Neapolitan Cupcakes {Happy Birthday to Me!}

September 19, 2012

Happy birthday to me ... happy birthday to me ... happy birthday dear, Tracey ... happy birthday to me!

Psssst! ... It's my birthday. 

Hadn't figured that out yet, had you?  Well, it's true.  Today is my birthday!

Ever since I can remember, my Mom has made me Neapolitan Sheet Cake for my birthday.  Ever since I can remember, without fail ... even arranging for someone else to make it for me one year when she was going to be out of town.  She's a good Mom like that.  This year was no exception.  Though Mom made me my cake two weeks early.  But no complaints here.  Nope, not a one.

I just love the classic Neapolitan flavor trio ... vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.  Mmmmmm, yummy.  In honor of my Neapolitan birthday tradition, I decided to share a new Neapolitan sweet treat with you today - these Neapolitan cupcakes.

Now, let me just tell you ... these cupcakes have been a labor of love.  I've been working on perfecting them for about a year now.  A year!  Can you believe it??  I've had the cupcake itself figured out for that entire year.  But the frosting?  That's another story.  The frosting had been eluding me.  I had failed attempt after failed attempt, with several versions turning out not-as-I-desired.

Until now!  Finally!!!!  Finally, a friend of mine who knew I was working on this cupcake found a strawberry frosting I was happy with.  Thanks so much, Jennie and Southern Lady magazine!

Not only do I love the taste of these cupcakes, I also love the "Hey, how'd you do that?" reaction I get from people when they see them.  Truth be told, it's really not that hard.  And I'm going to share with you how to do it!

Start by whipping up your favorite vanilla cupcake batter and favorite chocolate batter ... making sure they're of the same 'base' recipe with the same required baking temperature and time.  I use my BEST Vanilla Cupcake recipe from the wonderful bakers at The Hummingbird Bakery, along with their corresponding chocolate cupcake recipe.

Once your batters are mixed, put a little chocolate batter on one side of a paper cupcake liner set in a muffin pan.  I've found tipping the pan just a tiny bit to keep the chocolate batter to one side is helpful ... but you only need to tip truly a tiny bit.

Then, put some vanilla batter on the other side.  I've found the chocolate batter to be just a teeny bit thicker, so it 'runs' just a little bit less ... that's why I start with the chocolate.

Then bake 'em up, and they'll look like this.

Aren't they neat looking?  I love the side-by-side look of the two flavors.  I tried marbling them together instead in one batch, and while they taste the same, the look just isn't as 'dramatic.'  Mark and I decided we like the side-by-side look wayyyyyy better.

Once the cupcakes are cooled, whip up some strawberry cream cheese frosting, made a bit fluffy with the addition of some whipped topping.  This was the key to a frosting the way I wanted it ... whipped topping.  I didn't want the 'density' of a butter cream or true cream cheese frosting ... don't get me wrong, I love both those types of frosting.  It's just not the texture I wanted for these cupcakes.  I also tried a Swiss meringue ... total fail.  I'm thinking I may not have done it right.

Anyway, whip up this strawberry cream cheese frosting ... 

... and pipe it onto your beautiful 1/2-and-1/2 cupcakes.  Sprinkle on a few pink sugar pearls, just for fun.

Then unwrap and indulge.  Mmmm, mmmm ... it's a yummy birthday party in your mouth!

Check out these other super tasty cupcake recipes:

Neapolitan Cupcakes
Source: Cupcake batters adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook , Strawberry Frosting adapted from Southern Lady magazine, March/April 2011
Vanilla Cupcake Batter:
1 c. all-purpose flour
A scant 3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 T. butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. whole milk (I also tried it with 2% milk, and it worked fine)
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Chocolate Cupcake Batter:
3/4 c. + 2 T. all-purpose flour
2 1/2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
A scant 3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 T. butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. whole milk (I also tried it with 2% milk, and it worked fine)
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Strawberry Frosting:
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened (I do not recommend using reduced fat)
1/4 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. strawberry jam
1 tsp. strawberry extract (optional*)
1 (8 oz.) container whipped topping (such as Cool Whip)
1 c. confectioners' sugar

Prepare the Vanilla Cupcake Batter:
1.  Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter in mixing bowl. Beat on slow speed until everything is combined and you have a crumb mixture with a sandy consistency. Gradually pour in half of the milk; beat until the milk is just incorporated.

2.  Whisk together the remaining milk (1/4 cup), egg, and vanilla. Pour into the flour mixture and beat until all ingredients are just incorporated. Beat for about another 30 seconds to one minute until the batter is smooth. Do not over mix.

