neapolitan cake

I turned 33 this week, but seeing how I’m a little preoccupied these days with someone else’s impending birthday, I might have brushed over this occasion completely, had it not been for a confluence of events — a fierce craving for Peking duck (then dragging both of our families into it’s crispy-skinned grasp), the decision to schedule our housewarming mocktail/cocktail party the next day (requiring baked goods involving cheese, of course) and the fact that it gave me an excuse to conquer a cake that has been vexxing me for the last year and a half.

zestysifting flourtoasted almondsone layer

The truth is, I start thinking about my birthday cake long before it is healthy or well-adjusted to. I see it as the perfect excuse to tackle something risky and possibly ridiculous — something I’m not entirely confident will work out, but don’t care because I’m only making it to amuse myself. Being freed from not wanting to disappoint another on their birthday has its benefits: There was the Crêpe Cake, which also marked the occasion of me making my very first crêpe, ever. (Which landed in the garbage, as all first and second crêpes were intended to.) There has been a Pistachio Petit-Four Cake, which involved rolling out marzipan and then pressing and tinting little marzipan roses, slightly less risky but no less insane.

four "cake" discscurrant caramel vanilla bean fillingspreading the fillingneapolitan cake

And this year, there were nine stacked cookies filled with jam, but I promise it wasn’t as banal as it sounds. The buttery ground almond discs were scented with orange, lemon and more almond and the jam wasn’t just any jam but a strained currant jam caramel with vanilla bean. And the stack wasn’t just a stack of cookies but something that after a day (and even more so, after two) is really more of a rich, dense cake.

I first spied this Neapolitan Cake from Ulterior Epicure eons ago, and as you can imagine, it’s not something easily forgotten — especially when he chases it weeks later with a nutella-slathered version. Gah. I plied him for tips and advice and then more advice and more tips, and finally, when the prospect of pressing out another cookie disc was enough to send me over the edge, demanded some reinforcements in the form of a “you can do it, Deb!” How does that help the rest of you? If you break the cake down over two days, one for cookies and one for filling and stacking (which really takes no time) and give it the one to two days rest it needs (don’t skimp on this), there will be nothing frantic or befuddling about it. In other words? “You can do it, Internet!”

stacked and ready

One year ago: Dead Simple Slaw + 10 Paths to Painless Pizza-Making
Two years ago: Fideos with Favas and Red Peppers

Neapolitan Cake
Adapted from Lost Desserts, by Gail Monaghan, and insprired by this picture

I am struggling to describe this cake as anything other than “European”. It’s almonds and citrus and tart jam and scraped vanilla bean, buttery and dense rather than the plush and pillowy, frosted and stacked American birthday cake. But that doesn’t make it any less of a showstopper, just a little more grown-up in palette than, say, a certain equally-beloved chocolate peanut butter cake.

That said, things I might consider tweaking next time: First, the original recipe is for a six-layer cake, as is the recipe below. As the RSVPs for our party stacked up (I bet they heard I was baking cheesy poufs!) I worried it would not be enough, so I one-and-a-halved it into a nine-layer cake, which although it presented a great “ta-da!” was not necessary. The cake is rich and dense, and the 6-layer height would have been enough.

Second, I wish the caramel flavor had come through better. Despite caramelizing some sugar and stirring in the jam, vanilla and a squeeze of lemon, the end product still tasted more like jam than anything else. Next time, I might play around with a 50% mixture of a deep, lightly-salted caramel sauce with 50% jam, so both flavors fall better into balance. The cream in a caramel sauce will help bring the flavor forward.

Makes one 8-inch, six-layer cake (increase quantities by 50% to create the nine-layer cake in these here pictures); serves (at least) 6 to 8

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups jam, raspberry, apricot, strawberry or peach are suggested, but I used currant jam, which I strained
Half of a vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup whole blanched almonds, toasted
3 cups flour, sifted
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon orange-flower water (I skipped this)
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Make the filling: Place 1/4 cup of the sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over high heat, without stirring, until all the sugar turns caramel. Tilt pan to distribute caramel. Lower the heat and carefully whisk in the jam, the scraped vanilla bean and seeds, 1 tablespoon of water, a pinch of salt and the lemon juice. (The caramel will bubble violently.) Simmer, stirring, until the caramel dissolves into the jam. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. (This can be done a day in advance.)

Make the cookie layers: In a food processor, pulverize the whole almonds with 2 tablespoons of the flour.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, remaining sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the zests until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Mix in the pulverized almonds until combined. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, and then add the almond extract and orange-flower water. Mix in the remaining flour.

Divide the dough into six equal balls. (Yes, I weighed mine.) Place each ball between two sheets of plastic wrap and press into an 8-inch circle, using the inside of a pie pan as a guide. I used an 8-inch cake pan for this. Try to keep the edges as neat and clean as possible. It may be easiest to do this by trimming any jagged edges once the discs have chilled, before you bake them.

Chill the dough rounds in the refrigerator for 2 hours or freeze for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove plastic wrap, place a dough round on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Please, watch this baking time carefully, as your oven will vary and the cookies are so thin, even an extra minute or two can overly darken the edges. Nobody likes a burnt cookie cake!

Cool completely on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining rounds.

To assemble the cake: Lay a round in the center of a serving plate. Spread with 3 to 4 tablespoons of jam to just before the edge. (If your jam is super-intense, as our currant jam was, err on the 3 tablespoon rather than 4-tablespoon side, so it doesn’t overwhelm the delicate cookies.) Continue to layer the rounds, spreading jam between each. Spread a thin layer of jam over the top and cover with sliced almonds.

