Neapolitan Cake, Gluten Free

Here’s hoping that we weren’t the only family from the Cleaver generation to take a half-gallon brick of ordinary Neapolitan ice cream and cut it into slices. It is still a mystery why it was sliced and served on plates, with forks instead of scooped into bowls.

In fact, my mother measured the brick and sliced it into six even pieces probably avoiding the sibling whine fest about who got more than the other. The Neapolitan flavors were my introduction to strawberry, chocolate and vanilla cardboard ice cream. I had no idea until years later that strawberry didn’t just taste pink and that chocolate ice cream had a more specific flavor than say, powdered wood shavings.

These days, Neapolitan ice cream can still be found with the no-name brand in the freezer section looking lonely and usually covered in a coat of melt and freeze ice crystals. It doesn’t deserve to be dumped in the back of the closet even if it seems less exciting than say, chocolate chunk butter pecan peach swirl tofutti. It’s gotten such a bad rap for a retro goodie.

Neapolitan ice cream of old could use a taste-lift. Building a  Neapolitan cake kind of like the ice cream seemed like a great idea to honor this old relic.  The cake is flavored with real strawberries. The icing is vanilla buttercream laced with strawberry and the center of the bake is filled with ground bittersweet chocolate, sliced fresh strawberries and strawberry jam.

One update I might add to the cake were I making it today is to add a thin layer of buttercream in the middle layer, on top of the strawberries which are on top of the ground chocolate which are on top of the jam layer – because more, in this case, is better. Not to mention the layers would stick together a little better when sliced.

This cake is best served fresh. And sliced. However, a nice side scoop of Neapolitan Ice Cream sans the freezer burn, next to the cake would be a nice touch.

Neapolitan Cake, Gluten Free
A retro ice cream flavor gets remade into a fabulous cake featuring chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. Using fresh ingredients makes all the difference.
  • 200 grams granulated sugar (1 cup)
  • 130 grams unsalted butter, room temperature (9 tablespoons)
  • 3 whole extra-large eggs
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 57 grams sour cream (1/4 cup)
  • 57 grams strawberry puree (not strained) (about ¼ cup)
  • 200 grams AP GF flour (1.5 cups) (100 grams superfine brown rice flour plus 50 grams each superfine white rice flour and tapioca flour/starch)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Swiss Strawberry and Vanilla Buttercream
  • 4 extra-large egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 200 grams granulated sugar (1 cup)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 284 grams unsalted butter softened (2.5 sticks)
  • 4 tablespoons strawberry puree (not strained)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 teaspoon Framboise
Cake Layer Toppings
  • 4-5 tablespoon seedless strawberry jam
  • 57 grams bittersweet chocolate, ground (2 oz.)
  • ten strawberries cut into thin slices
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease two 8 inch round cake pans. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer cream butter and sugar until fluffy, about a minute. Add eggs, one at a time mixing until incorporated thoroughly. Add vanilla, sour cream and strawberry puree. Mix just until combined. In a medium bowl mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt. Whisk to combine. Add to the wet ingredients and mix just until combined. Remove bowl and using a silicone spatula fold mixture to make sure all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
  3. Divide batter evenly between the two pans. Rap pan on counter top to remove air bubbles. Bake about 18 minutes and rotate pans. Bake about 10-13 minutes more or just until a toothpick comes out without crumbs. Cool for a few minutes and then turn cakes out onto racks to cool completely before frosting.
Swiss Strawberry and Vanilla Buttercream
  1. In the top of a double boiler whisk the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar and salt until the mixture turns white and the temperature reaches 160 degrees. It should only take a few minutes. Remove and pour mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, mix on medium and then high, whipping the egg whites until they become both cooler and get to glossy peaks – think snow-white mountain tops. Feel the bottom of the bowl – if you can rest your hand on it easily, it is ready for the butter. Keep letting it cool off otherwise. Change to the paddle attachment. Take the very very soft butter and drop pieces into the mixer while it is running on slow-medium. Add in the butter a piece at a time until it is gone and continue running the mixer at the same speed. Once all the butter is in, turn the mixer up a bit and keep going. The buttercream will probably look pretty awful – it might seem curdled or wrecked. Don’t fret. Just keep going with the mixer on a pretty high-speed. It’ll come together soon. You can hear the change before you see the change. It goes from sounding sloshy and sad to more like a helicopter thump thump. At that point, lower the speed and add the strawberry puree, vanilla and Framboise. Then whip it on high until you like the way it looks – about a half-minute more or so.
Toppings and Assembly
  1. The easiest way to grind chocolate is to freeze it first. Pulse in a food processor. Set aside. Heat strawberry jam in the microwave for about 20 seconds so that it spreads easily.
  2. Place bottom cake layer on plate. Cover layer top with strawberry jam. Top the jam with a layer of ground chocolate. Place sliced strawberries on top of the ground chocolate. Pipe a thin layer of buttercream on top of the strawberries. Add top cake layer. Press lightly to adhere layers.
  3. Using an offset spatula apply buttercream crumb layer to the sides and top of cake. Then apply final layer and make that a little bit thick. Pipe an edge design around the top if you like. Add more sliced strawberries on the top of the cake.
  4. Serve immediately and store leftovers in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature for best flavor before serving.


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