Buttery, flaky pastry layers generously filled with sweet cream filling…This Russian cake “Napoleon” is the sweetest taste from my childhood.
I can’t imagine my childhood without this cake called “Napoleon”.
You see, my mom is a talented baker, and I think I got the love for baking from her. Among many sweet treats, she used to bake this particular cake quite often, for us, for friends, and for coworkers. It’s her signature cake, if you will, and we absolutely loved it. One bite of this cake sends me right back to my happy childhood!
I don’t bake this cake as often as I should though, but it’s definitely one of my top favorites. The cake consists of five flaky, buttery pastry layers with sweet buttercream filling. It’s rich, buttery and oh-so-delicious! Best paired with a cup of tea without sugar.
This recipe is right from my mom’s oldest recipe notebook. You know, the old and worn-kind, filled with lots of handwritten recipes, mostly Russian sweets and treats. Her recipes are short and not as detailed, much like the one your grandma would’ve passed down.
I shared this recipe back in 2013. Last month, my mom made this cake for me, when she was here to help me with my newborn. So I took the opportunity to re-shoot the photos and re-share the recipe with you again.
We’ll start with making buttery, flaky pastry layers. Just like making a pie crust, we’ll incorporate cold butter into the flour and mix it with egg mixture until nice dough forms. It’s ok to have a small pea-size butter pieces here and there. It’s actually desirable for ultra-flaky layers.
Resting the dough in the fridge helps us to easily roll it out into nice and thin circle. We’ll bake each layer separately in a hot oven for a few minutes. And once the pastry layers are baked and cooled, we will trim the edges to form perfect circle. Save those extra trimmings for later!
Ok, this sweet cream filling is what really makes this cake. It’s buttery, smooth and fluffy. Not your regular buttercream here. The technique is rather strange, but it yields the most delicious, silky smooth filling.
We’ll generously fill each layer with said filling and let it rest for at least 5 hours, or preferably overnight. That’s the thing, it requires major patience. But it’s essential to give the filling enough time to soak into the flaky pastry layers and soften them for that perfect bite.
Hope you enjoy this recipe!
Russian Cake "Napoleon"
For pastry layers:
- 1 large egg
- ¾ cup 180ml water
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 18 tablespoons 250gr unsalted butter, cold
- 3 cups 375gr all-purpose flour
- 1 cup 240ml milk (whole or 2%)
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups 300gr sugar
- 1 cup 225gr unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- To make the pastry layers, mix together the egg, water, baking soda and salt.
- Blend cold butter cubes with flour. Add egg mixture and mix until well combined. Divide the dough into 5 equal pieces. Wrap each ball in a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Roll each dough ball into 10-inch circle on slightly floured surface. Transfer it onto a baking sheet and pierce it with a fork everywhere. Bake each layer for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.
- To make the filling, mix flour and milk and whisk until well combined. Bring it to boil on medium heat, stirring frequently. Once the milk mixture is thick, let it to cool completely.
- Beat softened butter and sugar until sugar is mostly melted. Add vanilla extract. Add cooled milk mixture and beat everything on high speed until well combined.
- To assemble the cake, once every layer is baked and cooled, trim each layer, using a 9-inch round plate. Save the leftover crust edges.
- Spread the filling between each layer and stack them up on top of each other. Then frost the entire cake with the remaining filling.
- Crush the saved crust edges into crumbs, using rolling pin or blender. Sprinkle the crust crumbs all over the cake.