Warning, this cake requires a lot of work! Especially the cake layers take there time as you will need to make 12 cake layers in total and usually can only bake two at the same time. But if you are up for the challenge, you will get a delicious and impressive cake, which is made with quick puff pastry and a decadent caramel cream very similar to dulce de leche. This Russian cake was invented for the 100th anniversiary celebrating the “victory” over Napoleon when he tried to conquer Russia 1812. What once started as a smaller triangle to represent Napoleon’s hat, changed to a traditional cake and is known throughout the world as one of Russia’s finest cakes. I had the pleasure of eating it during several Russian-German weddings where it is traditionally served.
Even though you “only” need to make two components, beware, this cake requires quite a bit of work. You will need to make quick puff pastry and roll out 12 (!) cake layers, which all need to be baked. After that you will need to make the cream and spread it on each of those cake layers. Since puff pastry is rather stiff, I highly recommend allowing the cake to chill overnight for the cream to soften and marinate the cake layers. So this cake can and should be made in advance. There are two different creams commonly used for Napoleon torte, the one with dulce de leche below or one, which is similar to a custard-based buttercream. If you prefer this type of cream, feel free to use the one from this recipe.
- 130 grams of water
- 45 grams of vodka
- 1 tablespoon of vinegar
- 2 eggs
- 690 grams all-purpose flour
- A good pinch of salt
- 400 grams of cold butter
- 250 grams of butter at room temperature
- 2 cans of 397 grams of dulce de leche made from sweetened condensed milk, how you can make it yourself, I explain here
- 200 grams of cream cheese
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- A good pinch of salt
- Fresh berries for decoration
For the dough mix together water, vodka, vinegar and eggs and set asode. Then look for a big (!) bowl and mix together flour and salt. Add the cold butter in cubes and work this mixture into crumbs the size of peas. Try to do this as quickly as possible. Now add the wet ingredients and work everything together, it is OK if you still see a few patches here and there. The dough will be sticky, but try not to add any futher flour. Form into a ball, cover and chill for at least one hour. Then divide this into 12 equal parts (I like to weigh each one to be sure they are the same). Put back 10 pieces into the fridge and only keep 2 to work on.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. First form a small ball and then roll out into a circle on a floured surface. Using a plate, springform or similar, look for something with a diameter of 20cm. Place the rolled-out dough onto the baking sheet and cut out the circle on there. Do not discard the scraps, but leave them on there. Repeaht the procedure with the second piece of dough, rolling out, placing on the baking sheet and then cutting out the circle, but leaving the scraps on. Bake these two circles for about 10-11min, it is OK if they are barely golden. Let cool.
While the two circles are baking, continue with two more pieces. Repeat the process with all 12 pieces, you should have 12 baked circles and scraps at the end, let everything cool. If you want to, you can continue the next day. Cover tightly or freeze until further use.
For the cream beat the soft butter for about 7-10 minutes until fluffy and much lighter in color. Slowly add the dulce de leche by the spoonful. Only cream in cream cheese, vanilla extract and salt last and mix until combined.
Now take one bake circle as the bottom and evenly spread about two heaping tablespoons of the cream on it. Place a second circle on top and repeat this procedure until you have stacked the 12 circles, each time with cream in between. You still should have enough cream left to frost the outside of the cake. Now either create crumbs with the sraps using a zip-lock bag and a rolling pin to smash them, or a food processor. Pat these crumbs onto the top and sides of the cake. You should do this as long as the cream still is soft as it will serve as a glue. Once done, chill at least for one night or longer. This time is needed for the cake layers to soften and for the cream to marinate the quick puff pastry. Otherwise it is going to be hard to cut through.
I served the Napoleon cake with some frozen raspberries, which I cooked with some sugar to create a sauce, but kindly note that this is not traditional for Napoleon. However, all my test eaters prefered it with it.