The cake can be served immediately, but tastes even better, and is easier to cut, if tightly wrapped and served 1 to 2 days later. (Don’t skimp on this.) Thus, you might find it easiest to wrap the cake without the final layer of jam over the top — as I did — spreading it once you’re ready to unwrap and serve it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New here? You might want to check out the comment guidelines before chiming in.

218 comments on neapolitan cake

  1. Becky

    The cake is intriguing. Really, isn’t experimental baking what one’s birthday is all about? Hope you enjoyed it, Deb!

  2. I love trying new (and difficult) recipes, but I’ve never thought to do it on my own birthday. I’m not a fan of American-type birthday cakes, so I bet I’d LOVE this!

    (P.S. I hope you had a WONDERFUL birthday!! We all love you!)

  3. Absolutely beautiful. While there’s always a place in my heart for sugar-coated marzipan woodland creatures atop a seven layer cake with sprinkles and coconut and toffee, these restrained desserts are so much more welcome after a big, celebratory meal.

    Hope your day was fantastic. May your upcoming birth day go as smoothly. (Wishful thinking, maybe, but that little peanut will be more incredible than any cake you can make. Plus, making that little muffin was probably just a fun, and you burn calories instead of gaining them.)

  4. thebrunettebaker

    Hey Girl, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! This “cake” sounds very interesting. I almost thought it was going to be similar to the 12 layer ones they make here in the south. Been meaning to tell you…I finally made the pretzels & I screwed them up. I had the beautiful dough rising in the oven (warmest place in house) and I forgot about it when I turned on the oven to preheat. Yikes and Oh Crap! I may not have used those exact words.

  5. Nancy

    You are a very patient person when it comes to cooking elaborant recipes. I would have messed the whole thing up for sure. Looks beautiful!

  6. deb

    About that nutella! I was warned that the cake made with the nutella filling did not soften nearly as well as the jam/caramel-filled one. It was much more like cutting a stack of cookies — crumbly — so keep this in mind before trying it at home.

  7. Looks amazing, and does remind me of several desserts I had growing up in Switzerland – so yes, I very much agree with the European description :) Since I am half Hungarian, I haveto offer the tidbit that something like Sacher or Dobos tortes may be worthy of your 34th birthday :)

  8. i love this post.

    i have had many, many incidents where people did not understand the GREAT IMPORTANCE of one’s birthday cake being delicious. i used to make the most decadent and involved of cakes for others’ birthdays. (chocolate mousse cake with ganache, boozy custard-filled cake with ganache…i was going thru a ganache phase…coconut cream pie, a favorite of my mother’s). all sorts of things, depending on the family member’s taste.

    but nobody got the hint that i thought birthday cake is important, so my mother would proudly present me with (seriously) lemon jello with ladyfingers in it to make it “fancy”. because i like lemon things, and ladyfingers. (but not jello). or ice cream cake, which i am not enthused about in the least.

    in any case, thank you for understanding hthe importance of decadent and lovely birthday cakes. and happy birthday!

  9. When I saw the first picture, I was in awe! I have often heard of neopolitan cake, ice cream etc, but never tasted any. I was so happy and surprised to see that it’s basically a stack of cookies. I’m so doing this with Nutella. And jam. Wait. Alternating layers of nutella and jam? Oh, the possibilities are driving me crazy!

  10. Nadia

    Madre mia!! A cake at last, and what a cake it is, well worth the wait (or is that weight)? Easy to see how this cake could haunt a keen baker cause I’m definitely hooked. Top photo (again) incredible, and love the title of that book — Lost Desserts.

  11. You know Deb, I made your Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, and that was such a great simple little everyday cake. I don’t use buttermilk enough, and it really livens a cake up! SO, though this neapolitan cake ain’t covered in pink buttercream and neon blue roses, which it doesn’t have to be to scream “eat me!”, it’s very striking and does look sophisticated and “European.” Lots of layers attract my eye. It always seem so complicated, the layering I mean. Why do most European recipes involve Almond in some form or another?

  12. My birthday was also last week (28) and I also made my own cake (Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake) much to the horror of my friends and family who did not understand that not only was I not upset about making my own cake but that there was nothing I would rather be doing on my birthday. This looks delicious and appropriately over the top–I’ll put it in the running for next year!

  13. Wow. I’ve never seen anything like this and it looks incredible. Thanks for printing this recipe. I am something of a baking klutz but I really want to give this a try. Oh, and happy birthday!

  14. jane

    Don’t worry, my birthday is in a little over a week, but I’ve been researching cake recipes for maybe a month now. I think it can be too early to start thinking about it, you don’t want the hype, even in your own head, to wear off, but a month before seems Ok. While your cake looks sooo good and something I definitely want to try I decided chocolate, chocolate, chocolate thick and dense in every way with maybe an Irish cream or ganache filling. There are so many options! One year my friend, who hates chocolate, something I will never comprehend, made me a cake that was alternating layers of chocolate cake, and brownie, each filled with chocolate icing and packed with chocolate chips and chopped up candy bars. Then it was covered in chocolate icing and chocolate sprinkles. She refused to take even a bite saying it would ruin her night. Talk about a labor of love. That cake made my week. So while I don’t mind other people making my birthday cake, I’ve grown kinda picky and usually bake it myself to make sure it’s just right. Happy Birthday!

