Christmas Neapolitan Cake Recipe

Holiday entertaining can inspire you to prepare special dishes, but there's no need to learn fancy techniques to impress. Tasting Table developer Katie Rosenhouse shares this Christmas Neapolitan cake recipe that will make quite a scene at the dining table, without taking hours of your time in the kitchen. She notes, "I love that this cake is a fun twist on a classic Neapolitan," and explains, "The three featured flavors here are vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet, but strawberries within the layers are a nod to what you expect from a classic Neapolitan cake." 

If you're already moving on to the next dessert recipe because you can't be bothered to make three separate cakes, you'll be pleased to know that's not the method here. "It's rare to see three cake flavors in one layer cake without having to make separate batters," Rosenhouse points out and comments, "My goal was to create a delicious cake using only one batter, with each layer (vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet) as rich and decadent as they should be." The result is delicious, aesthetically pleasing, and sure to be a stunning addition to your holiday party.

Gather the ingredients for this Christmas Neapolitan cake recipe

For the trio of cakes, you'll need room temperature unsalted butter, canola oil, granulated sugar, large eggs, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, buttermilk, vanilla extract, unsweetened cocoa powder, brewed coffee, white vinegar, and red food coloring. 

Next, for the filling and frosting, get large egg whites, granulated sugar, more room temperature unsalted butter, vanilla extract, kosher salt, strawberry jam, fresh strawberries (hulled and thinly sliced), and holiday sprinkles to decorate, if desired.

Step 1: Preheat

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Step 2: Prep pans

Line three 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and parchment paper. Set aside.

Step 3: Mix fats and sugar

Combine butter, oil, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.

Step 4: Keep beating

Beat until smooth and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Step 5: Add in eggs

Add eggs one at a time, beating to combine after each addition.

Step 6: Add dry ingredients

Add half the flour, along with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat just until the flour disappears.

Step 7: Mix in the rest of the ingredients

Add remaining flour, buttermilk, and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

Step 8: Split batter

Divide batter evenly between three bowls.

Step 9: Make chocolate batter

For chocolate batter, stir ⅓ cup cocoa powder and ¼ cup coffee into one bowl of batter until smooth.

Step 10: Make red velvet batter

For red velvet batter, stir in the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons cocoa, vinegar, and red food coloring (as much as needed to reach the desired shade) into another bowl until smooth.

Step 11: Divide batter in pans

Spoon vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet cake batters into separate prepared pans.

Step 12: Bake

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until cakes spring back to the touch or a wooden pick inserted in the centers comes out mostly clean with a few moist bits.

Step 13: Flip and cool

Flip cakes onto cooling racks. Remove pans and parchment and leave to cool completely, at least 1 hour.

Step 14: Mix eggs and sugar

To prepare the buttercream, whisk to combine egg whites and sugar in a bowl set over a small pot of barely simmering water over low heat.

Step 15: Keep whisking

Whisk constantly (to avoid scorching) until the mixture is very warm to the touch (about 160 F).

Step 16: Whip mixture

Remove the bowl from the pot and transfer to a stand mixer; whip to medium peaks.

Step 17: Add butter

Slowly add butter, 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time, whipping to incorporate after each addition.

Step 18: Mix in remaining ingredients

Add vanilla and salt. Whip until buttercream is light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.

Step 19: Set out first cake layer

Place vanilla cake layer onto a cake platter or turntable.

Step 20: Spread frosting

Top with a small dollop of frosting and spread evenly to coat.

Step 21: Add jam

Spread half of the jam over the frosting, leaving a ¼-inch border around the edges.

Step 22: Add strawberries

Top evenly with sliced strawberries.

Step 23: Repeat layering

Repeat with the chocolate layer, then top with the red velvet cake layer.

Step 24: Top with buttercream

Top cake with the remaining buttercream, reserving ½ cup for piping a border if desired, and spread to evenly coat the top and sides of the cake.

Step 25: Decorate sides

If decorating with sprinkles, press up the sides of the cake.

Step 26: Make a border

Pipe a border on the top and bottom of the cake using any remaining buttercream if desired, and top with more sprinkles.

Step 27: Serve

Serve cake immediately, or chill until 30 minutes before serving.

How should I store Christmas Neapolitan cake?

Considering this isn't just a basic round cake, you might be a bit hesitant when it comes time to store it correctly. Rosenhouse offers some advice that takes the various layers and ingredients into account. "With fresh strawberries layered into the cake, leftovers only last for up to 3 days in the refrigerator," she notes. 

If you are preparing this for a small gathering and don't want to overdo it to finish the cake within the optimal timeframe, she adds, "I recommend freezing for longer storage. Cut into slices before wrapping and storing in a freezer-safe zip-top bag, and they'll stay fresh in the freezer for up to 2 months." Since you probably aren't making triple-layered cakes with frosting and sprinkles on the regular, it's not a bad idea to be able to pull out a slice on a whim. Rosenhouse adds, "The beauty of freezing in slices is that they'll thaw quickly at room temperature when you're ready to serve."

