Neapolitan Cake

This Neapolitan Cake is a decadent dessert inspired by the iconic neapolitan ice cream! You’ll fall in love with the classic combination of strawberry, chocolate and vanilla all over again – it tastes even better in cake form!

A piece of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla layer cake with a second piece behind it

Easy Neapolitan Cake Recipe

This colorful layer cake combines rich chocolate with sweet strawberry and warm vanilla in classic Neapolitan fashion! Each component of this dessert is packed with just the right amount of flavor to shine on its own but also compliment the other elements. It’s based off of my Strawberry Crunchy Layer Cake that’s been such a hit!

The cake itself has all 3 awesome flavors – and each of the distinct layers are made in ONE single cake batter! You start by making a thick-ish vanilla batter, then you’ll add reduced strawberry puree and strawberry extract to part of it, melted chocolate and cocoa powder to another part, then some additional ingredients for the vanilla cake. Brilliant, I know!

It all turns out lovely with great flavor. You don’t sacrifice anything. The chocolate layer is a touch denser than the other two because of the addition of the melted chocolate, but I personally enjoy the variety in texture.

The frosting also has all 3 flavors. You’ll make the chocolate buttercream separately, then make a vanilla buttercream base that you separate into two parts and add strawberry reduction and extract into one of them. Each frosting is unique in its flavor profile, but they all have a wonderfully light and creamy texture that compliments the cake just right.

On top of all that yumminess, there’s a rich chocolate ganache to be drizzled over the final product. And I always top it off with a few fresh berries to really make it pop. All the flavors in this show-stopping cake are naturally derived and delicious!

What Is Neapolitan Cake?

Neapolitan cake is a strawberry, chocolate and vanilla layer cake inspired by the classic tub of ice cream featuring the same 3 flavors. Neapolitan ice cream is a popular dessert choice for parties and get-togethers, and this cake takes that to a whole new level. It’s bright, bold, large, in charge and completely irresistible!

A neapolitan cake sitting on a white cake stand with strawberries and chocolate chips on the counter below

Recipe Ingredients

Don’t be overwhelmed by all the components of this dessert – they’re very easy to put together. All the cake layers use the same batter and the strawberry frosting is made by adding just a few extra ingredients to the vanilla one.

For the Neapolitan Cake Layers

  • Strawberry Puree: You’ll also need some for the strawberry buttercream – be sure to reduce enough for both.
  • All-Purpose Flour: Divided for use at different points in the recipe.
  • Baking Powder: Not baking soda.
  • Salt: To bring out the flavors.
  • Unsalted Butter: Brought to room temperature.
  • Vegetable Oil: You’ll need half a cup plus an additional 2 tablespoons.
  • Sugar: Granulated.
  • Vanilla Extract: For flavor.
  • Eggs: Large.
  • Milk
  • Strawberry Extract: To add even more flavor to the strawberry layer.
  • Red Food Coloring: Because your cake needs to look the part too!
  • Bittersweet Chocolate: Chopped.
  • Cocoa Powder: Natural, unsweetened.

For the Chocolate Frosting

  • Unsalted Butter: Room temperature.
  • Powdered Sugar: For volume and consistency.
  • Cocoa Powder: Natural, unsweetened.
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Heavy Whipping Cream: Water works too.
  • Salt: For flavor.

For the Vanilla & Strawberry Frostings

  • Strawberry Puree: From half a cup of chopped strawberries.
  • Unsalted Butter: Room temperature.
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Vanilla Extract: Use a high-quality extract for the best results.
  • Water: Or cream.
  • Strawberry Extract: To supplement the puree.
  • Salt: Just a pinch or two.

For the Chocolate Ganache

  • Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips: These have the perfect amount of richness without tasting too bitter.
  • Heavy Whipping Cream: You’ll need 1/4 cup.
A piece of neapolitan cake on a plate with a big bite taken out spanning all the layers

How to Make a Neapolitan Cake

There are quite a few steps in this recipe and things to pay attention to, but it’s not hard by any means. And it’s such a fun and unique way to combine 3 great flavors into one cake!

