Napoleon dessert is a Russian Napoleon cake made from homemade puff pastry sheets and delicious pastry cream! Each layer is soaked in a rich vanilla custard to soften and enrich this flaky dessert. This napoleon cake recipe out beats others by its ease without sacrificing all the traditional flavors! 

Easy Napoleon cake all made from scratch

 

This Napoleon cake is an authentic Russian recipe given by Liliya B. It has traditional layers of homemade puff pastry covered in pastry cream. If you are looking for a shortcut to Napoleon Torte try our Easy Napoleon Cake using store-bought puff pastry sheets and whipped cream. Napoleon can be made into bite-sized pieces! Check out these Napoleon Cake Balls

What Is A Napoleon Cake?

Napoleon is one of the most popular cakes of Russia called torte Na-pol-ye-on. It is a symbolic Russian dessert that is standard in Soviet Cuisine.

A Russian Napoleon cake recipe using homemade puff pastry dough and from scratch pastry cream. Cake is garnished with crushed cake crumbs from the puff pastry sheets

 

 

This cream cake is popular for its many layers of thin cake and rich pastry cream. The dessert is then covered in pastry crumbs (that’s broken up from one of the cake layers) and sliced into triangular slices. If you think this napoleon dessert is hard to make, I’ll prove you wrong.

moist Napoleon cake with softened layers

Thanks to my friend Liliya, this cake can come together in the time it takes to cool the custard! The homemade puff pastry sheets get rolled out the minute you make the dough and each layer takes minutes to bake! So within a couple of hours, you’ll have a beautiful pastry dessert that looked like hours to make but really it didn’t!

Russian Napoleon Cake

French Napoleon vs Italian Napoleon Cake

Typically, in French, a mille-feuille is made up of three puff pastry layers and crème pâtissière (pastry cream.) Whereas in Italy a Mille-Foglie has layers of sponge cake and strawberries in between the puff pastry and cream layers. Russian cake Napoleon on the other hand has many more layers but remains similar in height. 

Ingredients For Napoleon Torte:

This recipe is so easy and all the ingredients can easily be found in most pantries! Surprisingly there is no water for this puff pastry dough but the wet ingredients compensate.

  • White Distilled Vinegar- many recipes call for an addition of Vodka which can easily be replaced with vinegar. White distilled vinegar is an acid that helps tenderize the dough. It is used in pie crust and is best for making laminated dough.
  • Sour Cream- is a Russian staple, we throw this in Pelmeni dough and it makes its way to many of our other Russian food.
  • Flour- use a medium gluten flour like all-purpose.
  • Butter- salted butter can be used if the salt is omitted.
  • Salt- I used sea salt.
  • Vanilla- I typically use Vanillin or Vanilla sugar in my baked food or pastries. Vanilla extract will work too.
  • Egg- is a binding ingredient to bring the dough together.

Ingredients for Napoleon cake: flour, butter, vinegar, sour cream, vanilla, salt, and egg. Pastry cream ingredients include: milk, eggs, cornstarch, sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt.

Q&A

What Is Pastry Cream?

Pastry cream is a custard similar to vanilla pudding. Its usually made from thickened milk and sometimes eggs. Creme Anglaise is also very similar to a custard only slightly thinner than a thicker pastry cream consistency. Other names may include custard cream and creme patisserie.

How To Make Napoleon Cake:

Traditionally, Napoleon cake is made with puff pastry sheets, but this puff pastry recipe is so easy to make it’ll probably be quicker than running to the store and buying Pepperidge Farm puff pastry!

To make this Russian cake you’ll need to make the custard cream first. It is best to frost the cake layers with a cool custard and since an egg custard can be heavy the addition of whipped cream can lighten up the pastry cream and stretch it out. (P.S. you can use instant Vanilla pudding mix instead.)

  1. This no-fuss pastry cream comes together quickly in one saucepan! To begin, combine cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and milk and stir them into the dry ingredients. Heat this over medium heat whisking the entire time until thickened (1 minute.) Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla; cool in the fridge for 2 hrs. Then fold in the Cool Whip.
  2. To make puff pastry for a Napoleon cake, grate the cold butter into flour and salt. Then mix together the sour cream, vinegar, egg, and vanilla and stir this into the flour until a dough forms.
  3. Divide the dough into 9-10 balls. Roll out each ball to a 10″ circle over aluminum foil and bake until golden (4-5 minutes.)
  4. To Assemble the Napoleon cake, stack the cake layers between pastry cream reserving one puff pastry layer for the cake crumbs. Frost the sides and top then garnish all over with crumbs.
  5. Allow the cake to soak in the cream overnight. Napoleon cake is best the next day before slicing and serving.

