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Cake Napoleon – Step by Step

Ask anybody who was born and spent a good chunk of his/her life during Soviet Union what the most popular cake of the era was, chances are you will hear Napoleon.  It is true. It was super popular back then. It still is; after many years after the collapse of the USSR, the cake reigns supreme and graces every pastry shop in many parts of now independent countries, including Azerbaijani capital, Baku. A luscious cake made of crisp thin layers, each slathered with delectable pastry cream, cake Napoleon is a Russian rendition of the classic French, but tweaked and changed greatly, although the name remained the same.

There are numerous recipes on how to make this famous cake. The layers can be made from either laminated dough or simple, like in the recipe below. The dough is rolled into very thin layers – the thinner the better, although some do with  fewer and thicker layers, to save time and energy.

I have to admit – this was the first time I made a Napoleon. I was quite happy with the results, but  I think next time  I will experiment with another pastry cream recipe for change. This cream was good but a hopeless perfectionist in me is saying that there might be a better one out there and that I should look for it until I find it. Enjoy!

CAKE NAPOLEON

For the Dough:
7 oz  (200 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
4  cup all-purpose flour
1 egg
1 cup sour cream

For the Cream:
3 eggs
1   1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons flour or cornstarch
4 cups milk
7 oz (200 g) unsalted butter

Note:  The cream can be prepared a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator until needed.

First, prepare the cream. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the eggs with sugar, until pale. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan. Add the milk and flour. Stir vigorously with a balloon whisk to break the lumps. Turn the heat to medium to high. Cook the mixture, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens, 6-7 minutes. Remove from the heat. Let cool about 10 minutes. Add the butter and beat with a mixer until the ingredients are well blended and the mixture is smooth and creamy. Cover the cream with a plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, prepare the dough. Put the flour in a large  mixing bowl. Add the butter and, using either a fork, or a knife (or pastry blender, if available), or your fingers, cut in the butter until you obtain  large pea-size  crumbs.

In a separate bowl combine the egg and sour cream and stir to mix. Make a well in the center of the flour-butter mixture. Pour the egg-sour cream  mixture into the hole.  Toss with your hand until the dough comes together in a mass. It should be gentle to touch. If the dough is still sticky, add a little more flour.

Divide the dough into 7 equal parts (you can divide into more if you think you can roll them into super thin layers later. 7 layers works fine for me), forming each one into a disk. Wrap each disk in a plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 2  hours.

Once the dough has chilled, you can bake the layers. Remove the dough from the refrigerator.

Preheat the dough to 400F (200C).

Work with on dough ball at a time and keep the others covered. Using a rolling pin roll one ball into a very thin 11-inch square (you can roll into a rectangular too, depending on the size and shape of your baking sheet). Carefully transfer the square onto an ungreased baking sheet. If needed, stretch to fit it properly and close any tears by pressing onto the dough. Pierce the dough randomly in 3-4 places. This will prevent the blisters from forming, although they will still form but in smaller numbers (Do not worry. We will take care of them when you assemble the cake).

Bake each layer on the middle rack of the oven until light golden, 6-8 minutes. Watch closely not to overbake. A baked layer will look like patches of white and light brown, and this is exactly what you want to achieve. Carefully lift the baked layer off the pan. Take care not to break – the layers are extra fragile. Do not worry if you slightly overbake or accidentally break one layer – you will need one layer for the crumbs anyway, so the not-so-perfect layer can do that job. Continue with the remaining dough balls, stacking the layers on top of each other as they bake.

Once you have finished baking all the layers, you can assemble the cake. Pick one layer that is not perfect  – damaged or slightly overbaked – and grate it to obtain fine crumbles. Reserve. Now, place one layer onto a tray, wide enough to fit the cake. If there are blisters, poke them gently with a fork to break. Do not worry if the layers crack as you assemble them. Spread a generous amount of cream on it ( Be extra generous with cream around the edges of each layer as they are the hardest to absorb the creamand soften). Put another layer on top and spread some cream all over.

Continue in this manner until you have used all the layers. Sprinkle the top of the cake generously with the crumbs. If the sides of your cake are not perfect, do not coat them with crumbs now  – reserve some to do it when the cake is moist and you can trim the edges with a knife. If you were able to get perfect edges, press the crumbs on the sides of the cake now. Or, just leave them as is, without crumbs.

Your assembled cake will look like a rock-hard inedible mess now. Do not panic, as the cake is not ready to eat at this stage yet.  Allow it to rest at room temperature for at least 7-8 hours, or best, overnight. The layers will absorb the cream and the cake will be soft. The next day cut the cake into pieces and enjoy!

38 Comments
  1. This cake is very tempting. I can see how it is like Napoleon yet so different.
    I must try this sometime.

  2. A delicious looking cake! Thanks for the interesting recipe!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  3. I love Napoleon cake–this looks delicious!!I might add a swirl of melted chocolate on top.

