You know what I found surprising when I started digging into the oddly diverse world of Neapolitan flavoring? The hate. People not only hate Neapolitan ice cream, they hate the people who like it. One blog even declared that Neapolitan-loving people, like me, “like horrible things.” Well, gosh! I’m sorry. But once I looked beyond the rage, I found so many unique and delicious riffs on the classic chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla combo. So many, in fact, that I was overwhelmed with the possibilities. Today’s Neapolitan Marble Cake with Chantilly Frosting is just the tip of the iceberg, so you’ll have to forgive me if things get a little Neapolitan-heavy on this blog.
I don’t know about you, but when I line up at an ice cream parlor my mind quite literally races. Do I want something fruity? Should I default to chocolate again? Is it lame to just order vanilla? So many questions, an ever-decreasing window of time, ice cream satisfaction on the line – it’s high stakes, baby! But sometimes the stakes are just too high; sometimes you just want to enjoy a cone without regret; sometimes you don’t want to have to choose. Enter Neapolitan, the greatest non-commital flavor of all time.
When I was growing up I loved Neapolitan ice cream but I always seemed to forget about it. I was too distracted by the butterscotch ripples and heavenly hashes of the world to ask for Neapolitan directly. But it always had a knack for showing up in my grandmother’s freezer, and when it did, I was always glad to see it there.
Now that I’m older, I realize I didn’t give the forgotten ice cream it’s due. The combination of vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate is palette-pleasing genius. The chocolate brings the richness, the strawberry a touch of fruity acidity, and the vanilla acts as the glue that bridges the flavor gap. Of course, pairing chocolate and strawberry is not a revolutionary idea. And where desserts are concerned, vanilla inevitably enters the picture. But the makeup of Neapolitan flavoring is not about surprising you or making a statement, it’s about overwhelming you with exactly what you want: you’re unadulterated favorites all at once.
This “pleasure overload” theory is what makes this Neapolitan Marble Cake the ideal candidate for a birthday cake. And that’s exactly what this cake was – a birthday cake for a very good friend of mine. That’s why the cake is not cut. I couldn’t present my bud with a cut cake! So, let me describe it to you instead. The interior of the cake features layers of rich yellow cake “marbled” with swirls of chocolate and strawberry. Between the cake layers, there is a center of fresh strawberries encased in a rich chocolate ganache. As a final flourish, the entire cake is covered in an airy, vanilla-kissed chantilly frosting. See? This Neapolitan Marble Cake is everything you want all at once.
I believe there is a lesson to be learned from this Neapolitan Marble Cake. Heck! From Neapolitan everything. Sometimes it’s okay to play to the classics. You don’t always have to push the envelope or challenge those who gather at your table. There are times when making people happy, making them smile is more important than being interesting, quirky or creative. There are times when the dessert you make is not about you at all. It’s about the person you put the cake, pie, or ice cream cone in front of.
So, when you want to make the best people in your life smile like a seven-year-old on summer vacation, put a big ‘ol slice of this Neapolitan Marble Cake in front of them. You won’t regret it, the grinning is infectious.
- 2 cups cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened but still cool
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 whole eggs
- 4 egg yolks
- Caviar from 1 vanilla bean, pod reserved
- 2/3 cup buttermilk
- 3 tablespoons cocoa
- 4 tablespoons hot water, divided
- 3 tablespoons dehydrated strawberries, blitzed
- 340 g (12 oz) dark chocolate chips
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean pod
- 3 tablespoon tawny port
- Pinch of salt
- 1 can coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 2/3 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 1 pint fresh strawberries, washed
- Sugar mint leaves
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Grease two 9-inch cake pans and set aside.
- Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
- Place the butter in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat until lighter in colour and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until well-integrated.
- With the mixer running, add whole eggs and egg yolks one at a time. Add the vanilla caviar and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl intermittently.
- Set the mixer to the lowest speed and add a third of the flour mixture to the butter/egg mixture. Beat until integrated.
- Add 1/2 of the buttermilk followed by another third of the flour mixture. Once both are incorporated, add the remaining 1/2 of the buttermilk and the remaining third of the flour mixture.
- Place cocoa powder in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the hot water and whisk to combine. Add 1/2 cup of the cake batter and stir to combine. Set aside
- Place dehydrated strawberry powder in a medium-sized mixing bowl with the remaining hot water. Whisk to combine. Add 1/2 cup of the cake batter and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Divide the remaining cake batter between the prepared cake pans.
- Spoon the chocolate and strawberry batters on top of the yellow cake batter. Using a butter knife, swirl the batters together.
- Bake the cakes for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick can be inserted in the center of the cake and removed cleanly.
- Let the cakes cool slightly, then remove from pans. Allow to cool completely.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Place the chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
- Pour heavy cream in a small saucepan. Add the vanilla bean pod and salt, and place over medium heat. Heat cream to the point of boiling, then remove from the heat.
- Pour the cream over the chocolate. Add the port and stir until the chocolate melts completely.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. Chill until solid.
- Scoop out the solid, creamy part at the top of the can of coconut milk. Discard the liquid.
- Place the coconut cream in a stand mixer fitter with a whisk attachment. Whisk on high until airy. About 5 minutes. Add the heavy cream and whisk on high.
- With the mixer running, slowly add the confectioner's sugar 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Add the vanilla extract and salt and whisk until stiff peaks form.
- Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Dollop a bit of ganache in the center of a cake board. Place 1 chilled layer of the marble cake on top.
- Hull the strawberries and cut them so they are all relatively the same height. Arrange them on top of the cake layer, tips facing up. They should form a circle allowing for a 1-inch border of bare cake.
- Place the ganache in a large pastry bag fitted with a large tip (I used Wilton 1G).
- Pipe the ganache around the strawberries like cement. Continue until the strawberries are completely encased in ganache. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Place 1/4 of the chantilly frosting in a large piping bag fitted with a large tip (I used Wilton 1M). Pipe a border around the strawberry/ganache center. Trace the border with more frosting until it is the same height as the ganache.
- Place the remaining cake layer on top and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Ice the cake with a thin layer of the chantilly frosting and refrigerate with another 30 minutes.
- Decorate the finished cake with sliced strawberries, sugar mint leaves and additional chantilly frosting.
- Chill before serving.