Recipe contributed by Stella Shurhavetsky. Napoleon cake is very popular in Russia and is often served on birthdays, New Year and other festive occasions. It is a bit time-consuming, but definitely worth trying. One of the best things about it is that the entire process can be broken down into several steps and prepared over two or three days. It tastes best on the second or third day after preparation.
- 1 pound plus 1 cup flour, divided
- ¾ cup butter or margarine, frozen
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- Enough water to fill a 1 cup measuring cup when combined with egg and vinegar
- 8 egg yolks
- 1½ - 2 cups sugar, depending on personal preference
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4¼ cups whole milk, cold
- 3 tablespoons brandy (optional)
- Chopped hazelnuts, walnuts or Brazil nuts for garnish
- To make the dough, spread flour on a clean counter surface. Cut cold butter into pieces and mix into the flour with hands, being careful not to let the butter melt. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Place egg in a 1 cup measuring cup, add vinegar and then water to fill the cup. Pour into bowl with flour mixture and mix. Turn it out onto counter surface and knead, adding additional cup of flour if necessary, until well mixed. Divide dough into 5 equal parts, place on a dish and refrigerate uncovered for 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Flatten one portion of dough into the bottom of a 9-inch round pan or 8 or 9-inch square baking pan. Prick the dough several times with a fork. Bake for 10 minutes, until golden, being careful not to burn it. Repeat this process with each of the other 4 portions of dough, or if you have several pans of the same size, you can bake them simultaneously.
- To make the cream, whisk eggs together with sugar. Add flour and cornstarch gradually to mixture and mix again. Add cold milk to mixture and mix again. Transfer to a pot. Bring mixture to a boil on low or medium heat, stirring slowly to avoid lumps. Heat mixture thoroughly so that eggs are cooked through. Remove cream from heat. Stir in brandy if using.
- To assemble the cake, place the first layer of baked dough on the tray and shape it a bit, cutting uneven ends and saving crumbs to use as garnish later. Cover the layer generously with hot cream. Before setting down the second layer, cut off any uneven ends. Place the layer and cover with cream. Repeat with remaining dough and cream. Before covering top layer with cream, apply some pressure (with hands or a cutting board) to the cake. Cover top layer with cream and garnish with reserved crumbs and nuts, if using. The cake is best after a few days, so refrigerate until serving.