How can you switch up this Christmas Neapolitan cake recipe?

Once you prepare this Christmas Neapolitan cake for the first time, you'll likely want to have fun and experiment with variations for subsequent occasions. "The cake layers for this cake come together with one batch of batter, so it's best to go with the recipe as written, but it's easy to customize the frosting and filling," Rosenhouse explains. "Feel free to substitute the Swiss meringue frosting with cream cheese frosting, whipped white chocolate ganache, vanilla buttercream, or any frosting you prefer," she suggests. 

As for the filling, she advises, "You can keep the jam and fresh fruit in the layers, substituting with any types of jam and fruit you prefer, or leave them out completely." We wouldn't be opposed to sneaking a layer of Nutella in there either! Of course, the decoration is where you can really let your creativity shine, as Rosenhouse agrees. "There are also lots of options when it comes to decorating. Festive Christmas sprinkles, a few berries, or a sprig of rosemary with a few sugared cranberries are all festive options for the holiday season," she suggests.

What are tips for assembling and decorating this Christmas Neapolitan cake?

Thankfully, this Christmas Neapolitan cake recipe is pretty straightforward since you only need to make one base batter. However, Rosenhouse notes an element of the preparation that should be monitored: "When it comes to assembling the layer cakes, temperature is key to keeping the layers in place," she says and instructs, "Cool the cake layers completely before decorating, and if possible, chill the layers for at least an hour (or overnight) before working with them." If the timing seems precarious amidst all of your other kitchen tasks, she recommends, "You can even get ahead of your holiday prep by preparing the cake layers and freezing them up to 1 month in advance. The colder they are, the easier the time you'll have when stacking." 

Some people love decorating cakes, but for others, it's just a matter of stress. Rosenhouse has a few tips to appease any worries. "If you're new to decorating layer cakes, fill, stack, and start with a crumb coat. This is a light coating of frosting on the exterior of the cake that keeps any crumbs tight against the surface, and gives you a canvas to work off of when decorating," she explains. "Once the crumb coat is on, chill the cake until firm, then coat with remaining frosting for a smooth exterior."

Christmas Neapolitan Cake Recipe
4.9 from 13 ratings
The flavors in this recipe are vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet, but strawberries in the layers are a nod to what you'd expect from a classic Neapolitan cake.
Prep Time
40
minutes
Cook Time
45
minutes
Servings
12
Slices
whole Neapolitan cake with sprinkles
Total time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Ingredients
  • For the Cake
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup canola oil
  • 2 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup + 1 ½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, divided
  • ¼ cup brewed coffee (or hot water)
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • red food coloring
  • For Filling and Frosting
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup strawberry jam, divided
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced, divided
Optional Ingredients
  • holiday sprinkles, optional
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Line three 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. Combine butter, oil, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  4. Beat until smooth and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, beating to combine after each addition.
  6. Add half the flour, along with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat just until the flour disappears.
  7. Add remaining flour, buttermilk, and vanilla. Beat until smooth.
  8. Divide batter evenly between 3 bowls.
  9. For chocolate batter, stir ⅓ cup cocoa powder and ¼ cup coffee into one bowl of batter until smooth.
  10. For red velvet batter, stir in the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons cocoa, vinegar, and red food coloring (as much as needed to reach the desired shade) into another bowl until smooth.
  11. Spoon vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet cake batters into separate prepared pans.
  12. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until cakes spring back to the touch or a wooden pick inserted in the centers comes out mostly clean with a few moist bits.
  13. Flip cakes onto cooling racks. Remove pans and parchment and leave to cool completely, at least 1 hour.
  14. To prepare the buttercream, whisk to combine egg whites and sugar in a bowl set over a small pot of barely simmering water over low heat.
  15. Whisk constantly (to avoid scorching) until the mixture is very warm to the touch (about 160 F).
  16. Remove the bowl from the pot and transfer to a stand mixer; whip to medium peaks.
  17. Slowly add butter, 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time, whipping to incorporate after each addition.
  18. Add vanilla and salt. Whip until buttercream is light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.
  19. Place vanilla cake layer onto a cake platter or turntable.
  20. Top with a small dollop of frosting and spread evenly to coat.
  21. Spread half of the jam over the frosting, leaving a ¼-inch border around the edges.
  22. Top evenly with sliced strawberries.
  23. Repeat with the chocolate layer, then top with the red velvet cake layer.
  24. Top cake with the remaining buttercream, reserving ½ cup for piping a border if desired, and spread to evenly coat the top and sides of the cake.
  25. If decorating with sprinkles, press up the sides of the cake.
  26. Pipe a border on the top and bottom of the cake using any remaining buttercream if desired, and top with more sprinkles.
  27. Serve cake immediately, or chill until 30 minutes before serving.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 866
Total Fat 43.8 g
Saturated Fat 19.0 g
Trans Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 150.3 mg
Total Carbohydrates 111.9 g
Dietary Fiber 2.8 g
Total Sugars 76.9 g
Sodium 480.5 mg
Protein 10.3 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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