Monday, March 3, 2014

Neapolitan "Naked" Layer Cake

I am starting to get into "birthday party mode" for my eldest son this week. Even though his actual birthday is later this month, we are having a modest get together of family and friends to celebrate the Little Man this weekend. I can't believe my little 6 pound 7 ounce scrawny chicken is now turning 4 years old! He has grown up so much, and watching his personality blossom is amazing!

As always, I ask him what he would like to eat on his big day. "Pizza" was his first, second, and third answer! But...but...what about the most important part? Cake? Ice Cream? Cupcakes? Hmmmm... We are still deciding. What I do know is it will be something chocolate-y and rich. Something like this beautiful 'Neapolitan Cake' I made him for a past birthday.
I found this recipe on one of my favorite baking sites, Sweetapolita. I adore this blogger! Her recipes, photographs, and lovely writing truly inspire me to try the same. I have to admit, most of my "fancy" cakes come from her site, no modifications needed!

This particular "fancy" cake is amazing! Rich chocolate cake (with a surprise ingredient...) is layered with vanilla, fresh strawberry, and chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream icing to create a spectacular looking and tasting birthday cake! The frosting is what really sets this cake apart from the rest. Fluffy, sweet, with an almost whipped marshmallow consistency, it's way more sophisticated than the average buttercream.

There is a little piping to be done, but it's super simple (and forgiving!). The above photograph was actually the first time I ever piped frosting! Don't be afraid!

Decorations can be as simple or complicated as you want! Strawberries and chocolate jimmies (sprinkles)? Love it! Maraschino cherries? Awesome! Bits of crumbled chocolate covered waffle-cone? Stunning! Have fun with this celebration cake!

Neapolitan "Naked" Layer Cake
barely adapted (to use what I had in my pantry) from a recipe on

3/4 cups salted butter, softened
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs, room temperature
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup premium baking cocoa (I prefer Ghirardelli brand)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
1/4 cup mayonnaise

Preheat your oven to 350F. Take three 8 inch round cake pans and butter them. Then, line with parchment and finish by dusting with a little bit of cocoa, tapping out the excess.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, add the softened butter, light brown sugar, and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until the color lightens and the volume increases. About 5-7 minutes. Decrease the speed to medium and add the eggs individually, while beating to incorporate each into the sugar mixture.

Next sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder into a medium bowl. Add the salt to the dry mix and whisk quickly to stir.

While setting the mixer on medium speed, alternately mix in the buttermilk and dry mix, until just incorporated. Do not over mix! Gently fold in the mayonnaise with a whisk and combine until just blended.

Pour the batter evenly between the 3 cake pans. Smooth the surface with an offset palette knife and bake for 20 minutes, rotate, and then finish baking for another 10 minutes. Do not over bake. To test, stick a toothpick into the center and pull out- there should be a few sticky crumbs attached.

Let cool for 20 minutes on a wire rack and then carefully invert the cake to an additional rack. Gently peel off the parchment paper and let cool completely.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

5 large fresh egg whites
1 1/4 cups superfine granulated sugar (I ran my regular sugar quickly through a mortar & pestle)
1 1/2 sticks salted butter, softened and cubed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
tiny pinch of salt
5 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (again, I like Ghirardelli brand)
2 tablespoons of fresh strawberry puree*
pink gel food coloring

*  for the strawberry puree, simply take 1/2 cup of fresh strawberries plus a squirt of lemon juice and blend in a blender or food processor. Adjust the acid with lemon juice and sweetness with regular sugar. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a small container. Store in the fridge for about 3 days.

Wipe down the electric mixing bowl with a paper towel dampened with either white vinegar or lemon juice to remove any dirt or grease. Add the egg whites plus the sugar to the bowl and place over a pot of simmering water. Do not boil! Whisk gently, but constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are hot (160F).

Place the bowl on the mixer with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until the eggs change to a glossy and thick meringue. Keep whipping until the bowl's temperature is neutral to the touch, about 10 minutes or more.

Switch to a paddle attachment and add the butter in chunks, one at a time until incorporated, on low speed. Mix until silky and smooth. If it curdles (it did for me!), keep mixing and it will turn smooth again.

Still beating on low speed, add the vanilla and small pinch of salt.

Next, divide the buttercream into thirds- 1/3 in a container for the vanilla, 1/3 in a container for chocolate, and 1/3 in a container for the strawberry flavored frosting. For the strawberry, add 2-3 tablespoons of fresh strawberry puree and a couple of drops of pink food coloring. For the chocolate, melt 5 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and let cool, then add to the reserved buttercream. The vanilla buttercream is left as is.

To Assemble the Cake

Trim any doming or rough edges from the cakes with a sharp serrated knife. Wrap in a layer of plastic wrap and place into the freezer to firm up for about 15 minutes (does wonders for assembly!).

Take a 8 inch cardboard cake round and spread a thin layer of icing with an offset palette knife. Place the first layer of cake on the board, face up.

Using the palette knife again, spread about 1 cup of chocolate icing on top, leaving 1 inch empty around the edge of the cake. Place the second layer on, face up.

Repeat using the vanilla buttercream.

Place the final cake layer on, face down, and top with the strawberry buttercream, leaving a 1 inch gap around the edges of the cake.

Fill 3 piping bags with a tip of your choice (I used a large star) and decorate the edges as you choose, filling in the gaps as you go. Top with fresh fruit, jimmies, sprinkles, maraschino cherries, or crumbled chocolate waffle cone.


  1. This cake looks so delicious...

  2. This naked cake looks delicious…… Wonderful decoration and i am sure everyone will like this cake.