Now, this is a party cake! Strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate cake batters are marbled together in this four layer, ice cream parlor-inspired, Neapolitan Cake. Topped with mini ice cream cones, it makes a fun birthday cake for kids of all ages.
When the weather is dreary for many days in a row (and it has been), baking up something fun is a real spirit-lifter! This Neapolitan Cake is an example of that. It’s an infusion of bright color and rich flavor, inspired by Neapolitan ice cream. Marbled with strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate cake batters, it’s covered in silky vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream. The strawberry ganache drip is creamy and colorful. And for an extra measure of happiness? Top the cake with Neapolitan buttercream-filled mini ice cream cones.
Mixing the batters.
I began this cake with the classic WASC batter (white almond sour cream cake) created by Rebecca Sutterby. I’m not often a box-mix baker, but this recipe uses it as an ingredient. I love how moist this cake is, and I’m not the only one. It’s my mom’s favorite cake! The pale batter takes on color and flavor beautifully. It’s just the perfect formula for this tri-color/flavor recipe.
After mixing up the base batter, divide it evenly into three bowls. Tint one batter with a few drops of pink food color, and mix in a tablespoon of McCormick strawberry extract. To another bowl, add 1/4 cup of dark cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons of water. Stir well until a deep, chocolaty batter is formed. Leave the last batter bowl plain vanilla. Spoon the batters alternately into four 6-inch round cake pans (or pipe them in, as I did – see the video for action). Use a butter knife to swirl the batters together in the pans.
Bake the cakes until they are well risen and puffed in the centers. They should spring back when pressed in their middles. Cool the cakes, then level them with a serrated knife or cake leveler.
Swiss meringue buttercream and pink ganache drip.
Fill and frost the cake with fluffy Swiss meringue buttercream. (You’ll find a short video tutorial for making it in this previous post). Smooth the buttercream with an offset spatula or bench scraper to even the exterior. Save the leftover buttercream for a future step.
Make a strawberry ganache drip using heavy cream, pink candy melts, and a few white candy melts mixed in. Adding the white candy creates a more opaque pink color. Stir in a few drops of strawberry candy flavoring oil and pour it over the frosted (chilled) cake.
Create a Neapolitan swirl.
Remember that leftover buttercream? Divide it into three portions; tint one portion pink with food color, and add strawberry extract. To another portion stir in 1/4 cup melted semisweet chocolate chips. Leave the third portion plain. Place the frostings side-by-side on a sheet of plastic wrap, and roll them up together. Snip one end of the rolled up plastic wrap (see video for this action).
Drop the frosting roll, snipped-end-first into a piping bag fitted with a large open star decorator piping tip. Pipe a swirl or two on a scrap sheet of parchment until all three colors of the frosting start to show. Then, pipe a swirls of frosting into mini ice cream cones. Speaking of…
Mini ice cream cones are available at most grocery stores, but I used something a little different. Mellow Cones are little jelly filled marshmallow cones that come in different colors. I scooped out the marshmallow part and filled the pretty pink and yellow cones with Neapolitan swirl buttercream. And you can too! Purchase Mellow Cones online, or if you’re lucky you can find them in the candy aisle at your local grocery store.
Didn’t they turn out cute!? The colors of the Neapolitan swirl buttercream will deepen as it sets, especially the chocolate portion.
Arrange the cones on top of the cake so that the pointed ends meet in the middle.
Slice the cake to reveal that gorgeous Neapolitan-marbled batter. It’s such a delicious, moist, and deceptively light cake. Each flavor is distinct, and the marbling ensures you get a taste of it all in one bite!
It makes a wonderful birthday cake, and I especially love how nostalgic it tastes. It’s sure to be a year-round favorite.
Related recipe: Neapolitan Marbled Cupcakes
Marbled Neapolitan cake layers
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 box white cake mix 16.25 oz.
- Generous pinch of salt
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup cold water
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon McCormick strawberry extract
- 2-4 drops neon pink gel food color such as Chefmaster
- 1/4 cup unsweet dark cocoa powder sifted
- 2 tablespoons water
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 8 large egg whites about 1 cup or 8 oz.