  15. Marie M.

    Happy Birthday Deb! Again, you’ve wowed me. You’ve topped even yourself. #7 said it best — and I second her thoughts.

  16. leftfoot

    This looks fantastic!! For some reason, I’ve never found an icing that I enjoy, so this seems perfect for my 33rd – which will be next May.

    (I wonder if adding some almond butter or thinned seedless raspberry jam to Nutella would help in the softening.)

  17. Rhonda

    Cool stack cake and doesn’t everything get better with a little aging? Can you make it with pear jam next? And Happy belated Birthday!

  18. Flo

    How funny! My birthday is coming up soon (32) and I was also thinking of fixing myself a grand cake, only with chocolate. How’s that for a coincidence? (considering I’ve become addicted to your blog and have already tried 3 or 4 baked recipes in less than a month which is a lot for a mother of 3 under 4).
    Hope you had a nice celebration, and another one to come really soon!
    And thanks.

  19. Susan

    Oh my, this looks right up my alley. I spent an hour or so one day looking for neopolitan pastry recipes like the ones I loved on special occasions when I went out to eat with the grandparents when I was a kid. The pastry looked too persnickity at the time I was so nostalgic, so I passed it by and moved on. This one looks a little friendlier; eaually as time consuming, but less pastry fussy. Hope it was everything you were hoping it would be for your birthday. Uh, was it?
    My birthday is coming up in early July and I have this one:
    bookmarked. It looks sinful and worth of a 60th..don’t you think?

  20. Angie

    This cake looks amazing! Would love to WOW my girlfriends @ the next luncheon I host for one of their birthdays. (Happy B-day to you, btw!) I feel like a novice asking, but I also hate to assume… Do you store the cake at room temperature for that day or two, or put it in the fridge?

    1. deb

      Angie — Yes, I stored it at room temperature.

      Susan — That cake was my first runner-up! I’ve been wanting to make it for eons. My concern is that it seems like it would be so egregiously sweet — I mean, such a high ration of butterscotch to cake could be hard to eat. I will get to it, one day. If you try it first, would love to hear how it went for you.

  21. Melanie

    Hope you had a great birthday. Can wait for the little ones arrival:) I know that you are excited. We blog readers are too.

  22. Sweet lord, that’s gorgeous. I’m 100% certain I couldn’t have pulled that off at any point during my own pregnancy. Happy belated birthday!

  23. Chris

    Happy birthday! I just got back from a trip to China and had some fantastic Peking (Beijing) Duck there. Oh, and the cake looks delicious!

  24. Geralyn

    That looks ever so elegant and delicious. Very beautiful photographs and happy birthday to you, I enjoy your site so much.

  25. Andrea

    My grandfather was a baker and had 4 bakeries in Manhattan in the 40’s-70’s. He had a recipe similar to this from the old world. He also called it a Neopolitan though it was a little different. He frosted the outside with what I would describe as a vanilla buttercream (though it really wasn’t, I’m not sure what it actually was since I was in preschool the last time I had it) and coated it with flaked coconut. My mother requests it every year for her birthday and we make as close as possible, but none of us have his recipes. I’ll have to try this, this year. Thanks!

  26. eliza

    Happy belated to you! My mom is a big fan of Linzer Tortes. I think this sounds slightly similar. I only hope that I’ll remember it when her birthday comes in September. How about a recipe reminder service?!

  27. Dana

    Happy Birthday! The cake looks fabulous!
    I, too, am very obsessive about my birthday cake. I usually insist on making it myself, even when my husband offers. I’m a control freak that way… This year it was the sweet & salty cake from the “Baked” book…even made a smaller one for a friend who shares her birthday with me. It was amazing, and well worth obsessing over! Only 9 months to choose next year’s cake…

  28. Delurking here to tell you I agree that it is really fun to make whatever you want to take on for your birthday for the very same reason. If nothing else, it is something you get to do for yourself. Happy belated Birthday and Mother’s Day (pregnancy counts!).

    The cake is really beautiful – I’ll bet it was incredible with all those layers.

  29. erin

    Hi deb! De-lurking to say happy belated birthday and to tell you how much I love your blog. It’s my favorite and your recipes and notes never let me down. I’ve vegan-ized versions of your pinwheels, big crumb cake, lime meltaways, and am making the stout and whiskey cupcakes tonight! The pistachio petit four cake is next on the list, but this cake also looks intriguing…

  30. I’m so impressed by this glorious construction. Birthdays always need a special cake, and I’m a devoted birthday cake baker. Also being of a Hungarian background (as another commenter is, I noticed), I’d also say that this is reminiscient of the Dobos torte–the many, many layers of beauty.

    (Also, you said that the first crepe is always in the garbage! Not so! When my mother made palancinta (the Hungarian name for crepes) I always got first dibs on the ruined one.

    Suddenly craving apricot jam and lemon zest and ground nuts!

  31. Happy birthday! What a beautiful cake and it looks so yummy too. I am not a fan of the traditional birthday cake, so this one looks perfect!
    My husband and I forgot our anniversary the first year our son was born. These little ones tend to take up a lot of space and love, as they should :).

  32. Susan

    Deb, all these layers are just excessive enough to say Happy Birthday the way I want it hear it. Okay, so I’ll be the one giving it voice..I’m okay with that. And butterscotch with rum?…I am so hoping it tastes like my favorite lifesaver or my penuche fudge all rummied up so it has some bite! I’ll let you know.

  33. annie

    Happy Birthday, Deb! Once again, you dish up an amazing creation! I’m not a very brave cook.. but, I’ll take a deep breathe and give this beauty a go! This cake just looks too interesting to pass up.

