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Neapolitan Engagement Cake

This cake is for a very special ocasion, and I can’t wait to share it with the world! My brother is engaged! 😀

I am so positively thrilled, both for my brother and his now fiancee, as well as for myself because I no longer need to keep this information a secret. Over the past four months I was ordered to secrecy, which was a challenge because nobody else in the family was privy to the information! >.< But finally, after trekking across Spain, he popped the question. Yes you read correctly, they literally walked across Spain on the Camino de Santiago–which, if you would like to read more about, you can at Caitlin’s (the fiancee’s) amazing blog here!

So we needed a cake. A cake to celebrate many things; an engagement, the completion of walking 800 kilometers in a month, moving across the country to Portland in a week, returning from Spain…. You get the picture. It needed to be epic.

And an epic cake I made! I ended up making a Neapolitan Cake with Strawberry Buttercream decorated with Gum Paste Roses.

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A cake like this requires a lot of forethought and planning, as well as time and flexibility. From start to finish, building all of the components of the cake took me about four days. On the first day I decided on my recipe and made the first color of gum paste roses. The second day I got all my groceries, made one of the flavors of cake, and made more roses. The third day I made the other two flavors of cake, more roses and gum paste leaves. Then the fourth day (the day I served the cake) I made the frosting, frosted and stacked the cakes, and added all the decorations. Writing all of this down makes it seem like a much longer and more challenging journey than it felt like while it was happening… But in reality it was incredibly fun and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

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Now, in order to make this post a wee bit shorter and more manageable to read, I am going to have a separate post to discuss how I made my gum paste roses. If you would like to check that out, click here!

This cake needs three flavors (as all Neapolitan things do): Chocolate, Strawberry, and Vanilla. I cheated a little and swapped the strawberry with raspberry because A) my brother likes raspberries, B) I had raspberry jell-o already, and C) why not? 😛

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There is no necessary order in making the flavors, but I started with the raspberry cake–I think because I was really excited and it was an unusual recipe that I hadn’t encountered before. What makes this cake so unique is that in addition to fresh raspberries, it has a package of raspberry jell-o in it. You have no idea how excited I was when I discovered this recipe, and then when I tasted how delicious it was: just think about how many hundreds of flavors of jell-o there are out there! THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS!

Just by adding the jell-o, the entire process became much more enjoyable. For example, instead of just whipping up the butter and sugar, it had the smell and color of raspberries–without any extra work. 😛

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It also has some raspberry puree, which I think helps give the cake a fresh, homemade taste.

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Because I was making a two tiered cake, I needed to bake all of my cakes in varius sized pans. I used 9 inch and 6 inch pans, which I think worked out very well. This batter was a bit thick, and probably could have been baked in three pans, but I was worried about how to divide it and still be able to slice the layers in half so I just left it in two pans and baked it longer.

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The next cake I made was the Vanilla Cake. I have made my fair share of vanilla cakes and have almost always used a new recipe each time. But now I think I have found the recipe that I will go to in the future. It is a beautiful pure white color, dense yet soft, and reminds me of my childhood because of the small amount of almond extract. (Now you are probably confused, but if you want to know why it reminds me of my childhood check out my post on Almond Poppyseed Muffins).

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This cake is a little unique with its construction, as it uses stiffly whipped egg whites to give the rather stiff batter some texture and efervesence.

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The third and final flavor of cake I made was the chocolate cake. This cake tasted great, but was a bit too moist and crumbly for my taste in this kind of layer cake, and I was relieved I only needed one layer of it. It is certainly worth making though, since it is simple and ingredients such as buttermilk and coffee give it a great depth of flavor without being too rich.

All the dry ingredients are mixed together, and then all the wet ingredients are added to them. That quick, your cake is ready to bake! Be careful though, this cake is so moist that you REALLY need to put parchment paper on the bottom of your cake pan, otherwise it WILL stick.

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I let all of these cakes chill overnight in the refrigerator, and then the day I was serving it, I leveled them and stuck them back in the fridge while I made the frosting.

I really enjoyed this frosting, because it wasn’t as complex as an Italian buttercream, but it was more flavorful than just a three ingredient buttercream. To make this one special, I added strawberry extract and a handful of raspberries, both of which gave great flavor and color to the frosting. I also added a little bit of food coloring to get the frosting to the exact shade I wanted.

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You think that was a lot of work? We have barely even begun! 😛 Now it is time to frost the cakes!

I used a piping bag with the tip cut off to help pipe neet boarders on each layer of cake before filling the center in. I then stacked the cakes and repeated the process. I stacked larger cake with 5 layers: 1st Vanilla, 2nd Raspberry, 3rd Chocolate, 4th Vanilla, 5th Raspberry. Then I stacked the smaller cake with only 4 layers: 1st Raspberry, 2nd Chocolate, 3rd Vanilla, 4th Raspberry.

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Then I gave both cakes a crumb coating. Basically this is a layer of frosting meant to seal in all the crumbs, the color of the cake, and to searve as a work surface for the final and beautiful layer of frosting. To make the final layer go on more smoothly, I put the cakes in the freezer/refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before frosting them again.