How To Make Puff Pastry:

Puff pastry is a dough that puffs from the buttery fat content that is repeatedly folded and rolled out before baking. This is a flaky pastry with a huge shortcut to homemade puff pastry crust!

  1. Pre-heat oven to 430°F.
  2. To make easy puff pastry, grate the cold butter into the flour using a box grater.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the sour cream, white distilled vinegar, egg, salt, and vanilla. Add to the flour and mix until the dough comes together.
  4. Transfer dough to a floured surface and form into a log. Divide dough into 9-10 pieces.
  5. Roll out each dough piece to a 10-inch circle using a generous amount of flour so the dough doesn’t stick. Transfer layers to a sheet of foil and repeat until all layers are rolled out.
  6. Bake each layer for 6-8 minutes or until lightly golden.
  7. Cool before frosting.

Baker’s Tip: you don’t need to prick the dough since this dough doesn’t expand to the degree of puff pastry. However, it still creates a super flaky pastry and rises slightly.

What Size Diameter is A Napoleon Cake?

This cake is 10-inches in diameter. For a taller Napoleon cake roll out more pieces of dough that are smaller in diameter like 8-inches round. Napoleon cakes can also be rectangular. Here is a rectangular berry Napoleon Cake with whipped cream for variation.

Where To Buy puff Pastry Sheets?

Puff Pastry sheets can be purchased in 1 pound packages in the freezer section of most grocery stores. Popular brands include Pepperidge Farm and Pillsbury which come in two sheets per box or a bulk case available at food service stores.

Cake Variations:

Napoleon cake is traditionally a cream-filled pastry made from the thick custard. Some variations can include these tasty recreations:

  • Fruit Napoleon Cake: add in your favorite fruit between each layer for a berry Napoleon cake.
  • Dulce De Leche: dulce de leche can be folded into a whipped cream topping to create a caramel-colored cream.
  • Lemon Pastry Cream: infuse lemon flavors into the pastry cream for lemon custard.
  • Whipped Cream Napoleon Cake: skip the pastry cream by whipping cold heavy cream to make a light cream topping.

What Pan To Use for Baking Puff Pastry?

Puff pastry can be baked in a rectangular pan or round pizza pan depending on how big your layers are. I baked two 10-inch layers at a time interchanging them between large perforated pizza pans. Parchment paper or aluminum foil can easily slide onto a flat baking sheet, so try to avoid rimmed baking pans. Large cookie sheets can fit two layers at a time.

How To Make Napoleon Cake Step-by-step?

  1. First, make this no-fuss pastry cream that comes together quickly in one saucepan! Combine the cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and milk and stir them into the dry ingredients. Heat this over medium heat whisking the entire time until thickened (1 minute.) Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla; cool in the fridge for 2 hrs. Then fold in the Cool Whip.
  2. To make puff pastry for a Napoleon cake, grate the cold butter into flour and salt. Then mix together the sour cream, vinegar, egg, and vanilla and stir this into the flour until a dough forms.
  3. Divide the dough into 9-10 balls. Roll out each ball to a 10″ circle over a well-floured surface.
  4. Place onto foil and bake until golden (4-5 minutes.)
  5. To Assemble the Napoleon cake, stack the cake layers between pastry cream reserving one puff pastry layer for the cake crumbs. Frost the sides and top. Crush the reserved cake layer and garnish the cake with crumbs.
  6. Allow the cake to soak in the cream overnight. Napoleon cake is best the next day before slicing and serving.

How To Layer Napoleon Cake?

To stack a Napoleon cake place a heaping 1/2 cup full of custard cream over each pastry layer and gently spread. You do not want to spread a thin layer of cream otherwise you won’t notice it in between the layers.

Can I Use Vanilla Pudding Mix?

6 oz of Instant or cook-type vanilla pudding will work. Make sure you cool the pudding before folding in the whipped topping and frosting.

What Size Cake Stand Should I Use?

Ideally, a 12-inch cake stand works best to give the cake some room. Unless you make a smaller Napelon cake an 8-inch or 10-inch cake stand can work.

How Long To Bake Puff Pastry?

Depending on the thickness of your dough puff pastry can take anywhere from 5- 20 minutes with an oven temperature of 400°F and above. My puff pastry dough was about 1/8″ thick. Store-bought puff pastry is much thicker.

Baker’s Tip: if using store-bought puff pastry dough, you’ll want to prick it with a fork so it doesn’t expand too much. Otherwise, you will need to crush it down when frosting (that can break the delicate layers.)

Storing Napoleon Cake?

