Torte Napoleon – a classic, iconic Russian cake recipe that never gets old! If you’ve never had this buttery, flaky and creamy cake before, you are seriously missing out! It’s made with 12 layers of buttery puff pastry, a creamy vanilla custard and garnished with pastry crumbs, chocolate and strawberries. This French-inspired cake is perfect with a cup of tea or coffee any time of day! Find this recipe in my newly released cookbook, Beyond Borscht!
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Perfect Puff Pastry!
Torte Napoleon is all about the buttery and flaky layers and this cake has 12 of them! It’s very popular in Russia and throughout Eastern Europe – every celebration has to have one! Making puff pastry is actually super easy but you will need to follow a few steps to ensure that the layers come out perfectly each time. Here are a few guidelines:
- Use COLD butter! I recommend cubing the butter and placing it into the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, then combining it with the flour.
- Handle the dough as minimally as possible. Body heat from your hands will warm the butter quickly, making the dough warm. If the dough gets too soft or sticky, place it into the refrigerator to chill.
- Keep the dough COLD to prevent shrinkage in the oven! If your puff pastry layers are shrinking in the oven, make sure the dough is cold.
- A note of on the vodka – this may seem like a strange ingredient but adding the vodka instead of water is actually quite genius! The vodka adds extra moisture to the dough without activating the gluten in the flour. This allows the puff pastry dough to stay soft and not stretchy. This recipe can be made without the vodka, substituting it for water.
- Do not over knead the dough. Knead it just until the flour is incorporated and not dry crumbs remain; over mixing the dough will make it tough and stretchy, which isn’t good!
Rolling Out the Dough!
The easiest way to make great layers for Torte Napoleon is to roll the pastry dough out on silicone mats. If the mat is slipping on your work surface, just place a damp tea towel underneath to keep it steady. Don’t have mats? No worries! Roll the dough out on a sturdy work surface and then gently transfer onto a baking sheet, then cut to size!
The Creamiest Vanilla Custard!
Torte Napoleon wouldn’t be a great cake without a great custard. The custard is what softens the pastry layers and adds sweetness and creaminess to the recipe. My recipe for ‘Vanilla Custard’ is super easy and foolproof! It has just the right amount of sweetness and it’s super creamy – this is the only recipe for custard that I use! To get great results:
- Temper the hot milk into the egg yolk and sugar mixture slowly, so the yolks don’t separate or curdle.
- Cook the custard over medium-low heat! This is important! The cornstarch will start to separate if cooked at high heat. If your custard does separate, don’t worry – it’s easy to fix! Just mix an additional 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water and add to the custard. Cook again at medium-low heat for a few minutes, until the custard thickens.
- Always, always keep the mixing the custard while it’s cooking! I use a wide, rubber spatula to scrap along the bottom to ensure the custard doesn’t burn. If you get any clumps, just whisk vigorously for a minute.
Enjoyed this Russian cake recipe? Check out some of my other recipes you’re sure to love!
- Peach Zefir Torte – delicate sponge cake layers with the fluffiest peach marshmallow filling!
- Chocolate Spartak Cake – 8-layered chocolate cake with whipped cream filling!
- Kiev Torte – this iconic hazelnut cake is made with sponge cake and crispy meringue layers.
- Russian Easter Bread (Kulich) – the most delicious, rich, buttery and flake sweet bread for Easter, with royal icing!
- Golden Key Caramel Cake – the best-ever caramel cake with dulce de leche, sweetened condensed milk, pecans and whipped cream frosting!
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