Make the Cake Layers

  1. Reduce Puree: Start with 1 1/4 cups of strawberry puree to reduce enough for the cake and frosting. Add the puree to a saucepan and cook it over medium heat. Allow the mixture to come to a slow boil, stirring consistently to keep it from burning, until it has thickened and reduced by half (to 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons), about 15 minutes. To measure, pour the puree into a measuring cup. If it’s evenly between 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup (which would be 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons), it’s done.
  2. Let Cool: When the puree has thickened and reduced, pour it into a measuring cup and allow it to cool to at least room temperature. Separate out the two tablespoons for the frosting and place them in a separate bowl.
  3. Prep for Baking: Prepare three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom and grease the sides. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  4. Combine Dry Ingredients: Combine 2 3/4 cups of flour, baking powder and salt in a medium-sized bowl and set it aside.
  5. Cream Butter, Sugar, Oil & Vanilla: Add the butter, oil, sugar and one tablespoon of vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl and beat together until light in color and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Do not skimp on the creaming time.
  6. Add Eggs: Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until mostly combined after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all the ingredients are well incorporated.
  7. Alternate Adding Dry Ingredients & Milk: Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until mostly combined. Add 1 tablespoon of the milk and mix just until combined. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix until combined. The batter will be thick – do not over-mix it.
  8. Make Strawberry Layer: Remove about 2 1/4 cups of batter (a third of the batter) and place that in a separate bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of milk, the strawberry reduction for the cake, strawberry extract and red food coloring to that batter and gently fold everything together. Add 2 tablespoons of flour and gently fold again to combine. Do not over-mix. Spread the strawberry batter evenly into one of the prepared cake pans and set it aside.
  9. Make Vanilla Layer: Add the remainder of the milk (1 cup) to the remainder of the batter and gently fold to combine. Place half of the batter (about 2 1/2 cups) into another bowl and gently fold in 2 tablespoons of flour and half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Pour the batter into one of the prepared cake pans.
  10. Make Chocolate Layer: Melt the chopped chocolate, then add it to the remaining cake batter along with the cocoa powder and gently fold together to combine. Spread the chocolate batter evenly into the final cake pan.
  11. Bake: Bake the layers for 23-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out with a few crumbs. Because of the different batters, they may vary a little on bake times. I’ve found that the chocolate one needs a few more minutes than the others.
  12. Let Cool: Remove the cakes from the oven and let them sit for 2-3 minutes, then transfer them to cooling racks to finish cooling.

Make the Chocolate Buttercream

  1. Beat Butter: Once the cake layers have cooled, make the frostings. Add the butter to a large mixer bowl and beat until smooth and creamy.
  2. Incorporate Half of Powdered Sugar: Add about half of the powdered sugar and mix until smooth and well combined.
  3. Add Cocoa Powder: Add the cocoa powder and mix until well combined and smooth.
  4. Add Remaining Wet Ingredients: Add the vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of water or cream and mix until smooth and well combined.
  5. Finish Adding Powdered Sugar: Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until smooth and well combined.
  6. Adjust Consistency & Add Salt: Add more water or cream, if needed, until your desired consistency is reached, then add the salt. Set the chocolate frosting aside.
A neapolitan cake decorated with vanilla buttercream swirls, strawberry slices and drips of chocolate ganache

Make the Vanilla & Strawberry Buttercream

  1. Beat Butter: Add the butter to a large mixer bowl and beat until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add Half of Powdered Sugar: Add about half of the powdered sugar and mix until smooth and well combined.
  3. Add Remaining Wet Ingredients: Add the vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of water or cream and mix until smooth and well combined.
  4. Finish Adding Powdered Sugar: Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until smooth and well combined. It will be thick.
  5. Make Strawberry Buttercream: Remove two cups of the buttercream to another bowl and add the strawberry reduction, strawberry extract and a pinch of salt. Mix together until well combined. Set aside.
  6. Adjust Vanilla Frosting Consistency: Add additional water or cream to the remaining vanilla frosting until your desired consistency is reached, then add salt. Set aside.

