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Napoleon Cake

A slice of Napoleon Cake on a small white plate with the rest of the cake in the background.
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Napoleon Cake (also known as Napoleon Tort or Torte) is an absolute classic! Popular across the Eastern and Central Europe, this cake is a French-Russian fusion that is simply divine! Made with flaky buttery pastry, and layered with rich and creamy creme mousseline, our version of Napoleon Cake also features a couple of layers of tart blackcurrant jam to cut through the sweetness! Not at all difficult to make, and oh-so-good!

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Everyone’s Favourite Cake: Napoleon Torte

Recently, all the signs were there encouraging me to make a classic Napoleon Cake. A few months ago, my best friend was raving about a Russian Napoleon Cake she keeps gettings from a newly-discovered local baker in Kent. A couple of weeks ago I heard a dog waker call her dog over, and yes, his name was Napoleon (what a name!). Then my mum mentioned that Napoleon might be her favourite cake in the world when she was asking for advice on what to cook for Easter. That was it, I was going to make a Cake Napoleon and share the recipe on the first Sunday in May – Mother’s Day in most of Eastern and Central Europe!

Napoleon Cake decorated with blackcurrants.

What is a Napoleon Cake (Napoleon Torte)?

Napoleon or Торт Наполеон is a result of French-Russian collaboration.

Napoleon is one of those cakes that everybody in Eastern Europe loves but is too apprehensive to try to make themselves. I don’t know if it is the number of layers or the creme mousseline that many home bakers are scared of, but I personally think it is not much more difficult to make than any other layer cake.

It takes a while from the time you start to the time you can enjoy it, but it doesn’t mean this cake is labour intensive. It takes about 10 minutes to bring the dough together. 20 minutes to roll out and cut the pastry. Then another 20 minutes to make creme mousseline. And finally another 20 minutes for assembly. That’s it! Just over an hour and I’m done! The rest of the time is spent cooling and chilling.

A slice of napoleon cake being cut.

The most challenging part of making this cake comes when it is fully assembled. You need to chill it for at least 12 hours before eating it. And that can really test your patience, if you are anything like me, who always struggles to let my bakes cool, let alone chill for hours before digging in! This time the cake spends in the fridge is crucial though! Baked pastry sheets ‘infuse’ with sweet and creamy creme mousseline and blackcurrant jam, and the texture of the cake becomes extremely satisfying to eat (and cut through).

Ingredients and Substitutes

For the Pastry

  • plain flour: also known as all-purpose flour.
  • butter: unsalted, fridge cold butter.
  • creme fraiche: can be replaced with sour cream.
  • egg: a small egg in the UK, and medium if you are in the US.
  • a pinch of salt

For Creme Mousseline

  • milk: whole milk will make the best and most creamy mousseline.
  • caster sugar: or white granulated sugar.
  • egg: medium
  • cornflour: also known as cornstarch.
  • plain flour: also known as all-purpose flour.
  • vanilla bean paste: we use and love Nielsen Massey Vanilla Bean Paste.
  • butter: unsalted softened butter.

Extras:

  • jam: blackcurrant or cranberry jam. Lithuanian Napoleon Cake benefits from a tart jam that will cut through the sweetness of the filling.

Step-by-Step Lithuanian Napoleon Torte Recipe

STEP 1: Make the Pastry

Place the plain flour and a pinch of salt onto a large chopping board or granite kitchen surface (something you can cut on). Coarsely grate the fridge cold butter onto the flour. Keep dipping the butter into flour to help it not stick to the grater.

Using a long-bladed knife chop and slice the butter and flour mixture in various directions until you have a mixture resembling coarse breadcrumbs.

Lightly whisk a small egg into a bowl. Make a well in the middle of your buttery flour mixture. Add almost all of the egg and 100g of creme fraiche. Using a knife, chop and slice the mixture to incorporate the wet ingredients into the flour. You may need to add the remaining egg if your mixture is very dry.

Bring the mixture into a ball and knead just enough to bring it together. Then roll into a log. Cut the log into 8 rounds. Wrap them separately in cling film (we love Kirkland Signature cling film) and place them in the fridge for 2 hours.

STEP 2: Make Creme Mousseline

In the meantime, make creme mousseline. In a small bowl, whisk the caster sugar, plain flour, cornflower, an egg and vanilla paste into a paste. Heat the milk until it just reaches boiling point. Keeping the milk on low heat, slowly add the egg and sugar mixture into the milk, whisking vigorously at all times to prevent the egg from scrambling.

Once incorporated, increase the heat to medium and stirring continuously, cook for another 5 minutes until the mixture has thickened and covers the back of the spoon. Take it off the heat and leave to cool completely.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. A tablespoon at a time, keep adding the cooled custard into the butter and keep beating until all the custard is incorporated. Set aside for later (but don’t refrigerate at this point).

Creme Mousseline in a metal bowl with a spoon in it.

STEP 3: Bake The Pastry

Preheat the oven to 200°C Fan. Once your pastry has chilled for at least 2 hours, roll each of the rounds into thin (1-2mm thick) sheets on a floured surface. Using a plate or another round object cut even rounds of the pastry (we used 18cm (7in)) and move the offcuts. Place the rounds on the baking parchment-lined trays and put them in the oven for 9-11 minutes until the pastry is crisp and just starting to brown. Bake the offcuts too (we’ll use those to decorate the cake).

Once all the pastry rounds and offcuts are baked, leave them to cool completely.