  34. Berto

    This looks absolutely divine!! The office birthday lunch celebration is in a week so I think I might take a leap of faith and make this! YUM!

  35. oh, i too have had the mulitlayered cake fantasy. i like how it tastes better if finished over a couple of days time
    feels less daunting
    feels doable
    makes me smack my lips in anticipation

  36. Happy Birthday! I made my birthday cake this past weekend, and would have really enjoyed making this (I made a chocolate peanut butter cake). My husband seems to have his eyes on me making this. Probably that comment about the Nuetella version.

  37. When I was pregnant, I read a funny quote from a Chinese woman who had trouble with her oldest son: “First baby like first pancake — for throwaway.” We’ve been calling our daughter “baby pancake” ever since.

  38. Vidya

    Happy birthday Deb! Mine is on Wednesday! Unfortunately I have a stack of assignments and a lack of motivation preventing me from making this cake for my birthday. I had originally decided to try the almond-raspberry layer cake for my mother’s birthday later this year but now I can’t decide between that and this! I think our mothers have very similar taste palates…except she doesn’t like chocolate, so unfortunately, Nutella is out! Crazy, huh?

  39. Happy Birthday Deb! It looks like it was a wonderful one, with this amazing cake in the offering! I wanted to tell you that I made your lemon granita (no mint, I live in China and haven’t found fresh mint) for dessert at a cookout we had this weekend and it was fabulous! Thank you so much for the recipe and the enticing description; though there were imported sausages, marinated vegetable skewers and bacon potato salad on the menu, the granita was the thing everyone was hovering around, scooping up more of until our group of 4 adults and 2 children ate the entire thing. It was so refreshing!

    Yum. Thanks again for sharing!

  40. Amy

    Happy Birthday! I too turned 33 this week:) And I decided to make myself a coconut flan to celebrate but I think if I had seen this recipe sooner it would have been a contender.

  41. Eva

    Maybe someone has suggested this above..? Perhaps the solution is to alternate the fillings — caramel on one layer, jam on the next — in order to push the caramel flavour a bit more. I suppose it means making two fillings, but you’re more or less doing that anyway between the straining of the jam and the making of the caramel.

    Not sure if that would be better than simply mixing them at a 1:1 ratio, but I thought I’d suggest it.

    Happy birthday! I’m intrigued by this one, and it seems perfect for early summer with the bright flavours.

  42. Lovely! And happy birthday!

    I am exactly the same way about baking my birthday cake. No one seems to understand why it’s a treat for me to bake my own cake. I spend weeks sifting through my cookbooks to find one of the most complex cake recipes that’s sure to be a showstopper and usually set an entire day aside to bake my creation.

  43. This looks marvelous! I love the strained currant jam- sounds amazing. We’ve been having several birthdays this month too. June is a great month for celebrations. Happy Birthday!

  44. Nan

    Since I have a stack of desserts to make, all based on your recommendations, I’m thinking of having a “Smitten Kitchen Dessert Night” for our foodie friends. I showed this cake to the mister and told him we would have to add it to the ever-growing list and he perked right up and said, “Well this cake makes sense because we could each have our own LAYER!” He thinks he’s funny…but he just might be on to something! xo, Nan

  45. Eva

    Wouw, the cake looks good! Thank you for sharing. Happy bday too! :) Next week I will be in a place with oven (finally!) and this cake is definately added on my long long baking list :) Have a nice week!

  46. vera sacchetti

    hi Deb, happy birthday and i’m so happy you got to make this cake.

    this is a typical cake in my family and surroundings, although not a traditional recipe in portugal (my country). some minor details change but most of it is the same… (maybe a bit poorer, without the orange & lemon) and it is definitely one of the most perfect cakes ever.

    some people here have called it “pega-me ao colo” which means something like “pick me up (like a baby)” but i believe it was originally a french recipe.

    we usually do it with a mix of apricot jam & raspberry jam, one per each layer -delicious! i will mix this recipe with mine and see what happens. ha!

    i’ve never commented here, but since i’m here, i wanted to thank you for your wonderful creations and constant inspiration.

  47. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This cake looks beautiful! Unusual and striking. I made my own jam this weekend for the first time, so I might have to make something just like this :)

  48. Happy Birthday!
    My birthday was this weekend too, and I made the Pink Lady cake from your Celebration Cakes list. Ever since I saw the picture of the strawberry flecked batter I knew I would have to make that cake soon. And since strawberries are in season and are quite delicious here in California, I knew I had to use as many strawberries as I could. Instead of cream cheese frosting in the layers, I spread sliced strawberries! It was delicious.

  49. I have a cake recipe called Chocolate Cinnamon Torte that is similar. 12 cinnamon flavored cake-size cookies with whipped cream in between topped with some chocolate/whipped cream. Everyone loves it but I think I will try yours next. It looks heavenly- sort of like a linzer torte- cake.

  50. Sally

    Happy Belated Birthday Deb!
    I was hoping you could tell us what foods you chose to serve at your mocktail/cocktail party? My husband & I are getting ourselves ready for our house-warming party, and I could really use some ideas for food & drinks! Thanks!!

  51. Stephanie

    I have a HUGE jar of apricot jam sitting around, and this looks like the perfect use. I just have to locate some time.

    One thing: I noticed you skipped the orange flower water. Well, I don’t know its effects on currants, but have to say that orange flower water makes apricots and peaches taste like honeysuckle! I would imagine it’s a must if I can pull this off. Even a platter of halved, pitted fresh apricots is turned into an amazing dessert with a drizzle of the stuff.