Build the Cake

  1. Flatten Cake Layers: Use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the top of the cakes so that they’re flat.
  2. Assemble Chocolate Layers: Place the chocolate cake on a serving plate or a cardboard cake round. Add 1 cup of chocolate buttercream and spread it into an even layer.
  3. Add Strawberry Layers: Add the strawberry cake layer on top of the chocolate buttercream and spread 1 cup of the strawberry buttercream on top, spreading into an even layer.
  4. Add Vanilla Layers: Add the vanilla cake layer on top, then spread about 1 cup of vanilla frosting evenly on top of the cake.
  5. Frost the Outside: To add the colored stripes on the sides of the cake, you can add the frosting with an offset spatula or use a piping bag with a piping tip. Add chocolate frosting around the chocolate cake layer, strawberry frosting around the strawberry layer and vanilla frosting around the vanilla layer.
  6. Smooth it Out: Run an icing smoother around the outside of the cake to smooth it all out. Try to do it as few times as possible to keep the layers from bleeding into each other. Smooth out the frosting on top of the cake as well.
  7. Start on Ganache: Add the chocolate chips for the ganache to a medium-sized bowl.
  8. Heat Heavy Cream: Heat the heavy whipping cream until it just begins to boil, then pour it over the chocolate chips.
  9. Let Sit & Combine: Allow the chocolate and cream to sit for 3-5 minutes, then whisk them together until smooth.
  10. Drizzle Ganache Over Cake: Drizzle the chocolate ganache over the cake. I like using a squeeze bottle to drizzle it around the edges. See my tips for making a chocolate drip cake!
  11. Garnish: Use the remaining vanilla buttercream to pipe decorative swirls around the top edge of the cake, then garnish it with strawberries.
  12. Enjoy! Serve your cake at room temperature or store it in the fridge.
A large slice of neapolitan cake on a plate with a sliced strawberry

Tips for Success

Although this cake is easy to make, there’s always room for error. These tips and tricks will help the process go nice and smoothly!

  • Take Your Time: This recipe has a lot of steps and uses divided ingredients in several places. Read through everything before starting and pay close attention as you go.
  • Avoid Over-Mixing the Batter: There’s more mixing in this cake than others because of the multiple flavors and things that are added in. Be sure you’re doing lots of folding things together, rather than mixing, as you add the additional ingredients for each flavor. Over mixing can lead to a more dense cake.
  • Prepare Thickened Puree in Advance: You can make and reduce your strawberry puree ahead of time, if desired. Just let it cool completely and store it in an airtight container in the fridge overnight.
A close-up shot of a neapolitan cake with chocolate, vanilla and strawberry buttercream frosting

How to Store Leftovers

Leftover neapolitan cake should be stored in a well-covered container in the fridge. It will last for up to 4 days. I recommend letting this cake come to room temperature before serving it.

Can I Freeze Neapolitan Cake?

I typically recommend freezing slices of cake, but feel free to try freezing the full cake. First, flash-freeze the cake, uncovered, for about an hour, or until the frosting is firm. Then, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil. Unwrap and thaw your cake in the fridge before bringing it to room temperature. Frozen cake should last up to 3 months.

Print
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A neapolitan cake decorated with vanilla buttercream swirls, strawberry slices and drips of chocolate ganache
Recipe

Neapolitan Cake

  • Author: Lindsay
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
  • Yield: 14 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This Neapolitan Cake is a decadent dessert inspired by the iconic neapolitan ice cream! You’ll fall in love with the classic combination of strawberry, chocolate and vanilla all over again – it tastes even better in cake form.


Scale

Ingredients

For the Neapolitan Cake

  • 1 cup strawberry puree (from 2 cups [280g] chopped strawberries)
  • 3 cups (390g) all purpose flour, divided
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 10 tbsp (140g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp (150ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 cups (414g) sugar
  • 1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, divided
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp (210ml) milk, divided
  • 1 tsp strawberry extract
  • 10 drops red food coloring
  • 2.5 oz bittersweet chocolate (60% cacao), chopped
  • 2 tbsp (14g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder

For the Chocolate Frosting

  • 1 cup (224g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups (403g) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup (57g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 45 tbsp (60-75ml) heavy whipping cream (or water)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the Vanilla & Strawberry Frostings

  • 1/4 cup strawberry puree (from 1/2 cup [70g] chopped strawberries)
  • 2 1/2 cups (560g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 10 cups (1150g) powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 46 tbsp (60-90ml) water or cream
  • 3/4 tsp strawberry extract
  • Pinch or two of salt

For the Chocolate Ganache

  • 3 oz (1/2 cup | 85g) semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy whipping cream

