Russian Oven: Napoleon cake

Napoleon cake, also known as mille-feuille and vanilla slice, is probably the most beloved dessert in Russia.

Invented in the 18th century in France, Napoleon cake for some reason became Russia's favorite pastry. Served in restaurants and cooked at home, this multi-layer cake with pastry cream is the first choice for a holiday feast.

The cake initially named mille-feuille (which means a "thousand layers" in French) was brought to Russia in the early 19th century and was widely cooked during the festivities after the victory against the French army of Napoléon Bonaparte in 1812. The cake tickled Russians’ fancy so much that after two centuries many of them consider it to be a part of their national culinary heritage. 

Putting aside its splendid taste (creamy and tender, it just melts in the mouth), Napoleon cake’s enduring appeal can be explained by the simplicity of the ingredients. Milk, butter, sugar, eggs: you really don't need anything special. 

So let's begin!

For the dough you need:

  • 460 g (3.7 cups) wheat flour
  • 260g (1.15 cup) butter
  • 160g (0.6 cup) ice water
  • 15g (3 teaspoons) vinegar (6%)
  • 1,5g (1/3 teaspoon) salt

 

Let's go!

  • Cut cold butter into cubes, add sifted flour and salt. Rub everything into crumbs
  • Add vinegar to ice water, then mix into the dough
  • Cut the dough into 12 pieces and put them into a covered plastic container. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes, then put into the fridge
  • Take the pieces of dough one by one from the fridge and immediately roll each of them on the cutting board dredged with flour in advance. Cut the layers according to the desired size. Collect the cuts and put them aside (you'll need them for decoration). Put each individual layer on the baking paper and prick many times with a fork. Bake at 200°C (392°F) for 7-9 minutes till corn colored. Repeat 11 more times. 

 

Now for the cream. These are the ingredients:

  • 700g (2.9 cups) milk
  • 200g (0.9 cup) sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 160g (0.7 cup) butter
  • 30g (0.2 cup) starch
  • 10g (2 teaspoons) vanilla sugar

Here we go!

  • Mix eggs with sugar, whip the blend
  • Add starch, stir thoroughly
  • Boil milk in a pot and pour into the egg blend. Put the blend on medium heat, stir till thickening
  • Pour the blend into the bowl, let it cool to 30 °C(86°F). Continue stirring. Add butter and mix again 

 

Now we assemble the cake.

  • Oil the plate with cream, put the first layer on it. Put the other layers on top (3-4 tablespoons cream per layer). Press down each layer
  • Oil the top and sides of the cake with the rest of the cream
  • Take the dough cuts and put them on a baking pan. Bake for 7-9 minutes, then blend into crumbs. Add them to the top and sides of the cake

Tip:don't eat the cake immediately. To get the best taste, leave it for around 2 hours at room temperature, then put in the fridge for 10-12 hours or overnight. 

Enjoy!

Russian Oven is a video series devoted to Russian pastries, featuring traditional age-old pies and cakes, inventive cookies and tarts of recent years, plus Soviet classics and much more. Stay tuned!