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Then comes the challenging part: adding dowels to stabalize the cake and support the weight of the other cake. For this, I bought a 1/4 inch thick dowel at Michaels. I didn’t take pictures of this process (hopefully I will have the chance to in the future!) but basically you stick the dowel into the cake or hold it next to the cake, mark where the top of the cake is, cut the dowel, and then insert this small piece of dowel into the cake. I put one directly into the center of the cake and then 6 around that in a circle. I placed a 6 inch cake board on top of the cake and marked the frosting around it so I would know where to place the other 6 dowels. All in all, it was a success, and a lot less scary than I initially thought it would be.

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At this point, I had to pack up everything and bring it 25 minutes away to my parents house. I drove so slowly I am pretty sure the people going around me looked to see if there was a new bord baby in the back seat! >.<

Anyhow, once the cakes were safely transported, it was time to stack them. I used a large frosting spatula to help me transfer the small cake on top of the large cake. Then I used a hammer to pound a few skewers through both cakes, and then cut off the remaining wood at the top. This made it easier to move the cake from room to room without worrying it was going to end up on the floor.

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Now comes the fun part; decorating! The first thing that needed to happen was to cover up the seam where the two cakes were stacked together, and clean up the edges and boarders where my frosting technique was a little sketchy.

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Then I added some adorable sugar pearls (that I am now addicted to!) to the boarders.

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After adding things, changing things, and adding things again, I was ready for the finishing touches! The cake already looked nice, but then I added about 24 gum paste roses, and wow, even though it was what I was invisioning, I was impressed! Seriously, I nearly cried when I finished the cake! (But that may have had more to do with the fact that I was so busy making the cake that by 4:00PM I hadn’t eaten anything and had only had caffein and water….oops…..)

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Then I took another million pictures because I was so happy with how it turned out ^_^

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Thank you for getting through this excessively long post, and once again congratulations to my brother and his fiancee!

Neapolitan Engagement Cake
Inspired by Sweetapolita’s recipes

Raspberry Cake Ingredients:

2 cups sugar
1 (3oz) package of raspberry gelatin (JELL-O)
1 cup butter, softened
4 eggs
2 3/4 flour
2 1/5 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raspberry puree, from fresh raspberries

Directions:

1) Grease a 9 inch and 6 inch round pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2) Cream together the butter, sugar and dry gelatin until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Mix vanilla and milk together.
3) Combine and whisk the dry ingredients, adding to the creamed butter mixture and alternating with adding the milk until just combined. Blend in the raspberry puree.
4) Pour the batter into the pans and bake for about 35-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans on a wire rack before removing the cakes from the pans and cooling completely on the rack. Wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Vanilla Cake Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups ice water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 egg whites

Directions:

1) Grease one 9 inch and two 6 inch round pans and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2) Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks and set aside.
3) Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Separately, mix the water and extracts.
4) Alternately add the dry ingredients and the water, beating after each addition.
5) Fold in the egg whites then pour into the greased pans.
6) Bake for about 30 minutes, then let the cakes cool in the pans before removing them and cooling completely on a wire rack. Wrap the cakes with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Chocolate Cake Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup strong black coffee
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease one 9 inch and two 6 inch round pans, and place parchment paper on the bottom of each.
2) Mix together all the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add in all the remaining ingredients, mixing for about 2 minutes.
3) Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 35-45 minutes.
4) Let the cakes cool in the pans then remove and place on a wire rack until completely cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Strawberry Party Frosting Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup butter, softened
8 cups (2 lbs) powdered sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon strawberry extract
a pinch of salt
a small handful of raspberries
wilton gel paste food coloring (I used burgundy)

Directions:

1) Beat the butter and sugar until thoroughly combined.
2) Add the whipped cream, extract, salt and raspberries and mix again.
3) Slowly add in food coloring in small increments until you have achieved the color you desire.
4) Add more powdered sugar or whipping cream to change the consistency depending on how thick you want it.

To Build The Cake:

1) Take the cakes out of the refrigerator and level the tops. Split the two largest cakes into two horizontal layers, giving you five layers of cake for both the 9 inch and 6 inch cake.
2) Place the first layer of your 9 inch cake down on your cake board. Using a pastry bag, pipe a boarder of frosting on the first cake, than fill in the inside of the boarder. Add the next layer of cake on the top of the first, and repeat.
3) When all 5 layers are frosted, give the cake a crumb coat and place in the refrigerator. Repeat with the 6 inch cake, but using only 4 layers of cake.
4) Frost both cakes again, then place in the refrigerator.
5) Cut 7 pieces of a 1/4 inch dowel to fit the size of the 9 inch cake. Place one in the center of the cake and the other 6 around that one in a circle.
6) Carefully place the 6 inch cake on top of the 9 inch cake so it rests on top of the dowels.
7) Using a piping bag, pipe decorative boarders to hide the bottom of the 9 inch cake and the seam where the two cakes meet.
8) Add decorations! 😀 I used pearl sprinkles and gum paste roses.

Enjoy! Thanks for reading! ^_^

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