Do you guys listen to music when you cook and bake? I find that my happy state in the kitchen includes music playing in the background. More than just soothing me or bringing me to a state of calm, music often inspires what I’ll actually be cooking and baking, like it’s done here with this neapolitan ice cream cake.
It completely sets the mood for me. Sometimes, before I’ve even hooked up my iPod to my speakers, I’ll find myself humming some tune or another. Those are the times I know exactly what I’m in the mood to cook or bake. My sister says that my humming is a habit that I’ve had since I was a child. She says she’d often find me playing in some corner of the house, only by following the sound of my voice humming. More often than not, the music I hum or listen to is a mix of classical or jazz. I grew up listening to my sister play classical pieces on the piano, in addition to listening to it at home with my parents, who are big fans. As a young girl, this inspired me to start playing piano as well, and encouraged a love for Chopin, Bach, and Pavarotti, to name a few.
I was planning a girls’ night for this past weekend, and I was thinking of dessert ideas when I turned on one of my favorite pandora playlists to find the song Ave Maria playing. I was instantly transported to my childhood. I remember there would be lazy summer afternoons where my parents would put on their favorite classical soundtrack as they lounged in the backyard. I’d be sitting at the outdoor dining table, painting portraits with my watercolor set (my favorite thing to do as a child) with a bowl of neapolitan ice cream next to me. One of the soundtracks they’d often play had this song Ave Maria on it, and I remember it striking a chord with me. The angelic voice singing made me feel like all was right in the world. Nothing felt more symbolic of the happiness I felt painting my pictures as I savored each lick of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, with my parents nearby, than the song of Ave Maria. And so I was inspired to make this neapolitan ice cream cake.
Neapolitan ice cream cake is whimsical, sweet, and lighthearted. You’ll feel like you’re floating on clouds with the tune of Ave Maria after one bite of this cake. You can taste the tender crumb of the chocolate cake layer against the cool and creamy strawberry and vanilla ice cream. The chocolate’s slight bitter quality pairs sensationally with the sweet and alluring flavors of strawberry and vanilla. The whipped cream frosting on the outside is firm enough to masquerade as ice cream, but one bite proves that it’s pure cream, lusciously melting on your warm tongue within the second. I couldn’t think of a better dessert than this neapolitan ice cream cake to end a beautiful and relaxing summer season with.
- 1 c all-purpose flour
- 1 c 3 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 c baking cocoa
- 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2/3 c buttermilk
- 1/3 c vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs, not extra large
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 2/3 c freshly brewed coffee
- 1.5 qt vanilla ice cream
- 1.5 qt strawberry ice cream
for the whipped cream frosting
- 1 pint heavy cream
- 1/4 c powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch cake pan that’s at least 2 inches high. Remove the two cartons of ice cream from the freezer and allow to soften at room temperature.
- First you’re going to create your chocolate cake layer. Beat the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer (or just a large bowl).
- In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. Add these wet ingredients to the dry ingredients; mix to combine. Pour the coffee into the batter and beat until batter is smooth. Stop to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl before giving one final mix.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for approximately 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Meanwhile, line two 9-inch cake pans with plastic wrap. To keep the plastic wrap from moving around, you can tape the plastic to the outside of the pan. Pour the softened vanilla ice cream into one plastic wrap-lined pan, and then the softened strawberry ice cream into the second plastic wrap-lined pan. Spread and smooth out each until they’re even layers in their pans. Cover each with a sheet of plastic wrap and freeze until firm (about 2 hours).
- Once your chocolate cake is done baking, allow the cake to cool in its pan before flipping it out onto a freezer-safe serving dish. Let it cool completely on this dish. Once the ice cream layers are firm again, remove the plastic wrap that was covering each ice cream layer’s surface. Flip the strawberry layer on top of the chocolate cake layer. Then flip the vanilla layer on top of the chocolate layer. Cover the entire cake with a large piece of plastic wrap and freeze while you create your whipped cream frosting.
- Before you create the frosting, create some ganache by heating 2 tbsp of heavy cream in small saucepan just until the edges begin to bubble. Remove from the heat and add 1 oz of dark chocolate. Stir until chocolate melts. Allow the ganache to cool before using. Alternatively, you can use chocolate syrup.
- To create the frosting, whisk the heavy cream on high speed until soft peaks form. Add in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk again until stiff peaks form. Put about 1/2 a cup of frosting into a pastry bag with a star tip.
- Bring the cake back onto your counter and use an offset spatula to frost the top and sides of the cake with frosting. You want to work fast to prevent the ice cream from melting. If you find the ice cream is melting, quickly put the cake back into the freezer (without the plastic wrap) and let it firm up again for another 15 minutes.
- Stick the whipped cream frosting in the fridge to keep cool too. Pipe swirls along the top rim of the cake before sprinkling pink, brown, and gold sprinkles over the swirls. Stick the cake back in the freezer for 2 minutes. Take the cake out and drizzle the ganache (or chocolate syrup) over the swirls. Then place in the freezer until ready to serve.
When storing the prepared ice cream cake in the freezer, you can place the cake in a sealed cake box or a cake stand that is freezer safe. I didn’t have any on hand so I just left the cake in the freezer without anything covering it. I found that it was unaffected by doing this. Also, the next day the cake was still OK with just a slight layer of frost on the chocolate cake layer, but nothing to
really diminish the taste of the cake.