  52. Sheila

    Happy Birthday!

    That cake looks lovely – it reminds me of the Icelandinc Vinarterta (made at Christmas) that I acquired along with the in-laws :o) It is cardamom laced cookie layers filled with prune jam and left to soften and meld for several days. His family then covers it with marzapan, but since the hubby is allergic to tree nuts I usually opt for a thin lemon glaze or none at all. Most instruction say to make round layer like you did, but I often cheat and split the dough into half sheet pans, divide each of those into three even pieces and make a rectangular one. I definitely recommend it.

  53. Hi Deb,

    I’m totally intrigued with all cakes multiple layers. Years ago, i had a “princess cake” that was around 12 layers between raspberry jam and there is the caramelized crepe concoction. last year, i made the “12 layer mocha cake” on gourmet. I can’t wait to try this out!

    given it’s cookie shape, i can even make 2 smaller cakes and sent the other off to my mom. =) even looks durable enough to FedEx?? it would soften up by the time it gets there!!

  54. Julie in Asheville

    Hey Deb,
    Here in the South, I’ve heard of a ‘stack’ cake that is made with 9 layers and spread between each layer is an apple filling or applesauce, but I’m thinkin’ some caramel might be a nice addition. The cake with Nutella would be fab…just discovered Nutella last year and made only 1 toasted Nutella sandwich…oh, got to stay away from that one. I guess right now I should count my lucky stars that my oven is not working.

  55. Jay

    Happy Birthday!! What a nice way to treat yourself. Short time reader, first time poster here, and just wanted to tell you how much I love your blog. You create such great looking images of your preparation and final product. I’ve already been inspired (or is it driven) to make a couple of your dishes in just the short time I’ve been reading. This one will go on the list too. Keep up the great work!

  56. brilliant deb! and congratulations on the b-day! i’m going to make this vegan, fill it with lightly sweetened peanut butter then glaze it in bittersweet chocolate. watch for a photo on twitter.

  57. Almond and raspberries are a match made in heaven! Thought when I hear that you make your own birthday cake, all I can think about it Kate Gosselin :(

  58. rebecca

    Happy Birthday! Absolutely magnificnet and gorgeaous cake/photographs.
    Reminds me of my Hungarian grandmother’s stacked Linzer style lemon infused Genoise/Raspberry cake/torte as well as her Dobostorte–also a super thin genoise(I can just picture the memory of a bunch of upside down round pans being pulled from the oven with the cake batter baked on the BACK of the pan!) layered cake slathered with chocolate buttercream inbetween cake layers and a crunchy caramel crown atop (and sometimes wrapped by ground filberts too). O those grand European cakes . . . .(Kaffeehaus. Sigh.). And of course, practically required that your birthday cake be multi layered! When I was a kid, we each got to choose cake/dinner we wanted on our birthday. Last bunch years been baking my own cake (or cupcakes) up and don’t want it any other way! Enjoy all the belssings of the coming year .. . . :). And again, this cak/photograph of these stacked layers of beauty . . . so striking, elegant and remeniscient of old world charm.

  59. Happy Birthday!

    I just had my birthday last week, and I made my own cake too: lemon layer cake with lemon curd and coconut frosting. All year, I make chocolate to please everyone else, but on my birthday, it’s lemon all the way.

  60. I looked for this recipe for so long, and now, that I had already stopped looking, I found it :) Absolutely delicious! You have a wonderful blog and happy birthday!

  61. Susan

    Belated happy birthday to you! Mine is this week – today, actually – and the photo of this cake has me thinking I should bake my own birthday cake! This looks amazing. Can you use Nutella inside, though, if your hubby is a fruit-phobe?

  62. Tracy

    Happy 33rd! (I also turned 33 this year and had a baby in September)

    I love your site—thanks for all the great recipes and photos!

  63. Susan

    Comment #120. Jeni. Twelve Layer Mocha Cake in that’s a challenge I want to try too. Check that out, Deb..or have you, already?

  64. Butzeballchen

    Happy Birthday! That cake looks scrumptious, I definitely want to attempt it. I’m thinking I will use the bottom of a removable tart pan to cut out the “cookies”. I’m also wondering how this would work with gingerbread cookie layers layered with lemon or a hard sauce type filling…hmmm, the possibilities!

  65. Oh, my! That looks gorgeous! And I completely understand the compulsion to bake one’s own birthday cake. I’ve done it myself for the last several years (my sister broke my streak once, by insisting it was ridiculous for a girl to bake her own birthday cake, and basically banishing me from the kitchen).

    Happy Birthday!

  66. Happy Belated Birthday Deb! I can attest that this is DELISH! I brought it to the bookclub girlz last night.

    Although I have to admit – I was the lazy American and spread the dough out on a parchment lined cookie sheet and treated like an almond shortbread. (Bad me!) I ran out of time to bake and assemble the cake. So I took creative license.

    I also mis-read the recipe and caramelized the entire amount of sugar – which made buckets of tasty caramel rasberry sauce- appropriate for Friday Bagels and Saturday French Toast. Thanks again for another fantastic inspiration!

  67. Sounds exquisite! Maybe to get the caramel flavor forward more, you could alternate layers of jam and caramel separately instead of mixed together. Another thought might be to use brown sugar for part of the cookie base sugar content…? Can’t wait to make this! Thanks!

