, just use raspberry jam. Enjoy!

      Reply

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