This Russian Napoleon cake recipe is a national dessert. It's made with up to 16 layers of crispy pastry filled with a custard cream and is just a little different in every household.
It's a bit time-consuming to make but, oh, the rewards of a soul-satisfying dessert are so worth it. You will be left with seven egg whites so try using some of the in this meringue torte recipe.
- For the Pastry Layers:
- 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) softened unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 large stiffly beaten room-temperature egg whites
- 1 cup room-temperature sour cream
- 1 tablespoon vodka
- Pinch salt
- About 2 cups all-purpose flour
- For the Custard Filling:
- 6 cups whole milk
- 10 large room-temperature egg yolks
- 1 large room-temperature egg white
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 8 ounces (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
Make the Pastry Dough
- In a large bowl, beat together 2 ounces butter and 1 tablespoon sugar together until creamy.
- Fold in 2 stiffly beaten egg whites, sour cream, vodka, and salt.
- Gently fold in the flour, a spoonful at a time, until the dough is soft and pliable. You might not need all of it.
- Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 to 2 hours to make it easier to roll out.
Bake the Pastry Layers
- Heat the oven to 375 F. Butter a baking sheet pan and dust with flour. Divide the pastry dough into 16 pieces. Roll out each portion of dough directly on the prepared baking sheet into a very thin 8-inch circle (if you can get two circles of dough on one sheet all the better).
- Bake each circle of pastry until golden brown, about 6 to 10 minutes. If dough blisters as it cooks, pierce them with a fork.
- As each layer is cooked, remove from the sheet pan and set aside to cool on a wire rack. Repeat until all dough pieces have been baked.
Make the Custard Filling
- Pour the milk into a large saucepan and heat, but do not boil.
- In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks, 1 egg white and 2 1/2 cups sugar until creamy. Add 6 tablespoons flour and mix well.
- Pour this mixture into the warm (but not scalding hot because you will cook the eggs) saucepan of milk, stirring initially with a whisk until smooth and then with a wooden spoon, constantly, over low heat until thick and creamy. Add the vanilla and 8 ounces butter and stir until smooth.
- Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Stir frequently as the mixture cools.
Assemble the Torte
- Place one layer of the cooked dough in the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan and cover evenly with a layer of cooled custard filling. Continue to build up the cake in this way, layering the custard on top of the pastry, finishing with the 15th pastry layer.
- Crumble the 16th and final pastry layer over the top of the torte. Refrigerate for 5 to 6 hours.
- When ready to serve, run a butter knife around the edges of the cake, remove the springform ring and, using a cake lifter or two spatulas, carefully transfer to a serving platter. Use an electric knife to get nice, clean cuts and serve.