Instructions

Make Cake Layers

  1. You will need reduced strawberry puree for both the cake layers and the buttercream. They are listed out separately for the cake and buttercream, but I recommend reducing them together so you’re only doing that step once. If you do that, then you’ll need 1 1/4 cups strawberry puree to start with. Add the strawberry puree to a saucepan and cook over medium heat. Allow the mixture to come to a slow boil, stirring consistently to keep it from burning, until it has thickened and reduced by half to 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons, about 15 minutes. To measure, pour the puree into a measuring cup. If it’s evenly between 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup (which would be 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons), it’s done.
  2. When the puree has thickened and reduced, pour into a measuring cup and allow to cool to at least room temperature. Separate out the two tablespoons for the frosting and place them in a separate bowl. This strawberry mixture can be made ahead, if you like, and stored in the fridge.
  3. Prepare three 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom and grease the sides. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C).
  4. Combine 2 3/4 cups (358g) flour, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
  5. Add the butter, oil, sugar and one tablespoon of vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl and beat together until light in color and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Do not skimp on the creaming time.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until mostly combined after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated.
  7. Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until mostly combined.
  8. Add 1 tablespoon of the milk and mix just until combined.
  9. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Batter will be thick. Do not over mix.
  10. Remove about 2 1/4 cups of batter (a third of the batter) and place that in a separate bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of milk, the strawberry reduction for the cake, strawberry extract and red food coloring to that batter and gently fold together to combine. Add 2 tablespoons (16g) of flour and gently fold to combine. Do not over mix. Spread the strawberry batter evenly into one of the prepared cake pans. Set aside.
  11. Add the remainder of the milk (1 cup) to the remainder of the batter and gently fold to combine. Place half of the batter (about 2 1/2 cups) into another bowl and gently fold in 2 tablespoons (16g) of flour and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Pour the batter into one of the prepared cake pans for the vanilla cake layer.
  12. Melt the chopped chocolate, then add it to the remaining cake batter along with the cocoa powder and gently fold together to combine. Spread the chocolate batter evenly into the final cake pan.
  13. Bake the layers for 23-28 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs. Because of the different batters, they may vary a little on bake times. I found that the chocolate one need a few more minutes than the others. Remove cakes from oven and let sit for 2-3 minutes, then remove to cooling racks to finish cooling.

Make Chocolate Buttercream

  1. When the cake layers are baked and cooled, make the frostings. Add the butter to a large mixer bowl and beat until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add about half of the powdered sugar and mix until smooth and well combined.
  3. Add the cocoa powder and mix until well combined and smooth.
  4. Add the vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of water or cream and mix until smooth and well combined.
  5. Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until smooth and well combined.
  6. Add more water or cream until desired consistency is reached, then add salt. Set aside.

Make Vanilla & Strawberry Buttercream

  1. Add the butter to a large mixer bowl and beat until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add about half of the powdered sugar and mix until smooth and well combined.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of water or cream and mix until smooth and well combined.
  4. Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until smooth and well combined. It will be thick.
  5. Remove two cups of the buttercream to another bowl and add the strawberry reduction, strawberry extract and a pinch of salt. Mix together until well combined. Set aside.
  6. Add additional water or cream to the remaining vanilla frosting until desired consistency is reached, then add salt. Set aside.

Build Cake

  1. Use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the top of the cakes so that they’re flat.
  2. Place the chocolate cake on a serving plate or a cardboard cake round. Add 1 cup of chocolate buttercream and spread into an even layer.
  3. Add the strawberry cake layer on top of the chocolate buttercream and spread 1 cup of the strawberry buttercream on top, into an even layer.
  4. Add the vanilla cake layer on top, then spread about 1 cup of vanilla frosting evenly on top of the cake.
  5. To add the colored stripes on the sides of the cake, you can add the frosting with an offset spatula or use a piping back with a piping tip. Add chocolate frosting around the chocolate cake layer, strawberry frosting around the strawberry cake layer and vanilla frosting around the vanilla cake layer. Run an icing smoother around the outside of the cake to smooth it all out. Try to do it as few times as possible to keep the layers from bleeding into each other. Smooth out the top of the cake.
  6. To make the chocolate ganache, add the chocolate chips to a medium sized bowl.
  7. Heat the heavy whipping cream until it just begins to boil, then pour it over the chocolate chips.
  8. Allow the chocolate and cream and to sit for 3-5 minutes, then whisk together until smooth.
  9. Drizzle the chocolate ganache around the edge of the cake. I like to use a squeeze bottle for drizzling around the edges. See my tips on making a chocolate drip cake (https://www.lifeloveandsugar.com/how-to-make-a-chocolate-drip-cake/).
  10. Use the remaining vanilla buttercream to pipe swirls around the top edge of the cake, then garnish with strawberries.
  11. Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve. Cake is best stored well covered and eaten within 3-4 days. Best served at room temperature.

Notes

This recipe has a lot of steps and uses divided ingredients in several places. Read through everything before starting and pay close attention as you go.

Keywords: neapolitan cake, chocolate and vanilla cake, strawberry cake

More Homemade Cakes to Try

I have so many other yummy cakes that are sure to wow your guests as much as this one. Check out the recipes featured below!