  68. Tracy

    I have been making an Icelandic Torte for years and it is very similar. If you roll it out on parchment and bake the layers on the paper it is so much easier.

  69. I made this cake for our dessert. Great “wow” factor with our guests! Everyone loved it. Mine was not nearly as perfect as your cake, but it was delish! I used boysenberry jam. Thanks for the recipe!

  70. Tatiana

    I love the look of this cake and am trying a test run for my brother’s birthday next week. I am finding that all of my cookies are breaking as I try to stack them to the next layer. I am neither an experienced cook or baker, so do you have any recommendations? I will say that I know my butter was too warm before starting, but I refrigerated the 7oz balls of dough overnight before shaping them.

  71. Andrea

    Just finished pressing the dough into rounds and put it in the fridge. The most annoying part of this was blanching and skinning the almonds. Would you be able to substitute almond flour or good quality marzipan?

  72. Just got done devouring the cake! My mother loved it and asked me to make it again for her next year if you don’t post anything more perfect in between now and then. here’s a picture of mine
    I used cajeta instead of the caramel in the recipe as you said you’d use a different caramel next time. It was perfect and it’s so simple that it can be cooking while you’re doing any other part of the recipe.

  73. berto

    Made this with homemade apricot jam for my mom’s birthday and she loved it. SO. RICH. The taste and presentation were spot on and really made her day! Thanks!

  74. Alexa

    Hi! I love your website. QUestion – I am making a cake for a Family Dinner this weekend. Out of your list of cakes, what would you recommend? There are so many great recipes to choose from I can’t decide! By the way, I made your sugar puffs recipe tonight, and they turned out wonderful! Thanks for your time :)

  75. Deb – this cake is gorgeous! I’d love to make it for any upcoming special occasion. One question, though. When you talk about shaping the dough inside a cake pan, did actually put the plastic wrapped dough inside a cake pan and press it into shape that way?

  76. deb

    Ugh, I was very pregnant at the time and now I cannot remember what I meant by that direction. Helpful, huh? I believe I pressed the balls of dough in their plastic, as you asked, into the bottom/inside of a cake pan to get the shape. Then I took them out, unwrapped them and trimmed the edges just a little, for neatness. There are probably easier ways to do this, like with a rolling pin/edge of a cake pan…

  77. JENI

    i’m dying to make this with nutella. since you mentioned that it doesn’t soften properly, i’m making this on a rainly day and i’m thinking of either brushing/spraying each cookie with some straight cream or sugary water before laying on the chocolate goodness.

    maybe whipping the nutella with some added cream will contribute to moisture? what do you think?

  78. JENI

    oh yeah, i made the dough last night. i rolled the dough out between plastic wrap, took the 1st plastic layer off, re-piece together the gaps, lightly roll again, lay a guide on (glass to bottom of a cheesecake pan), and trim off with with butter knife. use the pieces to mend the next circle.

  79. I tried this one the other day, alternating nutella and jam. That was my inspiration from your post! I thought they complemented each other well. However my cookies didn’t turn out as nice looking as yours, a little thinner and therefore crisper… hmmm

  80. Deborah

    I keep thinking about lemon curd…it seems like it would go, because of the citrus flavors in the cake; would it work? Or would it be too overpowering?

    1. deb

      It might be a little strong, but you could also do a creamier lemon curd (I’m trying to think of a recipe off the top of my head and I can’t but what I’m imagining is a curd cut with some pastry cream) for something more mellow. That said, I found the jam itself as you see pictured here a bit on the strong side for my tastes, anyway, but it didn’t bother anyone else.

  81. Deborah

    I have the perfect lemon curd cream frosting…I got it when I took a cupcake class at the culinary school of the rockies a couple weeks ago…SO yummy. Let me know if you’d like it! (I ended up using your recipe with raspberry jam, and I’m going to ice this in a cream cheese frosting. We’ll see how it is for MY 33rd b-day party tomorrow!)

  82. emma

    Hey! This is an amazing blog. Thank you!! I made a rather unrefined looking version of this cake with (eight) alternating layers of caramelised blueberry and caramel sauce. It was ridiculously rich and devoured by 40+ of my fellow med student friends!

  83. Kosha

    A few questions about this AMAZING looking cake:
    1) Would/Does it hold up longer than the 1-2 days you suggest?
    2) Do you think the cookie discs can be frozen unbaked for any length of time and then get baked without thawing and still turn out okay?
    I am looking to make for a shower coming up and would like a show-stopper. This fits the bill aesthetically. I would like to do much of the prep for what I make beforehand, if possible.
    3) Do you think the pay off is worth the work??
    LOVE your site. Thank you for all the beautiful recipes.

    1. deb

      I think it would hold up for more than a couple days, though the cookie/cakes might get soft under the jam. The discs can be baked while still frozen, it just takes a minute or two longer. I liked the cake, but it’s not my favorite cake I have made; read my suggested changes and the notes others have left after making it for more ideas.

  84. Aisha

    I’m planning to make this for my mom’s birthday but I might have a pretty tough week at work next week (ie not much time left in the evening to get things done). Is it possible to make the dough in advance and freeze it for about a day or two before baking? I guess if it really is like a cookie dough it wouldn’t alter the end product too much…

    Thanks a lot!

  85. Aisha

    Thanks a lot deb!

    Following my brother’s suggestion (I just showed him the whole list of your celebration cakes and told him to choose), I made this and the Pink Lady cake for my mother’s birthday this weekend. It was a week-long project: made and rolled out the dough on sunday while watching the new season of Smallville, froze the cookies til wednesday when I baked them while having dinner, spread the jam that evening and left it wrapped in plastic til friday.

