I cannot believe this is the first time I made a layer cake this year. The funny thing is I didn’t even notice! To make up for lost time I’ve decided to make a Neapolitan Layer Cake, which is basically a white cake, a strawberry cake, and a chocolate cake stacked into a single colourfully delicious layer cake! These cakes are not coloured to achieve that multi-hued effect like the rainbow cakes or ombre cakes are, but they are literally cakes that represent their own distinct flavours.
My first encounter with neapolitan anything was when I was a kid and banana splits were all the rage. I adored the way those perfectly scooped rounds of ice cream looked in their multi-coloured glory, sitting peacefully between those boat-like sliced bananas. Peacefully, that is until you hand me a spoon… Dun dun dun!
Which reminds me, it must be over 10 years since I’ve eaten a banana split!
Anyway, I think what gives this Neapolitan Layer Cake its charm– aside from the obvious fact that it’s neat to look at– is that it’s also a treat to eat! You’ve got three of the most popular flavours in the world inside one single dessert, so it’s like hitting three cravings with one cake right?
Each layer of this cake can stand well on its own, but put together they make a pretty set. When I eat this, I don’t typically eat the three flavours in one bite, but I really like how each layer has a touch of the Salted Butter Frosting and the Strawberry Jam I decided to put in between.
It cuts a sweet strawberry tang into the cake, and the better brand of jam you use the better the flavour will be. You can use blueberry or raspberry jam if that’s more your thing, but I have such a strong connection to strawberry jam! Any project that involves a hearty amount of strawberry jam gets an A+ and a video!
Hopefully my video has given you a better idea of how to make this Neapolitan Layer Cake, but you can find the full recipe plus some tips after the jump.
Most layer cakes are weekend project-types from start to finish, and maybe this will take just a bit longer than a normal layer cake, but it’s still really easy. I promise. It’s just that compared to a regular layer cake where you make just one batter and divide into three cake tins, you really have to take time to make each layer of this cake individually.
Thankfully I do get help from my KitchenAid Hand Mixer once again, and honestly you guys, I don’t know how many times I’ve already professed my love for this red hand mixer of mine, but I’m going to say it again. LOVE. THIS. THING.
I secretly hold it close at night and whisper to it, saying, ‘My precious…’ KIDDING! But really, I do love it. 🙂
Anyway, the full instructions for the recipe can be found below and I’m sure you guys can formulate your own gameplan for creating your own masterpiece, but let me just give some tips for whatever they’re worth:
- If you have a small oven and can only bake one layer at a time, plan to prepare the cake batter about 5 to 10 minutes before the layer that’s in the oven is done baking. I read that it’s not really recommended to leave your cake batter out in the open for too long because the leavening agents may lose their potency. (Science!) Haven’t been able to test the theory but I am letting you know just to be on the safe side.
- Don’t overmix and overbake your cakes so they don’t dry up.
- The chocolate cake layer is the easiest to make (you can use just a whisk) so take into consideration how you will sequence your layers depending on your oven size. I actually have a wide oven that can fit two pans at a time, so my batters went into the oven the moment they were made. I prepared the strawberry and then the chocolate layers first so I can bake them at the same time.
- The easiest method would be to bake a layer a day and wrap in cling wrap. Store in the fridge until ready to assemble!
The strawberry cake layer was my favourite to make. It smelled incredible going in and coming out of the oven! I searched high and low for a recipe that doesn’t use fresh strawberries since it is not affordable at all here in Manila. The recipe I chose to play with uses strawberry jam instead, and the result was surprisingly fantastic! I think it will make another solo appearance here on the blog soon.
The frosting I used for this cake is a no-fuss Salted Buttercream Frosting, and it’s honestly one of the best and simplest cake frostings of life. (I used it before for this gorgeous Purple Ombre Cake.)
If you’re wondering why I decided to turn this into a “Naked Cake”, which is essentially a cake that’s frosted thinly on the outside to show off the cake layers, it’s just because I prefer less frosting and more cake. But if you like frosting a lot, you’re welcome to double the recipe and frost the heck out of this thing.
For the naked cake style, just scrape the frosting against the cake layers until the gaps between each layer look even. It’s even easier to frost the cake if you cut the tops of each layer to even them out, but I’m lazy and bad at it without a cake leveller! Evened-out cake layers also keep the cake from sliding as you frost.
Make sure you’re frosting is nice and cold so that it will be easier to work with. Mine, as you might’ve seen in the video, kept melting due to the hot Manila weather. But the fix was really easy: I just popped the frosted cake back into the fridge to set then gave the cake a final whirl against my spatula to even things out.
You can decorate the top as you please. I decided to added some fresh cherries because we happened to have some at the time, and unexpectedly it gave me a wave of banana split nostalgia!
