Making this cake felt like climbing Mt. Everest. It was bit of a beast to develop but I’m so glad I did because I LOVE IT!
There is no one that loves Neapolitan anything more than me. I think it started with Breyers ice cream when I was a kid. My dad was an avid ice cream buyer/eater and we always had it in the freezer. Strawberry ice cream was also so heavy in the rotation but I loved chocolate so often times that I’d mix chocolate cream with a scoop of strawberry ice cream. Seriously the best idea evrrrr.
I recently started to think about Neapolitan and wondered: “Why don’t we make Neapolitan with other flavors?!?!”
This is a Mexican Neapolitan. The flavors are slightly different and use Mexican ingredients.
The pink layer (usually strawberry) is agua de jamaica (hibiscus). If you’ve ever gone to a Mexican restaurant, you most likely saw or had the agua de jamaica, which is made with hibiscus leaves.
Hibiscus leaves are tart! To make this layer more tart and make sure the flavor comes through, I added a bit of lime zest and juice to the mixture. We use the agua de jamaica in both the cake itself and the frosting.
I did add some food coloring to the cake because when it’s baked, it turns an ugly horrible purple so I counteracted that by using hot pink food coloring and red. (If you don’t have hot pink, you can use just red and it’ll look pretty!)
The chocolate layer is Mexican chocolate. There’s cloves, cinnamon, cayenne and allspice. It’s really flavorful and super rich and chocolate-y.
The last layer is Mexican vanilla. Of course, you don’t HAVE to use Mexican vanilla but I used a good amount of it to really make sure the flavor was very present.
And the frostings are in corresponding flavors.
This cake is a stunner and a bit of a weekend project but it is so so so good.
I made the cake layers the day before and breaking up the work like that helped SO much. I definitely recommend doing that.
I can’t keep thinking about other flavors to the whole Neapolitan thing!
Agua de Jamaica:
- 3/4 cup boiling water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup dried hibiscus flowers
- Juice and zest from 1 lime
- Splash of vanilla extract or vanilla paste
Vanilla + Hibiscus Cake Layers:
- 5 egg whites, divided
- 2 drops pink food coloring
- 1 drop of red food coloring
- 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, milk
- 2 1/4 cup cake flour, plus more for dusting
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
- 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
Mexican Chocolate Cake Layer:
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 3/4 cups white granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup baking cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
- Pinch of allspice
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
- 3 cups powdered sugar, you might need a tablespoon or two more for the jamaica flavor, sifted
- 1 teaspoon milk or heavy cream
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons reserved agua de jamaica, see above for recipe
- 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped or 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or paste
- 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
To Make the Agua de Jamaica:
- In a measuring cup, combine the boiling water, sugar and dried hibiscus tea leaves. Allow to steep for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain and mix in lime juice and vanilla. Set aside.
To Make the Hibiscus + Vanilla Cake Layers:
- Grease and line 2 (six-inch or eight-inch) cake pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- In a measuring cup, combine 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons of hibiscus tea, with 1/2 of the egg white mixture, pink food coloring and red food coloring. (If you don’t have pink food coloring, you can use 3 drops of red food coloring.) Whisk together and then set aside.
- In another measuring cup, combine 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons of milk, with 1/2 of the egg whites mixture and caviar from 1 vanilla bean OR 1 teaspoon vanilla paste. Set aside.
- In a stand-up mixer, with the paddle attachment, add the cake flour, unsalted butter, sugar and baking powder and salt. Mix until the butter looks like sandy bits. Divide the butter/flour mixture into two. If you like precision (like I do), you can weight it out. Each bowl of butter/flour mixture should weigh about 302 grams.
- To the first bowl of the flour mixture, add the hibiscus/egg white mixture. Mix until the mixture becomes smooth-ish. Adjust the coloring if needed. Pour the hibiscus cake layer batter into one of the prepared cake pans.
- To the second bowl of flour mixture, add the milk/vanilla/egg white mixture and mix until the smooth-ish. Pour the vanilla bean cake layer into the second prepared cake pan. Transfer both to the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
To Make Mexican Chocolate Cake Layer:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line the bottom of a six-inch or eight-inc cake pan with parchment (this is a sticky cake batter so definitely use parchment).
- In the bowl of a stand-up mixer, add the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cayenne, allspice, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix until combined.
- In a measuring cup, measure out the milk, water and whisk in the egg, olive oil and vanilla extract. With the stand-up mixer on low speed, pour in the milk mixture and mix until combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
To make the frostings:
- To the bowl of a stand-up mixer, with the paddle attachment, add the butter, powdered sugar, milk or heavy cream and salt; beat until combined.
- Add 3/4 of the frosting (you can eyeball this measurment) to a bowl. Divide the remaining frosting in half. You should end up with three bowls of frosting. To the largest amount of frosting, add the vanilla bean or paste and mix. To one of the smaller frostings, add the agua de jamaica and mix until smooth. If the frosting is a bit too loose, feel free to sift in a tablespoon or two of powdered sugar. To the last bowl of frosting, pour in the melted chocolate and mix until smooth and combined.
To assemble the cake:
- Place the first cake layer on a cake stand or cake board. Top with a few scoops of vanilla frosting and smooth out to an even layer. Repeat with the second and third cake layer. Add a crumb coat and then chill for 15 minutes.
- From here you can decorate the cake how ever you like. I ended up adding a second layer to the cake with the vanilla frosting. For the top, I added the chocolate, agua de jamaica and vanilla frosting to different piping bags with an arrange of tips. I made a bunch of different lil’ starts and dots to the top. Get creative.