Russian Cake “Napoleon”

4.60 from 10 votes

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Buttery, flaky pastry layers generously filled with sweet cream filling…This Russian cake “Napoleon” is the sweetest taste from my childhood.

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.

Buttery, flaky pastry layers generously filled with sweet cream filling...This Russian cake "Napoleon" is the sweetest taste from my childhood.

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!

Napoleon cake- step by step photo

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.

Napoleon cake- step by step photo

Buttery, flaky pastry layers generously filled with sweet cream filling...This Russian cake "Napoleon" is the sweetest taste from my childhood.

Hope you enjoy this recipe!

4.60 from 10 votes

Russian Cake "Napoleon"

Buttery, flaky pastry layers generously filled with sweet cream filling…This Russian cake “Napoleon” is the sweetest taste from my childhood.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
30 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Servings: 8 -10 servings


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

For filling:

  • 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.

Tips & Notes

For step-by-step photos and additional notes, read the post above.


Calories: 778kcal
Carbohydrates: 76g
Protein: 7g
Fat: 51g
Sugar: 39g
Sodium: 137mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: russian

Hi, I’m Shinee!

Welcome! I’m so happy you’re here! I believe anyone can cook restaurant-quality food at home! And my goal is to help you to become a confident cook with my easy-to-follow recipes with lots of tips and step-by-step photos.

4.60 from 10 votes (1 rating without comment)

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  1. The recipe sounds great. Can I make this a few days ahead? I have my book club coming and we have been reading Anna Karenina so thought it would be perfect to serve ( glass of wine too of course).

  2. 5 stars
    I never try this cake before. So I do not how it should taste. However I follow all the step you noted down (except the sugar, I take 1/2 only), and it turn out the cake is so beautiful. Thank you, loves your recipe!!!

  3. My mom used to make this cake every year during the Ester and Christmas time. As she got older less and less she would make it. She passed away a few years ago and unfortunately I never wrote down the recipe. I have been looking for it for a long time. Most didn’t sound like my mom’s but this one does. The only difference is that my mom used to add ground walnuts in the filling, and sometimes she would make one with different fruits.

    1. Hi, Val. I’m so sorry for your loss. Yes, I’ve seen it’s very common to add fruits and nuts into the layers. I’m so glad you found this recipe and I hope you’ll give it a try. And please let me know if it’s similar to what your mom made. Thank you for sharing your memories.

  4. Thank you for this recipe! When she was alive, my grandmother made a Napoleon every year for my father’s birthday. I wanted to try my hand at it, but her recipe is very vague — I didn’t understand the composition of the cream. Your recipe uses the same components as hers, and now I feel like I can actually give it a try! Thank you thank you thank you 🙂

    1. Yay, so happy you came across my recipe. It’s one from my mom’s recipe notebook and it was also pretty vague. Luckily, my mom was able to show me everything and I put it down in detail. Hope you’ll give it a try and let us know how it turns out. Thanks, Rachel!

  5. Hi Shinee,

    I’d love to make this cake. I live in a high altitude area (7,000 feet). Do I need to make any adjustments to the recipe?
    Thank you. Vee.

    1. Hi, Vee. I, honestly, have no experience with high altitude baking and I’m not comfortable offering advice on adjustments. Sorry.

  6. Hi,
    Can I make the pastry layers with cold margarine instead of butter?
    Can I use any custard recipe for the filling?
    Thanks! 🙂