    I used apricot jam instead of currant, omitted the almond extract because I was too lazy to buy it, replaced one cup of flour with one cup of almond meal (I was afraid the cookies would not hold with this substitution and that my experiment would make them too crumbly, but they were fine), used the orange-flower water (a little extra than stated in the recipe, and I also used it in the filling instead of using vanilla: I’m half North-African, there’s always a bottle lying around the house).

    I liked the Mediterranean feel that the apricot-almond-orange-flower water combination gave to the recipe, even though apricot jam didn’t look as spectacular as currant jam (less color contrast). And my layers were nowhere as even as yours… again, too lazy to trim them, oh well!

    The cake survived a 3-hour road trip from Normandy to Paris, unscathed. I applied the last layer of jam on-site and sprinkled with the toasted almonds. The 2-day rest is definitely a must. Cutting into the cake was as easy as pie (no pun intended) and the flavors melded beautifully. Most importantly, my mom loved it! The Pink Lady cake was appreciated too, but that’s another story (delicious cake, disastrous icing, last-minute patch-up with fig jam as a filling, and lucky for me I am in France, where people aren’t used to triple-layered frosted and decorated celebration cakes and don’t realize what they are supposed to look like…)

  86. Aisha

    Ah yes, one more thing: I miscalculated the amounts I would need and ended up with less filling than the recipe intended. I only used about 2 or 3 TB of jam per layer and it worked out fine

  87. deb

    “The cake survived a 3-hour road trip from Normandy to Paris”. What? If I had known it was on such a lucky road trip, I would have volunteered to fly out there and carry it myself. I’m totally jealous of this cake’s travels. :)

  88. Vidya

    So I finally got around to making this. It was amazing, the dough was a bit of a pain to work with, I did use an egg substitute though since it was for someone who is allergic, but it baked beautifully and didn’t crack or break at all. I only used 1 cup of boysenberry jam, and spread it thinly and skipped the top layer, but still found it too cloying, I’m trying to figure out what else I could fill it with because apart from that, it’s amazing.Think I’ll skimp on the sugar in the cookies too, and use a really low sugar jam and water it down a bit more. I also skipped the orange flower water because I was too lazy to go and buy it, and added a touch of vanilla instead. Love the toasted almonds. It really is reminiscent of a Linzer torte, I kind of want to swap some hazelnuts in for fun next time.

  89. I made this cake for my husband’s birthday this year. I made the caramel sauce to add to the currant (jelly) mixture as suggested in the original post.
    I think the caramel was TOO much – but my husband loves the “burnt sugar” flavors; so he was very pleased with the cake. I rolled the dough (weighed as recommended) between sheets of waxed paper, then trimmed just a bit with a sharp knife.

    This is a wonderful recipe for an unusual cake.

  90. I made this yesterday and am super excited about Monday — that’s when I’ll be able to cut into it! I guess I’m the only person who encountered this problem, but I ended up with not enough caramel raspberry jam for all 6 layers, so I ended up just tossing one layer out. I only used 3 tablespoons of the filling between each cookie piece, but still wound up short. Seeing as how I now don’t have enough jam to spread on top, I’m thinking I may put Nutella over the very top when I do serve it and sprinkle THAT with the toasted sliced almonds. It won’t look nearly as beautiful as your cake, but it’ll do! So far, everything tastes good, though! The caramel raspberry jam is incredibly delicious — that vanilla bean flavor really adds a delicious note to it!

  91. Emily W

    This looks like art. Thinking of making this for my birthday next month (a perfect “welcome home from college and happy birthday to me” cake ), but I’m curious about your suggestion about the caramel. Would you recommend making the salted-caramel sauce that you mentioned and simply mix in the jam, straight from the jar, then maybe add a bit of vanilla bean and lemon to that mixture? Thanks for any suggestions. This cake has such a striking presentation, so glad I found it here.

  92. Penny Wolf

    This cake reminds me of the USA version the apple stack cake. It’s layers of a gingerbread type cake/cookie with applesauce or applebutter in between the layers. Early settlers made this and I believe it is one of the earliest recorded recipes here in the states. Surely it’s borrowed inspiration from Europe and there are many variations and stories about this layered cake. Come to think of it I should have made this for our nation’s Birthday.

  93. Cindi Scoppe

    Hi Deb
    I’m so excited about trying this cake, but I have one question. You say you can prepare the layers, freeze them and then bake them later. Can you BAKE the layers, and freeze the baked layers? What about the whole cake? Every December, I host a cake party (this year I’m trying very hard to cut back, and bake only 20 cakes instead of my usual 25-27), and I want to include this cake. I’ve had success freezing other cookie cakes and Smith Island (10-layer) cakes, as well as some cakes that use preserves in the filling. Is there any reason that it would be unwise for me to freeze this cake, fully assembled? Thanks so much.

    1. deb

      I haven’t frozen this cake with filling before but given the ingredients, don’t see why it couldn’t be done. Especially if you’ve had success freezing other, similar cakes.

  94. I made this cake last Thursday/Friday for my Husband’s 48th Birthday/my sister’s love of All Foods European and it was delectable! All were pleased and it followed that, going on Tuesday, we are still grazing on it using one fork someone (I?) left under the plastic wrap. I do believe that after 5 days, the citrus taste is even MORE distinct and the almonds are even almondier, if that is possible. I didn’t think I could make this look as awesome as yours, but somehow, I managed! Thanks for the encouragement.