Prepare the Chocolate Cupcake Batter:
3.  Put the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter in mixing bowl. Beat on slow speed until everything is combined and you have a crumb mixture with a sandy consistency.

4.  Whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla. Slowly pour about half into the flour mixture and beat until just combined.  Turn the mixer up to high speed for a few seconds to beat out any lumps.

5.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly pour in the remaining milk mixture.  Beat until all ingredients are just incorporated. Beat for about another 30 seconds to one minute until the batter is smooth. Do not over mix.

Cupcake Assembly:
6.  Spoon a little chocolate batter into one side of a muffin pan cup lined with a paper cupcake liner; then spoon a little vanilla batter into the other side.  Repeat with remaining muffin cups, filling each cup a total of 1/2 full. 

7.   Bake at 325 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes, or until light golden and the cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool slightly in the pan before removing cupcakes to a wire rack. Cool completely before frosting.

Prepare the Strawberry Frosting:
8.  Combine cream cheese and butter; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.  Beat in strawberry jam and strawberry extract until well combined.  Beat in whipped topping and confectioners' sugar.

9.  Pipe frosting onto the cooled cupcakes.  I found it good to chill the frosting for about 20 to 30 minutes before piping onto the cupcakes.

- This recipe makes 24 cupcakes. And it really does make 24! Fill your cups only 1/2 full, as this batter rises quite a bit. When I divided the batter between only 20 or so muffin cups, I had several that rose over the sides of the cups way too much. If you're like me, you'll feel like there's not enough batter to stretch to 24 cupcakes ... but there really is.

*-I've made this frosting both with and without strawberry extract.  Strawberry extract can be difficult to find (here's a link to strawberry extract on ... you can order it).  If you're unable to find it, you can go ahead and make the frosting without it.  While the strawberry flavor won't be quite as prominent, the frosting is still great without it.



  1. Happy Birthday, Tracey! I hope it's a great one. These cupcakes are so adorable and sound delicious! Have one for me!

  2. Happy Birthday! Love the cupcakes, have a great celebration.

  3. Happy Birthday!!! These look amazing and better than mine! Yum!
    I hope you had fun today :-)

  4. Well Happy B-Day to you and they are some beautiful cupcakes! Since B-Day calories don't count, I hope you had a couple:@)

    1. Oh, I LOVE your thinking! I'm so glad to hear that b-day calories don't count. Yes, I indeed did enjoy 'a couple' of these scrumptious cupcakes.

  5. As an Italian American how can I not love these. I will pin them. Please share them on foodie friday if you haven't already.

  6. Happy birthday! These cupcakes really caught my eye- what a creative way to use neapolitan flavors. thank you for sharing!

    Noelle @ norrey

  7. Hope you had a wonderful birthday! These cupcakes look wonderful. I'm so glad you got the frosting just how you wanted it. I struggled with a fresh raspberry cream cheese frosting till I wanted to scream! Them my 86 year old aunt who was an amazing cake maker in her day said, honey you can't use fresh raspberries in a frosting. They contain so much liquid by the time you get the consistency right the raspberry flavor is gone.
    Sorry, too much info. I just wanted to share my failure with someone who understood. Thanks

    1. Yes, Cindy, I certainly understand! Consistency was my trouble with this one, too ... I wanted it kinda light & fluffy, not as stiff as a buttercream. But it's a VERY fine line between light & fluffy and run-like-liquid-all-over-the-place! I had many, many, many that just collapsed into runny little puddles on the cupcakes. Cream cheese turned out to be the answer. Thanks so much for reading The Kitchen is My Playground!

  8. Happy Birthday!!! I love Neapolitan anything!!!! These are so pretty! I love them, I love the cream cheese frosting too!

  9. Happy Birthday to you Tracey!!!!
    What a beautiful cupcake to celebrate your birthday, I would love it for my birthday. Hope you are having a great weekend and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  10. Ok, I'm thinking that since our birthdays are so close, we should start a tradition to have these (or any of your delicious cupcakes) for a double-birthday girl's night! Good idea, right!?

  11. Great idea! Gonna have to steal it!

  12. Happy Birthday to you !:)
    These are gorgeous looking cupcakes, and they also sounds super delicious!:)

  13. Sorry I'm so late to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! These cupcakes are gorgeous, and that frosting. YUM!

  14. Congrats! You've been featured at The Kurtz Corner!


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