Napolean cake can keep covered in the fridge for up to 4 days. Use plastic wrap to cover and prevent any fridge odors.

I like to leave my Napoleon cake at room temperature for the layers to soften quicker. Once you get the cake to soften you can then transfer it to the fridge and chill it. Napoleon cake is best served the next day so it fully soaks each layer. When frosting the cake let it sit out for at least a few hours before storing it in the refrigerator.

Can You Freeze Napoleon Cake?

Napoleon cake can be frozen for up to 6 months. Use cake containers if freezing an entire cake or slice cake into pieces and store in a freezer bag instead. Thaw completely before serving.

How To Use Whipped Cream In Napoleon Cake?

You can use whipped cream or Cool Whip topping to lighten up a rich pastry cream! Plus it stretches out the cream to make more frosting so you don’t go short!

To use whipped cream in Napoleon Cake, you’ll need 12oz of whipped topping or 12 oz of heavy whipping cream, whipped. Fold this into the cooled custard and you have a delicious cream-filled custard!

 

Best Napoleon Pastry Tips:

  1. Short on time? Use 2 boxes of store-bought puff pastry! Roll out puff pastry sheets big enough to cut out 2 round cake layers from each sheet and use the scraps for the cake crumbs.
  2. Vanilla Pudding Mix can take place of the homemade vanilla pastry cream.
  3. Use 12 oz of whipped cream for the cool whip.
  4. This homemade puff pastry doesn’t need to be pricked with a fork. Since the layers are so thin they don’t rise high but still create super flaky layers.
  5. Turn this into a rectangular cake by using 3lbs of puff pastry sheets. Prick store-bought puff pastry sheets with a fork and roll out to a 16″ rectangle. Makes 6 layers (use one for cake crumbs.)

Tools To Make Napoleon Cake Easy:

homemade Napoleon cake with puff pastry and pastry cream

Other Pastry Desserts To Try:

How To Make Napoleon Cake:

Napoleon Cake

Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 16 slices
Author: Alyona Demyanchuk
Napoleon dessert is a Russian Napoleon cake made from homemade puff pastry sheets and delicious pastry cream! Each layer is soaked in a rich vanilla custard to soften and enrich this flaky dessert. This napoleon cake recipe out beats others by its ease without sacrificing all the traditional flavors! 

Equipment

  • 10 sheets of Aluminium foil
  • 1 cake stand
  • 1 rolling pin
  • 1 large cookie sheet or 2 pizza pans

Ingredients

Pastry Dough:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (708 ml)
  • 3 sticks butter (12 oz butter or 339 grams)
  • 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar (118 ml)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg

Pastry Cream Filling:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 12 oz Cool Whip

Instructions

Directions:

  • how to make vanilla pastry cream for Russian Napoleon cake
    To make pastry cream; combine cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Then in a bowl whisk together the eggs and milk and stir it into the dry mix. Heat this over medium heat whisking until thickened (1-2 minutes.) Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla; cool in the fridge for 2 hrs. Then fold in the Cool Whip.
  • To make puff pastry for a Napoleon cake, grate the cold butter into flour and salt. Then mix together the sour cream, vinegar, egg, and vanilla and stir this into the flour until a dough forms.
  • how to divide puff pastry dough to make layers for Napoleon cake
    Preheat the oven to 430°F. Divide the dough into 9-10 pieces.
  • Roll out each piece to a 10" circle over a well-floured surface. Place over a sheet of foil and stack until the rest of the dough is rolled out.
  • Bake each layer until golden (6-8 minutes.) Cool.
  • To Assemble the Napoleon cake, stack the cake layers between pastry cream reserving one puff pastry layer for the cake crumbs.
  • Frost the sides and top then garnish all over with crumbs.
  • Allow the cake to soak in the cream overnight. Napoleon cake is best the next day before slicing and serving.

Nutrition per serving

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 364kcalCarbohydrates: 33gProtein: 6gFat: 23gSaturated Fat: 14gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 100mgSodium: 275mgPotassium: 120mgFiber: 1gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 764IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 81mgIron: 1mg

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4 comments

    • Linda

    I’d love to try this as it looks amazingly yummy! However, the measurements are totally confusing as I’m in England. Would it be possible to put ingredient amounts in grams or ounces please? I love your site and really want to have a go at some of them. Sorry but sticks and cups are not weights we use. Thanks a lot.

      • Alyona

      Sure thing Linda I will note exactly how many ounces of butter.

    • Larissa

    This is the most yummiest cake I have ever tried.😋😋😋😋

      • Alyona

      So glad to hear, Larissa! Thank you for the comment:)

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