STEP 4: Assemble Cake Napoleon and Chill

To assemble the cake, place a pastry round smooth side down. Spread a generous tbsp/ 1.5 tbsp of creme mousseline on top of the pastry round going straight to the edges. Place another round of pastry on top and press down lightly. Keep on layering, but on two of the layers, skip the creme mousseline and spread a tbsp of blackcurrant jam instead. I did that on my 2nd and 6th pastry sheets. Finish with a pastry round with the smooth side facing up.

Cover the top and the sides with the remaining creme mousseline. Using your hands crush the offcuts into crumbs. Press them onto the top and the sides of your Cake Napoleon. You can decorate the cake with chocolate or fruit, but traditionally Napoleon Torte has a very minimalist look.

Chill the cake in the fridge for at least 12 hours before serving! This will ensure the pastry sheets soften slightly and the Cake Napoleon is easier to slice!

Napoleon cake on a black slate with one slice missing.

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Recipe Card

Napoleon Cake

The Best Napoleon Cake

Napoleon Cake (Napoleon Tort) is an absolute classic! Popular across the Eastern and Central Europe, this cake is a French-Russian fusion that is simply divine! Made with flaky pastry made with butter and creme fraiche, and layered with rich and creamy creme mousseline, my version of Napoleon Cake also features a couple of layers of tart blackcurrant jam to cut through the sweetness! Not at all difficult to make, and oh-so-good!
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 50 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Resting & Chilling: 14 hrs
Total Time 15 hrs 10 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Eastern European, Lithuanian, Russian
Servings 8 portions
Calories 381 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

For the Pastry:

  • 200 g plain flour
  • 125 g unsalted butter fridge cold
  • 100 g creme fraiche
  • 1 small egg
  • a pinch of salt

For Creme Mousseline:

  • 250 ml milk
  • 110 g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp cornflour (6g)
  • 1 tsp plain flour (6g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 100 g unsalted butter softened

Extras:

  • 2 tbsp blackcurrant or cranberry jam

Instructions
 

  • Place the plain flour and a pinch of salt onto a large chopping board or granite kitchen surface (something you can cut on). Coarsely grate the fridge cold butter onto the flour. Keep dipping the butter into flour to help it not stick to the grater.
  • Using a long-bladed knife chop and slice the butter and flour mixture in various directions until you have a mixture resembling course breadcrumbs.
  • Lightly whisk a small egg in a bowl. Make a well in the middle of your buttery flour mixture. Add almost all of the egg and 100g of creme fraiche. Using a knife, chop and slice the mixture to incorporate the wet ingredients into the flour. You may need to add the remaining egg if your mixture is very dry.
  • Bring the mixture into a ball and knead just enough to bring it together. Then roll into a log. Cut the log into 8 rounds. Wrap them separately in cling film and place in the fridge for 2 hours.
  • In the meantime, make creme mousseline. In a small bowl, whisk the caster sugar, plain flour, cornflower, an egg and vanilla paste into a paste. Heat the milk until it just reaches boiling point. Keeping the milk on low heat, slowly add the egg and sugar mixture into the milk, whisking vigorously at all times to prevent the egg from scrambling.
  • Once incorporated, increase the heat to medium and stirring continuously, cook for another 5 minutes until the mixture has thickened and covers the back of the spoon. Take it off the heat and leave to cool completely.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. A tablespoon at a time, keep adding the cooled custard into the butter and keep beating until all the custard is incorporated. Set aside for later (but don't refrigerate at this point).
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C Fan. Once your pastry has chilled for at least 2 hours, roll each of the rounds into thin (1-2mm thick) sheets on a floured surface. Using a plate or another round object (we used a 7in plate) cut even rounds of the pastry and move the offcuts. Place the rounds on the baking parchment-lined trays put in the oven for 9-11 minutes until the pastry is crisp and just starting to brown. Bake the offcuts too (we'll use those to decorate the cake).
  • Once all the pastry rounds and offcuts are baked, leave them to cool completely.
  • To assemble the cake, place a pastry round smooth side down. Spread a generous tbsp or a bit more of creme mousseline on top of the pastry round going straigh to the edges. Place another round of pastry on top and press down lightly. Keep on layering, but on two of the layers, skip the creme mousseline and spread a tbsp of blackcurrant jam instead. I did that on my 2nd and 6th pastry sheets. Finish with a pastry round with the smooth side facing up.
  • Cover the top and the sides with the remaining creme mousseline. Using your hands crush the offcuts into crumbs. Press them onto the top and the sides of your Napoleon Cake. You can decorate the cake with chocolate or fruit, but traditionally Torte Napoleon has very minimalist look.
  • Chill the cake in the fridge for at least 12 hours before serving!

Nutrition

Calories: 381kcalCarbohydrates: 36gProtein: 5gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 103mgSodium: 33mgPotassium: 108mgFiber: 1gSugar: 16gVitamin A: 832IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 58mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Lithuanian Napoleon Cake, Napoleon Cake, Napoleon Cake Recipe, Napoleon Torte, Napoleon Torte Recipe, Napoleon with Creme Mousseline, Russian Desserts, Russian Napoleon Cake, Russian Napoleon Torte, Tort Napolyeon
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4 Replies to “Napoleon Cake”

  1. 5 stars
    I’ve actually never heard the name Napolean cake but it looks like what we call here in Italy a mille foglie or in French mille-feuille. I’m not sure if they are exactly the same but I love this kind of cake. Your idea of adding jam into some layers sounds delicious. Definitely want to make it this way!

    1. Yes, it’s similar! I think Napoleon has more layers though and is easier to cut into slices without it all falling apart (I hadn’t had much luck cutting mille-feuille elegantly :D).

  2. 5 stars
    This cake looks so beautiful and delicious! I might swap out the jam, and those flavors are hard to find here…but can’t wait to try!

    1. Absolutely, any tart jam will work brilliantly in this cake!

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