Missing Grandma’s Napoléon Cake

As a child in Kiev, Ukraine I remember playing in my grandmother’s bedroom. She lived with us since I was two years old, so my visit were quite frequent. As i grew taller, while still jumping on her bed which was prompted against a large armor I made a great discovery. All these years when my grandmother made Napoleon, she would place the pastry used to layer the cake with to dry at the top of her armor. My visits post my discovery were a lot more monitored, since I was very much content just munching on the pastry alone.

Unfortunately, we left Ukrain in a hurry, leaving many important things behind, like my grandmother’s Napoleon cake recipe. Over the years dabbling a bit in baking I’ve tried to recreate this familiar taste and texture of my youth. My sister said I am getting close.

To make pastry for this cake:

Step 1: I’ve used the same dough as for making a pie. Using a pastry cutter work 1 1/2 stick if chilled butter into 3 cups of flour.

Step 2: To this add an egg mixture consisting of 1 egg and 1 tsp of baking soda mixed together.

Step 3: Add enough cold water and handmix until it all pulles together into a dough. You are done once the batter is no longer sticking to your hands.

Step 4: Divide the dough into 5 pieces. Wrap each piece in saran wrap and press to make flat circles. Place into refrigerator to chill

Step 5:About 20 minutes later roll out each individual circle as you would for a pie.

Step 6: This one is important don’t skip it or forget about it, poke the rolled out dough all over with a fork

Step 7: Bake each pastry at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes, you want it to get to golden brown color

Step 8: Leave the pastry to cool. On top of an armor is an option, but with time little fingers might find their way up there as well


For the cream filling I used the same recepie as in making a tart. I added Kahului liquor to give it a bit of a different flavor.

Putting it all together:

Step 1: Once the pastry and cream filling have cooled you are ready to put it all together. You want uniformity among all your pastry layers. I used a 9″ pot cover as a guide. Placed over each layer, cut away excess pastry around. Save all the shavings to use later on for cake topping

Step 2: Spread the cream over the pastry layer you selected to be your base. Place your next layer on top and repeat. Don’t worry about the pastry flaking off here and there, the cream should work as a sealer keeping everything in place. Your top layer should also be covered in cream. Use any left over cream to coat the sides.

Step 3: Place the shaving you’ve collected when forming your cake shape into a ziplock bag. Close it and using the heal of a heavy knife beat it until they become crumbs. If needed you can also break up some of the stubborn pieces by hand

Step 4: Sprinkle  the pastry crumbs over the top layer and sides of your cake to cover. Voilà, your Napoléon is all ready.

Leave it out or refrigerate to allow for the cream to soak into each pastry layers prior to serving. This cake is great with a cup of tea.