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon fine grain salt
- 3 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon McCormick strawberry extract
- 2 drops pink soft gel food color such as Chefmaster
- 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips melted and cooled slightly
Ice cream decors
Marbled Neapolitan cake layers
- Preheat oven to 350F. Coat four 6-inch round cake pans with flour-based baking spray (or grease and flour pans).
- Whisk together the first 4 ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer. In a four-cup measure with a pour spout, whisk together the sour cream, water, eggs and vanilla extract. With the mixer running on low speed, gradually pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Scrape the bowl down and mix again. Divide the cake evenly between 3 bowls.
- To the first bowl, add the strawberry extract and pink food color; mix well.
- To the second bowl, stir in the dark cocoa powder and water. Mix until the chocolate is incorporated and the color is consistent with no white streaks remaining.
- Leave the third bowl untinted.
- Place dollops of each flavor of cake batter alternately into each prepared cake pan (or pipe them in as I did, see video for action). Use a butter knife or another blunt kitchen tool to swirl the batters together.
- Bake for 25- 30 minutes, or until the cake springs back in the center when pressed. Turn the cakes out and cool completely on a wire rack. Level the cakes using a serrated knife or cake leveler.
Swiss meringue buttercream
- Place a saucepan filled 1/3 full of water over medium heat. Bring to a simmer.
- In a large stainless-steel bowl, combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt. Set the bowl over the simmering water and cook while whisking intermittently. Cook until the mixture is hot (110°F) and you can no longer feel sugar granules when the mixture is rubbed between your finger and thumb. Transfer the hot mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed for 10 minutes or until a thick, shiny meringue forms that holds stiff peaks. The bowl should feel cool to the touch. If it doesn’t, refrigerate the meringue in the bowl for 10 minutes. Return the bowl to the mixer and swap the whisk attachment for the paddle attachment.
- Beat the room temperature butter into the meringue one cube at a time on medium-low speed, waiting to add the next cube when the previous cube disappears. The batter will deflate with the butter addition, and may even look curdled (if the butter was the slightest bit cold this happens), but this is normal. When all of the butter is added, beat the mixture on high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract.
- Remove 1 cup of buttercream to a bowl and cover; reserve for later.
- Place a cake layer on a cake board or server. Fill with a thin layer of buttercream. Repeat steps with remaining cake layers. Coat the sides of the cake with an even layer of buttercream. Use a bench scraper or cake smoother to even the surface and smooth the top. Chill the cake until firm, about 20 minutes.
- Divide the reserved 1 cup of icing between 3 small bowls (1/3 cup each bowl).
- To the first bowl, add the pink food color and strawberry extract. Mix well to combine.
- To the second bowl, add the melted chocolate chips and stir well. Leave the third bowl plain.
- Place a sheet of plastic wrap on a work surface. Place a line of strawberry buttercream on the plastic in an approximate 6-inch line. Place a line of chocolate frosting next to the strawberry so that it touches. Place the vanilla frosting next to the chocolate in the same way. Roll the frosting up into a tube shape (see video for action) and twist the ends. Snip one end of the tube and place it cut-side-first into a piping bag fitted with a large open star decorator tip.
- On a piece of scrap parchment paper, or a paper towel, pipe 2-3 small swirls of frosting until all three colors begin to extrude from the piping tip.
Mini ice cream decors
- Stand the miniature ice cream cones upright in small shot glasses.
- Pipe swirls of the Neapolitan frosting into the miniature ice cream cones; top each with white nonpareils. Refrigerate until set, about 10 minutes.
Strawberry ganache drip
- Place the pink and white melting wafers in a microwave-safe bowl. Pour in the heavy cream. Heat the mixture for 1 minute at 100% power. Let the mixture stand 1 minute then whisk together. Stir in the strawberry flavoring oil. Let cool until barely warm but still pourable, about 7 minutes.
- Remove the chilled cake from the refrigerator and spoon the strawberry ganache drip over the top of the cake. You may not have to use all of the ganache, depending on how heavy a drip you desire (I used about 3/4 of the mixture).
- Place the ice cream cones on top of the ganached cake with the pointed ends meeting in the center of the cake. Toss pink sprinkles and white nonpareils onto the sides and top of the cake.
- Refrigerate the cake until 1-2 hours before serving. Allow cake to come to room temperature before serving for the best flavor and texture.