Thursday, July 05, 2012

in search of the perfect grain-free birthday dessert: Neapolitan Cake


In search of the perfect birthday dessert, I nearly stopped at this cake. Three layers of cake: chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. Three types of frosting, coating and filling the cake. Fresh strawberries. Cacao. Honestly, this is one of the very best grain-free desserts I've made to date.



Nobody can say for sure who came up with the genius that is now known as Neapolitan. Many sources credit the Naples region of Italy, as reflected in the name. It may have originally referred to various kinds of flavors of ice cream side by side before morphing into our traditional chocolate-strawberry-vanilla version of today. Regardless of where credit is due, it's safe to say that most of us are quite happy with any opportunity to sample three cakes in one slice.


The inspiration for this cake came from both Roost and i am baker. (If you aren't already checking out those blogs, you must. Amazingly talented women). All of the layers were based on Roost's original recipe but with my own additions. If you were to ask me which layer I like best, I'd hem and haw for several moments before telling you I'd make all of them again. However, the strawberry layer is the most moist while the chocolate layer is the one I couldn't seem to stop sampling.


I served this cake to a mixed panel of grain-free and grain-indulgent folks in our missional community. Everyone loved it, even my husband who regularly partakes of desserts made of real sugar and white flour. I'd say it's a hit!

Neapolitan Cake
adapted from original recipe by Roost and inspiration from i am baker
serves 10-12

Vanilla Layer
1 3/4 C. blanched almond flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3 TBS honey
3 eggs
1/2 TBS pure vanilla extract
1-2 vanilla beans
4 TBS butter

Strawberry Layer
1 3/4 C. blanched almond flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 C. honey
3 eggs
1/2 TBS pure vanilla extract
3/4 C. strawberries
4 TBS butter

Chocolate layer
1 3/4 C. blanched almond flour
1/4 C. cacao nibs
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 C. honey
3 eggs
1/2 TBS pure vanilla extract
4 TBS butter, softened

Frosting
4 room temperature egg whites
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1 C. honey
1/2 C. strawberries, finely diced
1/4 C. raw cacao nibs, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease three 6-inch round cake pans. Trace the bottom on parchment paper, cut out circles, and place in bottom of pans.

For the vanilla layer:
Melt 4 TBS butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until light brown and fragrant. Remove from heat.

Combine dry ingredients (flour through soda) in a small mixing bowl with a whisk. Set aside.

In a food processor, combine honey, eggs, and vanilla extract. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean pods and add to processor. Process until smooth. Add flour mixture and process again, scraping down bowl with spatula as needed. Lastly, process in melted butter. Pour into one of the prepared pans.

For the strawberry layer:
Melt 4 TBS butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until light brown and fragrant. Remove from heat.

Combine dry ingredients (flour through soda) in a small mixing bowl with a whisk. Set aside.

In a food processor, pulse 1/2 cup strawberries until pureed. Add to the processor: honey, eggs, and vanilla extract. Mix well. Add flour mixture and process again, scraping down bowl with spatula as needed. Lastly, process in melted butter. Pour into one of the prepared pans.

For the chocolate layer:
Finely grind cacao nibs in a coffee grinder until powdery. Combine cacao powder and rest of dry ingredients (flour through soda) in a small mixing bowl with a whisk. Set aside.

In a food processor, combine butter, eggs, vanilla extract and honey. Mix well. Add flour mixture and process again, scraping down bowl with spatula as needed. Pour into one of the prepared pans.

Bake all three layers for 25-30 minutes, checking at about 22 minutes for doneness. Each cake will finish baking at a slightly different time. Remove when a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few crumbs attached.

Allow cakes to cool for 10 minutes in pan, then gently remove to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

For the frosting:
Place egg whites and lemon juice in an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk. Process on medium-high until stiff peaks form (takes anywhere from 5-10 minutes). Meanwhile, bring honey to a boil in a medium saucepan. When stiff peaks have formed, with the mixer running, very slowly pour hot honey into bowl. Beat until thoroughly combined, about a minute more.

Frosting must be used immediately or placed in refrigerator. If you choose to decorate the cake, keep it stored in the refrigerator until serving time.

To assemble the cake:


Separate frosting into two equal halves. Set aside one half in fridge. Halve remaining frosting once more into two separate bowls. Gently fold in, with a rubber spatula, strawberries into one bowl and cacao nibs into another.

Place chocolate layer on cake stand. Frost top with cacao nib frosting. Stack strawberry layer on next. Frost top with strawberry frosting. Finally, place vanilla layer on top. Frost sides and top of cake with the plain frosting, piping decorations if desired.

Optional:
Stir in cacao powder (use coffee grinder) to make a chocolate-tinted frosting for decorating bottom layer.

Halve additional strawberries and place in pattern around middle of cake (strawberry layer).

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Two giveaways going on through July 9th! Enter to win: 1) two grain-free cookbooks for all your birthday (and everyday) baking needs; 2) a birthday party giveaway to Mel's shop including an invite design, 25 invites w/envelopes, 25 cupcake toppers and 25 favor tags or stickers. Two lucky winners! 


All you need to do is leave a comment to be entered! Answer this question: 
Chocolate, Strawberry or Vanilla?

3 comments:

bridget banta said...

strawberry

Tiffany said...

This look FABULOUS! Very beautiful.

elektricshaver said...

Chocolate all the way, baby!