Neopolitan Cakes Baked in The Best Vanilla Cupcakes
After our first epic-ly successful bake date I was brimming with confidence for Round Two, and suggested to Shana that we go ahead and try two recipes each, because we’re so pretty and talented and awesome, banging out four batches of cupcakes in a couple of hours would be NOTHING.
I’m happy to say that all four of our recipes were super tasty, I wouldn’t go so far as to call the day a super success, both my first recipe and Shanas turned out…umm…semi-disastrous. Shana has written about her rainbow-turds, and although I’ve spoken before about my issues with frosting, this one really…takes the cake (HAHAHAHA). It sucked.
Thankfully we got it together with our second recipes and salvaged the day.
My first recipe is yet unnamed (ideas welcome), I took inspiration from a couple of awesome blogs, Bake it In a Cake, and this fantastic looking Neopolitan Cake recipe from Smitten Kitchen.
I decided to frost it in coconut, just cause coconuts are pretty cool. I based my frosting recipe on overconfidence and icing sugar, a retrospectively terrible idea.
My second recipe was a homage to one of the best cakes I’ve ever tasted, from a cake stall at an arts college in Melbourne. It was a vegan rosemary, olive oil and dark chocolate cake, and holy shit it was good. It was so dense and moist and amazing, not super sweet, so unusual and…oh man…I die. My cupcakes weren’t exactly what I was looking for, they were much more light and fluffy than the original cake I tried, and the olive oil flavour wasn’t as prominent (next time-more olive oil), but there were still really good, and very pretty, with fat dark chocolate chunks peeping through, and sprinkled with almond flakes. I would decribe them as more like scones than cupcakes, perfect with a hot cup of earl grey, and a good book on a shitty day (theres a typhoon going down in Tokyo as I write, and I am craving exactly that.)
In lieu of baking from scratch a batch of tiny Neopolitan cakes to bake inside cupcakes, I did the ‘shortcut’ version of a Neopolitan cake, wedging cookies together with fig jam. So, heads up, this really is more of a respectful nod to Smitten Kitchen’s beautiful and complex recipe rather than an adaptation.
I had wanted to use a shortbread cookie with marmalade, but working around what is readily available in Japan, I ended up finding crunchy peanut cookies (chosen because the genki as packaging advised “Let’s enjoy a sweet time with friends!”) and fig jam instead. This kind of last minute recipe edit is often the case when I’m planning a new recipe, the process goes something like this: think up a weird conconction- google recipes- check supermarkets for ingredients at the last minute- change recipe on the spot to suit what I can find- bake recipe and hope for the best.
LET’S GET BAKING.
Pre-make your “Not Quite Neopolitan” cake- stacks. (NOTE: heavy science ahead, get yo dictionary ready)
Take three small cookies of your choice, of about one inch diametre, spoon a generous splodge of any jam between each and shove them together, not too hard, keep the jam inside if you can. Expect it to be messy. Jam everywhere. Make as many three-cookie stacks as you plan on making cupcakes, then make a couple more for snacks-while-you-bake. Set aside.
To decide on what cake to use I went through the gruelling process of googling ‘best vanilla cupcake’ and going with the first recipe that came up, which happened to be from awesome recipe and inspiration source The Cupcake Project. This big claim is no lie, my co-baker and I agreed the cake was CRAZY GOOD. I would bake it again in a heartbeat, and recomend it as your go-to recipe for any vanilla cake.
Here is the full ingredients for 16 direct from the Cupcake Project (LINK), which Shana and I halved as she was using a vanilla recipe also (although Shana’s cupcakes were inexplicably smaller than mine…). I have included my notes in the instructions
1 cup (225 grams) granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 3/4 cups (175 grams) cake flour, not self-rising
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (57 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup (75 grams) full-fat sour cream
1/4 cup canola oil or vegetable oil (60 ml)
1 tablespoon pure (not imitation) vanilla extract
2/3 cup (160 ml) whole milk
Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).
In a small bowl, combine sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean. To get at the sneaky seeds, slice the beans down the length, open and scrape your knife along the gooey pungent centre ooohhh yeahhhh smelllls gooooooood…
Using the back of a spoon, move around the bowl and apply pressure to break up any clumps of seeds and to better infuse the vanilla flavor into the sugar. This can take a little while and smells amazing. Set aside.
Mix together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Add the vanilla bean sugar and mix until well combined.
Add butter and mix on medium-low speed for three minutes. Because there is so little butter, you’ll end up with a very fine crumb texture. Dont eat it.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, oil, and vanilla extract until smooth.
Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.
Slowly add milk and mix on low speed until just combined. This looked like the runniest cupcake mixture I’ve ever made!
Pour your mixture into your cupcake tray (lined, greased or nonstick as you prefer) until a little less than halfway.
Place your jammy cookie-stacks in the centre of each cupcake, they will settle on their own, but shoudlnt touch the bottom.
Cover the tops with your remaining mixture until nearly full.
I baked mine for a little longer than the original recipe called for, at 180 C, they were slightly golden on the outside. It took about 18 minutes. Start with 14 minutes, and do the toothpick test (toothpick in n out of cake, clean toothpick=baked, not clean=not baked). Bake a further two minutes, toothpick test, repeat until baked good n proper.
Now, wait until your cupcakes cool, and if you’re smart, choose a nice buttercream recipe, follow it to the letter, and frost your cakes as you prefer, and dont forget to cut them in half using a sharp knife before eating, for an awesome cross section with little cookie towers inside! The cookies will stay crunchy in the centre, too good! And stop reading here.
IF YOU’RE ME, MAKE THE WORST FROSTING EVER AND PROCEED TO RUIN OTHERWISE BADASS CAKES. I attempted to make a coconut buttercream using coconut cream and icing sugar and butter.I’ve blocked out most of the details, but it was super, super, super runny no matter how much sugar I added. I ended with this cloyingly sweet, runny, slightly coconutty disaster. Improvised by adding creamcheese. Tasty, still too runny. Decided to turn it into merangue frosting (note ive NEVER made merangue from scratch before, don’t know how, guessed, FAILED SO BADLY). Ended up with this (…actually delicious…) gooey, bubbling, half baked coconut-creamcheese-merangue melting off my cakes. In my shame, covered it with spatters of dark chocolate ganache, which possibly looked even worse.
Verdict: vanilla, peanut, fig, coconut, merangue, dark chocolate cake…tastes GOOOOOOD, looks BAAAAAAADDD!!!
Coming up soon will be my super easy and yum as olive oil and rosemary cakes, stay tuned!