Sunday 18 November 2012

Neapolitan Rose Cake

This pretty three-coloured cake is a Neapolitan- like the ice cream, where you get strawberry, chocolate and vanilla in the same packet. It has roses piped around the side and would make a lovely birthday cake.

I made it for the Children In Need bake sale at work as I had bookmarked it after seeing it on The More Than Occasional Baker. I think Ros did a much better version than mine and I encourage you to check it out! I told Ros - who is a good friend of mine - that I was planning to make this cake and she hopefully won't mind if I reproduce the recipe here. I did tweak it a little as I couldn't get one of the main ingredients I needed!

For the three-layered cake you will need:
375g butter
375g caster sugar
375g self-raising flour
5 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
450g strawberries, washed and hulled - or a tin of raspberries which I used, as the supermarket was all out of strawberries and any sort of suitable fresh fruit!
red gel colour (optional) - I used a tiny bit of ruby Sugarflair.

For the icing, you will need at least
375g butter
750g icing sugar
4-6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
melted chocolate and a little of the strawberry puree from cake batter or the red food colouring -
though I found this wasn't quite enough icing for my three 8-inch cakes. As I was making this after work for the bake sale the next day, and it was taking a while (I was still decorating it at 11pm!), I ended up using one of my storecupboard emergency tubs of Betty Crocker chocolate fudge icing as well. The most important thing also is to make sure that your icing is pretty stiff so you may find you need to add more icing sugar depending on how soft it is.

Preheat oven to 180C and grease an 8-inch cake tin. Ideally if you have three tins the same size you can do all three layers at once, though purists may say you should do them one at a time so you can use the middle shelf of your oven. Do whatever you prefer - I didn't have three tins that were exactly the same anyway so I made the layers one by one!

I also decided to experiment with a new product while I was doing this: Stork Easy to Mix Baking Liquid. You use it in place of butter and it gets around the problem of needing your butter to be softened, but not not always having time to take it out of the fridge for a few hours.

It was very cheap - only 39p or 3 for £1, though I'm not sure if it's always that cheap or if that was an introductory offer. I was a bit sceptical that a liquid would work in place of softened butter - especially when it comes to making buttercream, which I didn't try - but it turned out absolutely fine in the cake. And given the price it's also a lot cheaper than butter - though the list of ingredients is quite long and includes colour, preservatives, emulsifiers and so on. But on the plus side, this is dairy free and vegan, which could come in handy when I bake for my vegan friend.

There are instructions on the bottle regarding how to use it; essentially you measure out the qnantity as you would with butter, so if this recipe calls for 375g butter, you just weigh out 375g of this liquid.

Beat the butter with the sugar - it was a cinch using this baking liquid (though my wonderful Kitchenaid also helped!)

Add the eggs one at a time, and beat well.

Add the flour and vanilla extract.

The next stage is to divide the mixture into three equal portions. You don't need to do anything more to the vanilla layer, so this can go straight into a greased baking tin (I used an 8 inch loose-bottomed one) and into the oven for about 20 minutes.

 To make the strawberry layer, Ros's recipe tells you to blend a punnet of strawberries in a food processor and add 250mls to one of your bowls of cake mix. Unfortunately my local Tesco Metro had run out of strawberries, and didn't have any other fresh fruit that looked suitable - and I needed to go home and make this cake for a bake sale the next day so didn't have the option of going to another supermarket. So I found the next best thing - a tin of raspberries. 
 I thought John West only made tuna....?! I didn't need to use a blender, as by the time I had drained the can, the raspberries were quite mushed up. So they went straight into my Kitchenaid with one bowl of the cake mix. 
 The raspberries didn't really change the colour of the mixture though, and I really wanted the cake to be obviously three colours when it was sliced into... 
 ... so I added a tiny bit of Sugarflair ruby red food colouring. That's more like it! 
 This is now ready to go into the pan and into the oven. Now for the chocolate layer: melt 150g chocolate and add it to your remaining bowl of cake mix. Beat in well. 
 Here are the first two layers after they came out of the oven - you can see they are quite different in colour. 
  And here's the chocolate layer: 
Assembling the cake did take a while. I'm not sure if you are supposed to do the layers in any particular order - Ros's cake had the vanilla layer of buttercream on top which did look nice. But my vanilla layer was thinner than the other two so I wanted to make this the middle layer, and my chocolate layer was the last to cook so hadn't cooled down yet, so I had to leave that until last! So raspberry went first.... you do need to put this cake on a cake board, as once it is decorated you won't be able to pick it up!

