Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Neapolitan Birthday Cake

One of the best parts of being a baker with a birthday is that it's the perfect excuse to make whatever kind of cake your heart desires.  No need to cater to anyone's taste but your own.  For my own birthday this year I had my friends over for a full meal of my favorite comfort foods - fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, mac and cheese... I spent the whole day in the kitchen and it was well worth it.  But the cake is the star of any birthday, so I wanted to make something a little special. 


The past few years my cakes have usually been chocolate or strawberry.  This year I decided to take it a step further - why choose just one flavor when you can have three?  Neapolitan birthday cake it is.

Now, even for a baking enthusiast like myself, the thought of making three different cakes from scratch was a daunting one, especially with chicken, biscuits, mac and cheese and salad still to be made, so I had a little help from Pillsbury and Duncan Hines.  But you'll find there's still enough effort put into this cake not to feel guilty when you take compliments for it.

Since having chocolate, vanilla and strawberry cake wasn't enough for me, I wanted to capture all those flavors in the frosting as well.  So I borrowed a technique from a chocolate cake I made a couple years ago to make a whipped cream vanilla frosting layered with strawberry jam and topped with a bittersweet chocolate glaze.  Served with my roommate's homemade Neapolitan ice cream, you couldn't escape the vanilla, strawberry and chocolate medley even if you tried.

For the Cake:

1 Strawberry Cake Mix (boxed or from scratch)
1 French Vanilla Cake Mix (boxed or from scratch)
1 Chocolate Cake Mix (boxed or from scratch)

Bake half of each of your cake mixes in a 9" round cake pan according to directions.  What to do with the extra batter?  Line a cupcake tin with paper liners and distribute the batter as though you were going to make cupcakes.  Then stick the tin into the freezer and freeze batter until hard.  transfer cupcakes to a freezer bag and ta-da!  Instant cupcake fix whenever you want - just bake about 5 minutes longer than your normal cupcakes.

For the Frosting: (adapted from Rebecca Rather's Tuxedo Cake)

4 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

Seedless Strawberry Jam

Beat the whipping cream with a stand or hand mixer with a whisk attachment.  Chill the whisk and bowl to speed up whipping process.  Beat until the cream is thickened and soft peaks form.  Add vanilla and sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

To Assemble the cake:

Put down your chocolate cake on your plate or cake stand and spread a thin layer of strawberry jam on top.  Spread a thick layer of whipped cream frosting on top of that.  Don't bother with the sides just yet.  Stack your vanilla cake on top and, again, spread a thin layer of strawberry jam followed by a thick layer of frosting.  Stack up the final strawberry cake and top with plenty of whipped cream frosting.  Use a spatula to spread the frosting all around the top and sides of the cake until it's completely covered, then smooth it out as much as you can.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour.

For the Chocolate Glaze:

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup lyle's golden syrup (or light corn syrup)

Put the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl.  Heat the cream until steaming (do not boil).  Add the hot cream to the chocolate and stir until chocolate melts and the mixture comes together.  Add vanilla and syrup and continue mixing until blended.  Put the ganache in a small spouted bowl or measuring cup and allow to cool for exactly 10 minutes.

Pour onto the cooled cake, covering the top and letting it drip down the sides.  You want some of the white frosting to show through.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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