Makes one 3-layer cake
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1/3 cup strawberry jam
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon strawberry extract (optional but good)
- 1-1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2/3 cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
- Red food coloring (optional)
- 1-½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon espresso or instant coffee powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup cold milk (or water)
- 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup whole milk, room temperature
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup cake flour
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool
- 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, or more as necessary
- 2-½ sticks salted butter, chopped into cubes and softened to room temp
- Extra table salt, as needed
- Strawberry jam
- 1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan. Tap out excess four and set aside.
- 2. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together milk, jam, egg whites, and strawberry extract (if using). Try to combine the jam into the mixture as evenly as possible, but don't worry if it ends up a little lumpy. It will even out once mixed into the flour. Set aside for a moment.
- 3. In a separate large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Using your KitchenAid Hand Mixer on low speed (around speed 2), add the butter and beat until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 1-1/2 minutes. Make sure the flour is fully incorporated into the butter and no more flour sits at the bottom of the bowl.
- 4. Add 2/3 of the prepared wet mixture to the dry and beat at medium (around speed 4) for another 2 minutes, until fluffy.
- 5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and add remaining wet mixture. Beat for 30 seconds on low to incorporate the liquid into the batter slowly, then turn the speed back to medium for another 20 seconds. Stop once the batter looks well mixed.
- 6. If using food colour, add a few drops and mix into the batter on low. Adjust quantity according to your desired colour, but since we're going for a pink hue on the cake don't add too much!
- 7. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Remove from oven once cake tester comes out clean. Let cool inside the pan for 20 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely.
- 8. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan. Tap out excess four and set aside.
- 9. In a large bowl, whisk together all purpose flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, espresso or instant coffee powder, and baking soda.
- 10. In a separate small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together vegetable oil, milk/water, vinegar, and vanilla, until very well combined.
- 11. Pour the wet mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients, and stir (using a spatula or your KitchenAid Hand Mixer) until thoroughly combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Remove from oven once cake tester comes out clean. Let cool inside the pan for 20 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely.
- 12. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan. Tap out excess four and set aside.
- 13. In a large measuring cup, light whisk together milk, egg whites, and vanilla extract. Set aside.
- 14. In a large bowl, whisk together cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using your KitchenAid Hand Mixer on low speed (around speed 2), add the butter and beat until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 1-1/2 minutes. Make sure the flour is fully incorporated into the butter and no more flour sits at the bottom of the bowl.
- 14. Add 3/4 of the milk mixture to the crumbs and beat at high (around speed 6) for about 1-1/2 minutes. Add the remaining milk mixture and beat for 30 seconds on low to incorporate the liquid into the batter slowly, then turn the speed back to medium for another 20 seconds. Don't overmix the batter.
- 15. Pour batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (This cake tends to dry out when baked too long so be vigilant with the time.) Let cool inside the pan for 20 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely.
- 16. In a large bowl using your KitchenAid Hand Mixer, beat butter on high (speed 6 or 7) until smooth and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium-low (about speed 3) and gradually add confectioner’s sugar until combined and smooth.
- 17. Increase speed to high and beat until icing is pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes or so. Add extra salt to taste, starting with 1/4 teaspoon and then building up as necessary. The lightly salty frosting provides a nice contrast to the sweet cake, but keep a light hand on the salt.
- 18. Place the frosting in the fridge to set if it's too soft at room temperature. Place about 1/3 of the frosting into a piping bag.
- 19. Level your cake layers if you wish to make stacking them much easier, then place one layer onto your cake decorating turntable. You can go with whichever layer you want at the bottom, but I used Chocolate Cake.
- 20. Spread a thin layer of Salted Buttercream Icing on top of your cake layer. Cut off a 1-inch hole from the piping bag and pipe a thick round of icing following the shape of your cake layer. This will act as a "dam" to hold the filling in. Place a few spoonfuls of strawberry jam into the center of the cake and spread out as evenly as possible. Place the next layer on top and gently press together to adhere. Don't worry if the frosting peeks out from between the layers. Repeat the same method on the second layer, then top with the last layer of cake. Again, press gently to adhere the layers.
- 21. Spread the remaining frosting onto the top and sides of the cake. If going for a naked cake style, place a generous amount of frosting on top of the cake first and gradually even it out, letting the frosting slide down the side of the cake. Add a bit more frosting onto the side, where you'll want to fill the spaces between the layers to make the sides of the cake look even.
- 22. Use your spatula to scrape the frosting all around the cake until it looks like you have a crumb coat. You can add more frosting if you wish, but note that the naked cake style has the layers peeking out from underneath a small amount of frosting. You can also frost the traditional way, but you may need to double the icing. Decorate the top as you wish, and as you can see I added some swirls with a 1M tip and topped the cake with cherries.
- 23. Put the cake into the fridge to set for at least 3 hours, and then slice and enjoy!
- Strawberry Cake adapted from The Toasted Sprinkle blog; Chocolate Cake adapted from King Arthur Flour; White Cake adapted from Cooks Illustrated; and Salted Buttercream adapted from Raspberri Cupcakes blog
Full disclosure: This post was sponsored by KitchenAid Philippines.