  95. Vidya

    I’m wondering how this would hold up as a wedding cake – do you think it would work? In three tiers? Just stacked on top of each other, no dowels. Or would it crumble? Cutting it at serving time might be a pain.

  96. Nada

    I made this cake for the first time about a year ago and again this weekend for my husband’s birthday. The first time, I had a hard time dividing the dough evenly without a scale. This time around I used a scale and it worked out much better. I also used a 50-50 mixture of your salted butter caramel sauce and currant jam (which I heated and strained), which did help balance the flavors. It is a pretty dense/rich cake, so a small piece goes a long way (we had 7 people eat from it tonight and have almost half the cake left over). Everyone loved it and it really isn’t too difficult to make (especially with a kitchen scale!). Thanks for the recipe!

  97. I made this yesterday and am super excited about Monday — that’s when I’ll be able to cut into it! I guess I’m the only person who encountered this problem

  98. Jake

    Hi Deb!
    I’ve tried doing Neapolitan Cake twice and every time the dough wasn’t sticky enough. When you try to roll it or press between two sheets of plastic wraps it starts to tear apart into thousand of small not-able-to-do-anything-with-me-pieces. I thought it might be lacking some extra butter or egg yolk, but even after addition it seemed horryfing. Maybe u got any clue why it acts like this?
    Thanks for any suggestions.

    P.S Even though it tastes delicious!

  99. Estherina

    Hi Deb, I know this is an old post but maybe you can still answer my question.
    I’m thinking of using the idea of combining jam and caramel in a different layered cake but was wondering how the eddotion of the caramel affects the jam’s texture, does it thin it down? Does it add thickness to the jam once cooled?
    Thank you!

    1. deb

      Ethergina — Hm, okay, I only made this once but I remember the caramel barely being noticeable — perhaps it thickens the jam once it’s set? I wish I had more of an impression of it because I’d expected excellence from it but it just didn’t make much of an impression of it. I don’t know that I’d do it next. Or, perhaps, I’d try it again alongside plain jam and see if it really seemed an improvement.

  100. Claudio

    I had the same problem as Jake (#205) had. As I made the layers I’ve rolled over them with a rolling pin and repaired where the dough fractured with pressing additional dough with my fingers on the fractures. After baking I used 2 bigger spatulas to bring the layers from the rack in the cake form. There they broke. Now I’ve taken a look at the recipe and I saw I forgot to let them cool down. Maybe that’s why they broke.
    But I’m in gleeful anticipation for the outcome!

    1. deb

      Aviva — No, not at all. Lime would be great. It’s a little stronger in flavor, so maybe ease off at first and taste it so you don’t end up with it overwhelming anything.

  101. Hetty King

    I know this is an old post, but I’ve just read it. Here’s your Nutella solution: make homemade Nutella. When you use hazelnut oil rather than palm oil, the Nutella does not form a thick paste; rather, it stays softer and spreadable. I use the recipe from The Splendid Table: – Page down to comments by Hetty King. The VitaMixer is critical to getting a smooth texture and to grinding the nuts until they start to give off oil – otherwise, you’ll get too thick a paste. I’ve also been meaning to try David Leibovitz’ recipe. In any case, use a simple recipe with few ingredients. Homemade Nutella will do the trick!

  102. I made a half recipe of this and baked it in five 6in pans. I did make a half batch of the suggested salted caramel sauce (with the addition of a splash of vanilla) and mixed it 50-50 volume-wise with a store-bought raspberry jam. (About 5 T each– to taste.) I did have a small container of caramel left without jam, but who can complain about extra caramel sauce?

    This was delicious on the second day, and just got better each day after that! The only suggestion I’d make to people is to make sure you really spread the jam all the way to the edges and maybe even do a quick coating along the edges so that they can soften just as much as the middle.

    Thanks for the unique and delicious recipe!

  103. Marissa

    Tried to make this for my birthday. The dough smelled absolutely amazing, but was so crumbly and hard to handle it all went in the trash along with the caramel jam mixture. Using cake pans to mold the dough worked well but then good luck trying to get dry crumbles out in a flat piece. Tried freezing each individual round still in the cake pan and they still fell apart into sandy crumbles. I hate throwing out food and I love baking my own birthday cake every year, but it’s going to be a grocery store cake for me this year.

    1. A lovely housesitter made this for my family’s homecoming from a year in Italy, back in 2009. I have made it for myself every year since for my birthday! It is an incredibly impressive, elegant, and delicious cake. Do let it sit for a day or two before eating. And you can make the layers ahead to freeze. Those reporting trouble with the dough must be mistaking something in the recipe. Well worth the effort!

  104. C

    Do you think it would be possible to make this with pecans, rather than almonds? Or with at least some portion pecans? I’d like to make this as a fall dessert, and while almonds are delicious, I prefer pecan flavor for this time of year. Do you think the texture would be similar enough? Pecans are quite a lot oilier than almonds, so I’m uncertain.

  105. Sheree

    I have never come across a recipe for a Neopolitan Cake/Torte. It immediately made me think of my late mother who made her own Neopolitan Cake for special extended family occasions. Her recipe is very different from yours.

    Her version has three layers of a cooled shortbread-like crust and warm cooked chocolate pudding in between the layers and on top, with chopped walnuts as decoration. Trust me when I say that instant pudding does not work.

    It is covered and refrigerated at least overnight (a must) which softens the layers.

    It is weirdly wonderful and has survived the test of time.