  4. Oh, yes! It’s so East European :) I love it! Bookmarked to try :)

  5. Thanks for the recipe, i love Naoleon cake !!

  6. Salam Farida!
    It has been long since I hear from you! how are you, cake looks wonderful, i cannot imagine trying out this my self.. :)

  7. Hello Farida,

    Thanks for the recipe. Gonna try it now.

  8. what a process! that seems like a lot of effort, but you know what? your finished product makes me think it’d all be worth it. :)

  9. These were outrageously delicious! Nice recipe that looks good with clear description and attractive images..I hope this article will help in doing so and can’t wait for a long time in preparing and tasting this..

  10. Oh Fari, it’s funny how a cake that looks so innocently light can have such a rich and delectable supporting cast.
    Double on the mmm factor!

  11. Delectable and different. So very impressive, Farida. Would love to taste it, but almost couldn’t bare to cut it. : )

  12. OMG Farida! I can’t even tell you how happy I am that you posted this recipe, and STEP-BY-STEP too! I love you right now!! I have been wanting to learn how to make this cake for the longest time!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I will let you know how it turns out… =)

  13. I love Napoleon cake, and it is amazing that you made all by yourself, I usually use the puff pastry and make the custard…amazing work! Nice pictures as well :-)

  14. This looks so good! I love all the layers. YUM!

  15. Oh I love it! A bit of lemon in the cream makes it even better :)

  16. Oh Farida, each of your post is a gem of to discover and cherish. Thanks for showing us these amazing creations in step-by-step demos.

  17. In Beirut too, there is a long tradition of serving French pastries and the mille-feuilles or Napoleon is the most popular. There it is made according to the French recipe with puff pastry and pastry cream. Yours looks delicious and very creamy!

  18. Nice looking dessert. I love the sour cream in the dough – quite different from other Napoleon recipes I’ve seen in the past.

    Delish!

  19. Hi Farida,

    Your cake looks scrumptious. It’s easy to make but it takes some time, isn’t it?
    I love its tenderness and creaminess: this cake is heavenly melting in the month.
    When I made it for my guests, they all enjoyed it.
    I’ll have to make it again !

  20. Wow thats one unusual cake, Thank you for all the step by step instructions ! Why is it called napoleon?

  21. Persians love Napoleons, too! And my husband will flip if I made this for him! Beautifully done! I will definitely try it!

  22. Wow! What an interesting cake! I’ve never even heard of it – I love the process of making it, and would love to try tasting it one day.

  23. I was expecting other thing when I read Napoleon cake, but hey this looks amazing! I love a good crunchy-creamy contrast and this probably hits the spot with that!

  24. Thank you all for your comments.

    Peanuts, this is a Russian rendition of the French classic -Napoleon. The name derives from napolitana (from the Italian city of Naples), but then altered to resemble the name of the French emperor.

  25. Cake looks gorgeous farida, step by step instructions are very helpful, i will try sometime

  26. I made this one on the New Year eve and going to comment it now… Well, as they say “it’s better late than never” :)
    The only reason I managed to bake it, was your step-by-step explanation of how to do it. It was really helpful.
    The cake worth all the time and effort.
    I do need to add though, that layers tend to shrink a little bit while still in the oven, I didn’t know that, and another thing is I mixed half of your cream with condensed milk+butter+vanilla, it was PERFECT !!!
    Thank you so much !
    You really made our New Year party :)

  27. Farida, its my husband’s favorite cake so i baked it again for his BDay but this time step by step from your book..actually i had about 20 round layers..dont know why,…so i had enough cream for only 13 layers. Cream absorbed very quickly . It came out very delicious. The main point MR Right loved it. Thank you :)

  28. hi frida, i was wondering for making the cream, did u just beat the egg yoke with sugar or whole egg?

  29. MONJELA – whole egg, as the recipe says.

  30. What is the crumbs?

  31. Can you please tell me if this is like Medovik? Do they taste similar? Thanks!!

  32. TAMI – No, they are different:)

  33. Thank you! My mom loves this cake so i will make it for her on march 8. Russian womans day.

    How many servings?

  34. VIKY – The cake is medium size, 11-inch. You judge how many servings:)

  35. salam Farideh,

    mohabatizdan chokh tashakor eliram –

    salam

    sarvenaz

  36. Cake is just delicious :) We baked it for last Sunday. Yum! Thank you for recipe :)

    http://przepisy-aleksandry.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/azerbejdzanski-napoleonek.html photos are not great ;)

  37. Hi Feride,

    thxs for recipe. My husband’s bday is on Friday. do you think I can make dough and refrigerate it for 4-5 days? I was thinking to do dough over the weekend and bake it day before bday (will save some time during weekday since I am working). thxs for reply

  38. JUL?A – ? am so sorry, I think I missed your comment…You can freeze the dough and defrost it overnight in the refrigerator. Not sure if just refrigerating will work. It may go bad. Once again sorry for the belated response.

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