Neapolitan Cupcakes

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Oh, you read that right. Neapolitan cupcakes. Just like the classic ice cream, with a perfect blend of strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate, but in cupcake form! I saw these on Pinterest, and immediately wanted to make them. When I proposed the idea of a cupcake to Paul on Monday, he was enthused. I had him look through the various desserts I have pinned, and as soon as he saw the picture, he was of a one track mind. I found the original recipe here, and it was worth the work of a layered cupcake and a free afternoon spent baking. I actually timed everything out so I would have an uninterrupted afternoon of baking. I made the dough for the vanilla sables, then while it was firming up in the freezer, made and baked the batter for the cupcakes, sliced and baked the sables, and finished off the buttercream icing while everything was cooling. All in all, it was a productive day that I timed out (if I do say so myself) almost perfectly.

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I was also quite intrigued at the concept of a layered cupcake, and I have always been a fan of Neapolitan ice cream. Granted, my brother used to always eat all the chocolate, but I love the combination of flavours that always seem to marry together perfectly.
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The cupcake starts off with a chocolate batter, then a vanilla batter is layered on top of that, and after baking, the entire cupcake is frosted with a fantastic strawberry buttercream icing. I will let you know right now, if you are a fan of strawberries, this icing is for you. Oh. My. Gosh. It’s so good. Like sooo good. I kept having to restrain myself from licking the spoons, the beater, the spatula… well, you get the point. This strawberry icing is amazing. It uses a reduced strawberry puree to give it that punch of strawberry flavour, and it tasted EXACTLY like strawberry ice cream to me. So delish.
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If you are like me, and just dreaming of when the temperature outside hits more than plus 10, these Neapolitan cupcakes are definitely reminiscent of warm summer days and cool summer treats.

Ingredients

Yield: 22 cupcakes

For the chocolate batter:

1/3 c. cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ c. boiling water
¼ c. butter, melted
2½ tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
¾ c. plus 2 tbsp. sugar
¾ tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk (reserve egg white for white cake batter)
¼ c. heavy cream
1 c. flour

For the white batter:

1½ c. flour (the recipe says cake flour, but I used all-purpose and it was fine)
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
7 tbsp. butter, softened
¾ c. sugar
Seeds of ½ large vanilla bean, or 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
3 large egg whites
½ c. milk (anything but skim – I used 1%)
½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the strawberry buttercream:

1 c. plus 4 tbsp strawberry puree*
1½ c. butter, at room temperature
5 c. icing sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
4-6 drops red food colouring (optional)

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350°F.

For the chocolate batter, in a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the cocoa and baking soda until incorporated. Pour in the boiling water, and whisk until the bubbling stops and the mixture is combined. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of a mixer, blend the melted butter, oil, sugar, vanilla and salt until combined, about 30 seconds. Stir in egg and egg yolk. Blend in the cocoa mixture and then the heavy cream. Slowly add in the flour and mix until incorporated, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed.

Line a muffin/cupcake tin with liners of your choice, and add about 1/8 c. of batter to each liner. I used a ¼ cup measure, and used the full measure to fill two liners with batter. Repeat until all batter is used. Set aside.

For the white cake batter, in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt for at least 20 seconds. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter, sugar and vanilla bean seeds together until pale and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, egg whites, and vanilla extract until well blended.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and mix until combined. Add half of the milk mixture to the butter/flour mixture, and mix until combined. Mix for 1 minute, until light and fluffy, and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the second third of the flour mixture and the last half of the milk mixture, beating after each addition, then mix for 1 minute longer, again, until light and fluffy. Add the last third of the flour mixture, and mix until well combined.

Gently layer 1/8 c. of the white batter over the chocolate batter in the liners, and carefully spread batter to edges.

Bake in the preheated oven for 16-19 minutes, rotating pans halfway through, and making sure that a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the strawberry buttercream icing, put the strawberry puree into a small saucepan over medium heat, and reduce by 2/3, until you have about 6 tbsp of liquid. (6 tbsp. is slightly less than half a cup.) You must reduce the puree to the right amount, or the frosting will become too runny. The reduction will take about 14-15 minutes. Transfer the reduced puree to a bowl, and place in the freezer to chill, stirring every few minutes to evenly chill the reduced puree.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter until it is fluffy and pale. Occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix in 2 c. of icing sugar, followed by the puree, vanilla extract, and food colouring. (Mine took 4 drops to get that fantastic pink colour.) Blend until combined. Add in the last 3 cups of icing sugar, mixing after each addition. If the frosting is too runny, add in more icing sugar, ¼ c. at a time, until you reach the desired consistency. (My icing took the 5 cups, no more.)

Spread or pipe the finished frosting over the cupcakes, and store in an airtight container.

* To make the strawberry puree, simply dice up some washed strawberries and blend them in a food processor or blender. Voila! Fresh strawberry puree!

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