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Recipe rating

22 Comments
  1. Carol R

    The cake looks scrumptious and beautiful. But, I can’t have strawberries. Could cherries be used for the middle layer instead? Not sure how I’d go about doing it but where there is a will there is a way.

  2. Zoe

    Hi Lindsay,
    I’m wanting to bake this cake for my daughters birthday coming up but am a little confused by the measurements for the strawberry cake. Judging by a couple of the comments (and the larger amount of flour in the strawberry cake) the strawberry cake turns out to be larger. Wondering if I should double the chocolate cake recipe (and do two 8inch rounds) and leave strawberry as is (but do two 8inch rounds)? I’d just need to bake for less time, right?

    1. Lindsay

      It has honestly been a long time since I made this recipe, but I believe the cake layers turn out as you see in the photos. I mention baking the strawberry cake in one 8 inch pan, which implies that what you see in the photos is how it turns out. If other people are getting a different result, I’m not sure. You can certainly play with it and adjust it if you like.

  3. Gretchelle A Kessler

    I was wondering do you have an video how to make this cake? I’m curious how it looks coming all together.

  4. Sandy

    Wow Lindsay, Your cake looks absolutely stunning! Seriously, it looks like it belongs in an upscale Parisian Bakery. This may be a stupid question, but how in the world did you make the lacy chocolate design on the white frosting, on the sides of the cake? Did you use some kind of stencil? If so who makes it and where can I buy it? Also how did you defy gravity and get it to stick to the sides? Just dusting over a stencil doesn’t seem like it would work. The pattern density looks very nice and uniform too. It looks like you’d need some kind of a frosting air-brush ( if such a thing exists? ) and a lot of artistic ability. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Detailed Instructions on how to create the lace effect would be fabulous.

    Thank You for sharing this beautiful cake! It sounds delicious too! I can hardly wait to try my hand at making it, but would love to be able to try to do the lace effect. Thanks & Aloha from Hawaii 😉

    1. Lindsay

      Thank you Sandy! The orignal design on the wedding cake used a stencil from here. For my version, I basically created my own stencil with a pattern and a piece of patter. I used an exacto knife to cut the pieces out. Then I used some black icing color with vodka to paint it onto the white fondant before adding it to the sides of the cake. The fondant sticks onto the buttercream cake with a little sugar water.

  5. Brooke

    Hi! I had the same problem as Shelley! My strawberry cake is the oven now and it is HUGE! I should have split it into 2- 8in pans. I was worrisome when the recipe for chocolate only needed 1 cup of flour and sugar and the strawberry needed 2 1/4 and 1 3/4. I’m hoping it will bake okay and I can cut it in half to put on top of the chocolate.

  6. Shelley

    I baked these cakes for my fathers birthday. The chocolate cake is 1/2 the thickness of the strawberry cake. I was disappointed as the chocolate cake was too thin for a layer so I had to find another recipe to bake another chocolate cake and I was under time constraints.
    Otherwise the taste is deliscious

    1. Life, Love and Sugar

      That’s strange that the chocolate cake was so thin. After looking the recipe, I realize I actually have the full strawberry cake recipe listed and it should be half. That would explain why the chocolate cake was 1/2 the thickness. I’m SO sorry! Would the chocolate layer have worked with the strawberry if the strawberry was half as thick as it was?

      1. Life, Love and Sugar

        Actually no, I’m sorry. The recipe is correct as posted. I’m not sure why your chocolate layer didn’t come out right. It’s a cake I use all the time and love. No matter the reason, I’m sorry it didn’t work out as expected. I hope it all worked out in the end and your dad had a great birthday!

      2. Shelley

        I didn’t give up! I rebuked the chocolate cake and it was still slightly thinner than the strawberry cake …Im a bit weird in the way I want them to be the same . anyways no one but me noticed once frosted and decorated. It was a hit! Thank you

  7. Nicole @ Daily Dish Recipes

    Oh my goodness, just beautiful. Happy Anniversary! Your wedding cake was gorgeous, but I love your cake better. So pretty!!

  8. Carrie

    how fun! happy anniversary! i love to reminisce back to my day too. there were a few things we would have changed if we could go back, but all in all it was an amazing day and so worth all the work!

  9. Jess @ On Sugar Mountain

    Congratulations!! that’s so romantic and exciting, and what a better way to celebrate than with this gorgeous cake! 😀

Lindsay
About Lindsay

I'm a wife and mom to twin boys, a baby girl and a sweet black lab with a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the sugar!

Scripture I’m Loving

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12