Neapolitan Cakes in Jars

  • Serves: Makes 24 individual cakes in 4-ounce Mason jars
  • Baking Temp (degrees F): 350
  • Views: 10459

Recipe and photo © 2012 by Shaina Olmanson and used by permission of The Harvard Common Press

Shaina's book, Desserts in Jars, presents classic and inspired treats in a whole new way. At once playful and well-crafted, they are appropriate for a kids' birthday one weekend (Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes) and a grown-up gathering, the next (Neapolitan Cakes).

SARAH SAYS: I met the lovely and spunky Shaina when she came to New York City for her book party. It was a pleasure meeting her. (Photo by Sarah Phillips)

For the strawberry cake
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and pureed, preferably, or ¾ cup frozen strawberry puree
4 large egg whites
1/2 cup whole milk

For the white and chocolate cakes
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4  teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup hot coffee, or 1/4 cup boiling water
1/2  cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

For the frosting
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream, plus more as needed
3 strawberries, hulled and pureed
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray the insides of twenty-four 4-ounce Mason jars with canola oil.

2. Make the strawberry cake batter: Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and strawberry puree, and beat, starting slowly and then more quickly, for 2 to 3 minutes, until you have a very thick batter. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy, then whisk in the milk. Add 1/3 cup of the egg white mixture to the batter, then beat until incorporated. Repeat until all the egg white mixture is incorporated. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go. When all the egg white mixture has been added, set the batter aside.

3. Make the white and chocolate cake batters: Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and set aside. In another large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, combine the milk and cream. Stir 1/3 cup of the milk mixture into the butter mixture, and then stir 1/3 cup of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Continue alternating additions of milk and flour until they are fully incorporated into the batter. Stir in the vanilla. Divide the batter between two bowls. In a small bowl, mix together the hot coffee and the cocoa, and add this mixture to one of the bowls, creating the chocolate cake batter.

4. Layering the flavors one at a time, scoop or spoon 2 tablespoons of each of the three cake batters into each of the prepared jars. Place the jars 2 inches apart on a large baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the centers of the cakes spring back when touched. Remove the cakes from the oven and let them cool completely.

5. While the cakes are baking, make the frosting: Cream the butter, add the confectioners' sugar, and beat thoroughly. Beat in 2 tablespoons of the heavy cream. Divide the frosting into thirds. Add the strawberry puree to one third and mix in. Beat the bittersweet chocolate into the second third and the vanilla extract into the final third. Add a teaspoon or two of additional heavy cream to the buttercream frostings if needed for a smooth consistency.

6. Transfer the three frostings to three piping bags. Cut the tips off to create a 1/2-inch opening, and then place the three bags into one larger pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cakes in a swirl shape before serving.