Grama’s Neapolitan Cake
This is the most beautiful cake! Elegant and delicious. And I can’t stand the idea of Rosh Hashanah without it. Sappy, but it IS like having my grandmother there, in some way.
It helps that it’s a really GOOD cake. And one that tastes so much better, fresh and buttery, than anything you can buy in a kosher bakery. It really is good enough to plan meals around. It’s basically cookies, layered with pudding. Cookies and pudding: the ultimate comfort foods!
I found a lot of recipes online for a “Neapolitan Cake” which simulates the 3-flavour, 3-colour effect of Neapolitan ice cream. Wrong! Those are completely way off track. This cake is nothing like that.
I discovered that many (most?) layered Neapolitan Cake recipes call for jam or something fruity between the layers. Indeed, the classic “dolce alla napoletana” often features almonds and either plain cream or a fruit spread between the layers and then an exterior icing glaze. Not necessarily ANY chocolate, anywhere.
So maybe my grandmother made this up. Or maybe she ran out of fruit preserves so she had to substitute chocolate pudding. Whatever and whoever – it’s a stroke of genius.
A reassuring family cake to usher in a sweet year of comfort, surrounded by family.
(adapted from Kinnereth Cookbook, p. 305, Beck Posluns’s Neapolitan Cake) (Beck Posluns was my grama!)
Important Note: Prepare at least one day before serving so that cake will soften.
1. Cream together: 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 egg
2. In food processor, buzz with steel knife to aerate (or, the old fashioned way, sift together): 2-1/2 cups (350g) flour, 1/4 tsp baking soda.
3. Add flour and baking soda to bowl along with 1 cup butter, melted. Scrape sides until all ingredients are combined.
4. Blend into a dough (cookie dough consistency).
5. Divide evenly into four ungreased 8-1/2” pans.
6. With bare hands (slightly damp if the dough is too sticky), spread dough smoothly to edge of pan.
7. Repeat for remaining three pans (I know you knew that, but I had this picture I wanted to throw in!).
8. Bake 17-20 minutes at 350°, until golden brown.
9. Gently turn out onto towels to cool.
Now for the pudding!
1. In a small bowl or measuring cup, dissolve 4 tablespoons cornstarch in 1/2 cup milk. (= cornstarch slurry)
2. In a bowl, combine 2 egg yolks, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons cocoa with cornstarch slurry.
3. In top of double boiler, combine 1/2 cup strong coffee and 1-1/2 cups milk. Whisk in cornstarch mixture.
4. Cook, stirring constantly, until thick and smooth. When ready, mixture will resemble chocolate pudding – because it is. It will thicken slightly as it cools. Turn off heat.
5. Whisk in 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Allow to cool completely. (note: you could probably add a tablespoon or two of your favourite liqueur at this step – but I never do)
6. When cool, spread pudding mixture generously (I always have leftovers) between cake layers and over top. Try to keep the layers aligned as you build up the cake. :-)
7. Sprinkle top evenly with sliced almonds which have been toasted (toast them in the an oven in a single layer at 300°, or in a dry frying pan on medium heat for a few minutes).
8. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Cake will soften and the flavours will meld until it is simply… luscious!
(p.s. And TWO are waaaay better than one!!!)
And in the morning, I went out to the store, bought sliced almonds, toasted them, sprinkled them (the top pudding had dried a bit overnight, but I put the almonds on when they were still hot from roasting, so I hope that will help them stick), and WAAAAH-lah!
Looks a bit messy. Trust me, when my grandmother made it, this thing sure looked ELEGANT. Mine looks a bit ploppy, but believe me, it’ll be delicious. (plus, the kids are happy because they got leftover pudding for dessert!)