Make the buttercream by mixing the butter and icing sugar, and divide this into three portions. Keep one as vanilla, mix one with any leftover raspberry/strawberry puree if you have any and add a few drops of the red or pink food colouring; and add some melted chocolate to the third.
I have to admit though that I needed more icing than I thought so by the time I got to the chocolate layer would have had to start all over again and make some buttercream, and as it was already 11pm I opened a tub of Betty Crocker chocolate fudge flavour icing instead. Which worked fine even though it was cheating slightly!

Spread a layer of pink buttercream over the raspberry cake and place the vanilla cake on top

Next comes the hard part... piping buttercream roses. It's not a particularly difficult technique - you need a star nozzle in your piping bag and you just pipe in a circle, starting in the middle and moving outwards. Of course you have to do it sideways as the idea is to pipe roses around the side of the cake, so you need to make sure your buttercream is stiff enough that it won't drop.

I'd never tried to pipe buttercream roses before and my first attempts weren't great; at least the buttercream stayed in place though!

Getting the hang of it a little better now. I realised you have to move the piping bag extremely slowly, as if you go too fast you just get a circle of buttercream without the sharp edges. It's quite a painstaking process! I'm still not entirely sure these look like roses though...

When you've gone all the way around, cover the cake with a layer of buttercream and place the final chocolate layer on top. You could probably do this before you start piping but my chocolate layer was still too warm, and I decided to get started on the piping in the meantime.

I piped chocolate buttercream roses over the top - I think these came out better.

It was hard to make sure there weren't any gaps, since you start piping in the middle of the rose and move outwards; I filled in some of the gaps later with extra buttercream.

Then I piped a final layer of vanilla buttercream roses around the side. These two were a bit of a disaster though!

Holding the piping bag in my hand also softened the buttercream and by this point it was far too soft for the roses to hold their shape, so I returned the buttercream to the bowl and added more icing sugar to make it more stiff, which seemed to do the trick.

The good thing about this cake is that the overall effect is so impressive, it doesn't really matter if one or two roses are a bit wonky! At least I think so anyway...

To fill in some of the small gaps in the chocolate layer, I decided to use this chocolate designer icing I was sent recently by Dr. Oetker. It comes with a choice of nozzles for different piping effects.... but for some reason I couldn't work out how to fit the nozzle on properly! The packet doesn't give any instructions other than telling you to attach the nozzle (i.e. not how to do it) and I was probably being an idiot but I just couldn't get it to stay on, so I ended up piping while holding the nozzle on. Which made it quite difficult to squeeze the pouch - has anyone else used these, and what was I doing wrong?

The nozzles are quite small which made this ideal for filling in the gaps on my cake; I wouldn't use it for icing a whole cake though as it would take ages, so this is much better for cupcakes or, as the picture on the packet suggests, decorating cookies.

So after all that palaver, here is the final cake! Truly a labour of love....

I didn't cut into it at home as I didn't want to ruin the overall look, so I was wondering whether the Neapolitan effect had worked on the inside of the cake. For the bake sale at work, the cakes were loaded onto a trolley and taken around each floor of the office, so I didn't know if there would be any left by the time it got to me. I didn't even realise the trolley had reached my floor until I heard someone exclaim "wow, look at the inside of that cake!"

Pretty cool, huh? The cake went down really well and I had some complete strangers come and tell me how nice it was, which is always a good thing :-)

I am sending this to Tea Time Treats, as their theme for this month's blogging challenge is celebration cakes. I think this would make a lovely birthday cake; in fact when I saw it on Ros's site I earmarked it as a possible birthday cake for my mum, but that isn't until next June and I didn't want to wait that long! Tea Time Treats is hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Kate at What Kate Baked.

As I bookmarked this when I saw it on The More Than Occasional Baker, I am also sending it to Bookmarked Recipes, hosted by Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes.


  1. Yum...I love the neopolitan colours and flavours! Raspberries are my favourite. Piping roses on the side of a cake is tough so you've done a stirling job! :-)

  2. you are so looks wonderfull.

  3. it's a beauty!... I love that you've used natural ingredients to colour the cakes, that's a great touch. beautiful icing too x

  4. Mmmmmm, looks yum! I could really do with a slice of that right now.

  5. This looks lovely! I want to make the chocolate icing and just eat it straight from the bowl!

  6. Just adding it to Bookmarked Recipes just now. Came back for another look. MMMMMMMM!!


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