The A to Z of Baking: N is for Neapolitan Cake

IMG_6774Wow, it’s been a busy few weeks and I feel like my head has been all over the place with so much to think about! Work has been really busy, we’ve been sorting our new house out, and then trying to fit in a social life, which I’m not complaining about at all, it’s just been all go!

Of course, throughout the last few weeks I’ve managed to shoehorn the next letter of my baking challenge into my life. A group of friends and I regularly take it in turns to host themed cuisine nights, in which we each take along a dish (there’s six of us, so it’s easier that way – saves one person having to cook for five other people!). So, when it was recently my turn to host an Italian themed night, I decided I could shoehorn the N of my challenge – the Neapolitan Cake I’d had my eye on making since the early days of the challenge – into the mix somewhere!


For this creation, I used a recipe from the Hidden Surprise Cakes book by Angela Drake. It was simple enough creating the three layers of the cake, although I did naively use 8-inch cake tins when the recipe actually asked for 6-inch cake tins (I didn’t want to splash out on a new set of baking tins for potentially one recipe…), so the end layered result looked a little less like the beautiful dome shaped cake in the book and more like someone had sat on the cake.


What I was concerned about was creating the two-toned, swirly pink and white effect on the buttercream (my piping skills are yet to see much improvement). However, when I got to it, the end result, whilst not perfect and more heavily pink or white in certain areas, was not half as bad as I expected.

I got some positive feedback from my friends – and hopefully not all of it was just for the sake of politeness! – so overall, it was a successful recipe. It’s not exactly a showstopping cake but it’s impressive, and simple, enough for dinner parties, birthdays, and a whole host of other occasions.

High points

The cake was a lot more easy to create than it appeared it would be on first glance in the book.

Low points

I stupidly used the wrong cake tins and thought, like I do with most things, that I could just blag it. Turns out I could blag it but the cake could have looked better and more ‘full-bodied’ if I’d used the right tin size. I’ll not learn my lesson in future though, and fully expect I’ll use the wrong tin size again, all for the sake of saving a few pence…

For the cake layers:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons hot water
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 225g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon strawberry extract
  • pink food colouring paste

For the buttercream:

  • 263g unsalted butter
  • 525g icing sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot water
  • Pink food colouring paste


  • Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4. Grease 3 x 15cm/6-inch round sandwich tins (I used 8-inch tins as it was all I had).
  • Mix together cocoa powder and hot water in a small bowl to make a smooth paste and set aside.
  • Sift together the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and add the butter, sugar, eggs and milk. Beat with a hand-held electric mixer for 1-2 minutes until smooth and creamy. Weigh the mixture and divide equally into three separate bowls.
  • Beat the chocolate paste into one bowl of mixture. Beat the vanilla extract into the second bowl of mixture. Beat the strawberry extract and enough food colouring to give a bright pink colour into the third bowl of mixture.
  • Spoon the mixtures into the prepared tins and gently level the surfaces. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until risen and just firm to the touch. The chocolate sponge may need an extra 4-5 minutes. Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
  • To make the buttercream, place the butter in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes until very soft and pale. Sift in half the icing sugar and mix with a wooden spoon until blended with the butter. Sift in the remaining icing sugar and mix again. Add the vanilla extract and beat for 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture is very smooth, pale and creamy. Add the hot water and beat for a further 30 seconds to give the buttercream a silky smooth texture.
  • To decorate, use some of the buttercream to sandwich the three sponges together, with the chocolate sponge at the bottom and the vanilla sponge at the top. Spread a thin layer of buttercream around the sides and over the top of the stacked cakes. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Divide the remaining buttercream between two bowls. Use the pink food colouring to colour one bowl of buttercream deep pink. Use a spatula to spoon the pink buttercream down one side of a large piping bag fitted with a medium star nozzle. Spoon the white buttercream down the other side of the piping bag.
  • Starting at the base, pipe three rosettes of buttercream up the side of the cake. Repeat all around the cake until the sides are completely covered. Pipe rosettes in concentric circles over the top of the cake.



2 thoughts on “The A to Z of Baking: N is for Neapolitan Cake

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