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The Comeback Kid and the Neapolitan Rose Cake


So, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been around here in a while – a long while. A very long while, actually. In case you were wondering, no one died (thank God). I didn’t move to Mars or decide to kayak around the world. The thing is, that somewhere along the way I lost my groove. I spent several frustrating months trying to find it. And when that didn’t work, I realized that maybe I needed to step back for a while. Let me explain…

We all have those times when things we try to do don’t turn out as planned. For me, it started some time between New Year’s Day and Valentine’s day. It happened so subtly, that I didn’t think anything of it at first. A fallen soufflé here… A curdled buttercream there… A burnt caramel sauce. Gummy pasta dishes. The list goes on. Nothing, and I mean n.o.t.h.i.n.g. that I cooked or baked was turning out right. Even recipes that I’d made dozens of times before went very wrong, and I couldn’t figure out why. Even Mr. SGCC noticed it – although he was smart enough not to mention it unless I brought it up first. I began to view my kitchen as hostile territory.


And, don’t even get me started on the photography! Mini SGCC came home from college for the summer – and brought three times more stuff back with her than she had when she left. It spilled out of her room, all the way down the hall and right into my little makeshift photography studio. Boxes were stacked up on top of my hand painted backdrops and antique French cheeseboards. Plates, bowls and serving platters were crammed into nooks and crannies out of my reach. And, I needed a search party to locate my lighting equipment. I tried setting up a table outside on my porch, but have you ever tried shooting a bowl of ice cream in ninety-five degree Florida heat? It isn’t pretty!

There was also the writing thing. As much as I tried to reach for them, the pithy, witty words eluded me. I felt as though I’d run out of interesting things to say. I was terrified that my literary well had run dry.

I felt defeated.


So, I gave myself some time to lick my wounds and do other things – at least until Mini SGCC went back to school. The funny thing was, however, that once I took the pressure off of myself, things began to get better. Once I began cooking simply because we had to eat, and baking just for fun, I started to enjoy it again. Being able to prepare a meal without a camera hanging around my neck was liberating. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, and then the emails started coming.

“You haven’t posted for months. Did you move to another URL?”

“Have you shut down your blog”?

“Is everything all right? We miss you!”

“HELLLOOOOO! Anybody there?”

Yes, I’m still here. Thank you for asking.

I’ve been debating for over a month about how to get myself back in the swing of things. How would I explain my absence? Would anyone even notice that I was back? Did most people even realize that I’d been gone? Was I relevant anymore?

Well, relevant or not, I’m back. I decided that I’d poured too much of my blood, sweat and tears into this little blog over the past five years to just let it go. And, I still loved it. I always did. I missed it too – and all of you.

I thought about just diving in and picking up where I left off. But, that didn’t seem very fair – or honest. If nothing else, I’ve always been straight with you, dear readers. I’ve shared the good, the bad and definitely the ugly! And now, I’m going to share this fabulous cake that I made last weekend.  The photos were taken with my iPhone, so they don’t really do it justice. But trust me when I tell you, this cake was something special! 


When I first saw this Neapolitan Rose Cake [5] on the I Am Baker [6] website, I fell in love. It was absolutely gorgeous! It had three different kinds of cake and three different flavors of fluffy, pillowy buttercream. Then, there were the roses. Oh, those roses! They swirled and billowed and trailed all up and down and around the cake – perfect in their imperfection. I knew I had to make it!  But, in light of my ongoing slump, I was reluctant to try.  So, I waited for just the right occasion: my mother’s 75th birthday party.  Go big or go home!

A Neapolitan cake is derived from the classic Italian dessert, Neapolitan ice cream, which is made up of thick layers of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream stacked up together to form one large block.  Presumably, the dessert originated in Naples, Italy, hence the name.  I remember eating more than my fair share of this delicious treat as a little girl in the Bronx.  The cake version boasts a layer each of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla cake with corresponding colored and flavored frostings. 


For my cake layers, I borrowed from a couple of different sources.  I found the recipes for the chocolate and strawberry cakes here [8] and here [9].  The vanilla cake came from here [10]

For the cake filling, I used a basic vanilla buttercream with a thin layer of strawberry preserves spread on top.  And, for the roses, I used a “crusting” buttercream, also called decorator’s buttercream.  This type of frosting is excellent for piping flowers and designs because it stays firm and holds its shape – even in high heat and humidity.  The original recipe, also from I Am Baker [11], calls for the use of shortening instead of butter.   I couldn’t do it, though.  I’d never used shortening in place of real butter before, and was really concerned about the taste.  I compromised instead, and made mine with a blend of real butter and shortening – about 2/3 to 1/3. I used melted, unsweetened Scharffen Berger chocolate to flavor the chocolate frosting and a box of strawberry Jell-O (Yes, Jell-O.) to flavor the strawberry frosting.  Each one worked perfectly.  And, they tasted great!  

I was a nervous wreck when the time came to decorate my cake!  I’d tried to make fancy cakes before, and failed miserably.  But, the great thing about buttercream is that it’s very forgiving.  If you make a mistake, you can just wipe it off and start over.  And despite how lovely they are, the roses are surprisingly easy to pipe.  Really!  They are much easier to make than they look.  Amanda from I Am Baker has a very helpful video tutorial [12] that shows exactly how to make her rose cake.   I also found another great video tutorial [13] that was even more detailed.  As you can see, I figured out how to swirl my own roses – and lived to tell about it. 


Happy Birthday, Mom!


Make a wish!


I’ve already linked to the three different cake recipes I used to make my rose cake, so I won’t reprint them here.  But, I am sharing the recipes for the different buttercream variations that I used, as I modified each one slightly. 

So, there you have it.  My mom absolutely loved her Neapolitan Rose Cake!  And, I must confess that the “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” heard around the room when the cake was revealed made my heart swell with pride.   I sincerely hope that any of you who feel “buttercream challenged” will give this decorating technique a try.  It really is not difficult at all. And, the results are so worth it.   Trust me.  If I can do this – you can too!