Napoleon cake – the most Russian French cake
If you have ever been invited to a celebration party in (or around) Russia, you would have most probably tasted the omnipresent Napoleon cake. Essentially a French Mille-Feuille – a ‘thousand layer’ cake, often known as a Custard slice elsewhere, it has been adapted, adopted and fully nationalised by Russians, as THE Russian cake.
Napoleon – THE Russian cake
Most Russians will reassure you that the name has a direct link to a certain French Emperor, and was invented in his honour (perhaps in line with another Russian treasure with a French name – salad Olivier). I admit, I have not done a lot of research into the origin of the name (perhaps a topic for my future Phd in Anthropology), but the wise Wikipedia suggests that the recipe is of ‘ancient origin’ (read, no one really knows) and the name comes from napolitain, ie in French, originated in Naples. the word later got miraculously changed to Napoleon, perhaps by a simple linguist association.
In Russia the most iconic version – or the most Soviet, depending on how you look at it – is made with condensed milk cream, that cloyingly sweet and terrifyingly addictive substance. Unlike the ‘proper’ French Mill-feuille, where the top is often covered by patterned icing, the Russian version is topped with crumbled pastry. The budget version if you like, which I in fact prefer to the teeth-gnawing icing.
- 3 1/2 sticks very cold butter
- 4 cups flour
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon cognac or vodka
- 3/4 cup very cold water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 1/2 cans condensed milk
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- On a flat surface sift flour,salt and cut butter in t big chunks.
- Using a knife combine flour with butter until you will have fine crumbs.
- Incorporate sour cream using a knife in to the crumbs.
- In a bowl mix or whisk egg yolks,cognac or vodka with water.Add to the crumb mixture and start kneading the dough but not too much.
- Divide the dough into 7 sections size of tennis ball, and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Roll the dough very thin on a well floured surface adding flour as you roll so it won’t stick to the rolling pin or the surface.Transfer the rolled out dough to a baking sheet and cut it out into a circle or square shape. Bake on 375 degrees for about 10-12 minutes until golden brown.
- Combine all ingredients and beat using a stand or hand mixer on high speed until soft peaks form and you have a fluffy cream texture.
- Spread generous amount of cream on each layer.
- Leave one layer for crumbs.
- Crumble one sheet of cake and all the baked cut out edges in blender or using a rolling pin.
- Add the crumbs to sides and top of cake.
- Fridge for at least 6 hours.