Russian Napoleon Cake (Napolyeon Tort)

Russian Napoleon Cake recipe

The Spruce / Teena Agnel 

Prep: 40 mins
Cook: 80 mins
Chill: 7 hrs
Total: 9 hrs
Servings: 9 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
804 Calories
42g Fat
90g Carbs
17g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 9
Amount per serving
Calories 804
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 42g 53%
Saturated Fat 23g 116%
Cholesterol 344mg 115%
Sodium 180mg 8%
Total Carbohydrate 90g 33%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 64g
Protein 17g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 230mg 18%
Iron 3mg 16%
Potassium 356mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Napoleon cake is one of Russia's national desserts made with up to 16 layers of crispy pastry filled with creamy custard. It resembles French mille-feuille but with more layers of alternating custard and pastry. Exact recipes can vary a bit from cook to cook—this Napoleon cake recipe yields a 10-layer cake to save a little time and avoid the potential pitfalls of a taller confection.

It's a bit time-consuming to make, but the rewards of a soul-satisfying dessert are so worth it. It's an impressive cake that is sure to impress your guests. You will be left with several egg whites, but don't toss them out. Make an egg white omelet or two and a delicious meringue for pie.

Ingredients

For the Pastry Layers:

  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1 cup sour cream, room temperature

  • 2 large room temperature egg whitesstiffly beaten

  • 1 tablespoon vodka

  • 1 pinch kosher salt

  • 2 1/2 cups (180 g) all-purpose flour

For the Custard Filling:

  • 5 cups whole milk

  • 10 large egg yolks, room temperature

  • 1 large egg white, room temperature

  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter

  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this Napoleon cake is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and baking.

Make the Pastry Layers

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for pastry

    The Spruce / Teena Agnel 

  2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar together until creamy.

    Butter and sugar beat together

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  3. Fold in the sour cream, stiffly beaten egg whites, vodka, and salt.

    Whipped egg whites in a bowl

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  4. Gently fold in the flour, a spoonful at a time, until the dough is soft and pliable. You might not need all of it.

    Flour being folded into batter in a bowl
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  5. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 to 2 hours to make it easier to roll out.

    Wrapped dough in a bowl

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  6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 F and butter a baking sheet and dust with flour.

    Greased and floured baking sheet

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  7. Divide the pastry dough into 10 pieces. Roll out each portion of dough, one at a time, directly on the prepared baking sheet into a very thin 8-inch circle.

    Pastry dough divided into pieces in a bowl

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  8. Bake each circle of pastry until golden brown, about 6 to 10 minutes. If dough bubbles as it cooks, pierce with a fork.

    Baked pastry round on a baking sheet

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  9. As each layer is cooked, remove from the sheet pan and set aside to cool on a wire rack. Repeat until all dough pieces have been baked.

    Baked pastry circles on a cooling rack

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Make the Custard Filling

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for custard

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  2. Pour the milk into a large saucepan and heat, but do not boil.

    Milk in a pot

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  3. In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks, egg white, and sugar until creamy.

    Eggs and sugar mixed in a bowl

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  4. Add 6 tablespoons flour and mix well.

    Custard mixture with flour mixed in

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  5. Pour this mixture into the warm (but not scalding hot) saucepan of milk, stirring initially with a whisk until smooth and then with a wooden spoon, constantly over low heat until thick and creamy.

    Pot full of custard

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  6. Add the butter and vanilla and stir until smooth.

    Custard cooked with butter on the side

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  7. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Stir frequently as the mixture cools.

Assemble the Torte

  1. Place one layer of the cooked dough in the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan and cover evenly with a layer of cooled custard filling.

    Cooked pastry in the bottom of a springform pan

    The Spruce / Teena Agnel 

  2. Continue to build up the cake in this way, layering the custard on top of the pastry, finishing with the 9th pastry layer.

    Layered cake in pan

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  3. Crumble the 10th and final pastry and layer over the top of the torte. Refrigerate for 5 to 6 hours.

    Napoleon cake topped with crumbled pastry

    The Spruce / Teena Agnel 

  4. When ready to serve, run a butter knife around the edges of the cake, remove the springform ring, and, using a cake lifter or two spatulas, carefully transfer to a serving platter.

    Cake removed from pan

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  5. Use an electric knife to get nice, clean cuts and serve.

    Russian Napoleon cake on a plate

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  6. Enjoy!

    Cake slice on a plate

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How to Store

  • Napoleon cake should be kept well-chilled since it contains layers of custard.
  • You can make the custard ahead of time by cooling and stirring it, pressing plastic wrap against the surface to cover, and chilling for up to a day.
  • Napoleon cake can be stored in the fridge for up to a few days, although it is best eaten soon after a thorough chilling to keep the pastry crisp. Leftovers must be chilled.

Raw Egg Warning

Consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs poses a risk of food-borne illness.

Why Is It Called Napoleon Cake?

Russian Napoleon cake first appeared in 1912 to commemorate the country's victory over Napoleon 100 years prior. It was originally a single-serving pastry that resembled a bicorne hat. The dessert transformed over the years, growing in width and height, and receive a dusting of crumbled pastry on top symbolizing the snow that aided Russian troops in their victory.

How Do You Eat Napoleon Cake?

Much like mille-feuille, Napoleon cake contains layers of crisp pastry that can be difficult to cut with a fork. Giving the top a few sharp raps with a fork or knife may help to break up some layers of pastry, making it easier to eat.