Veronica's Tort Napoleon

Russian tort Napoleon
One of my personal goals with this blog is to share all sorts tasty goodies that are simple and/or quick and/or effortless yet downright fabulous, definite tried-and-true winners that will give you great results, confidence, and encouragement to bake.  It’s not a scary thing, baking, I promise.

Ok, but sometimes though, I’m going to share a recipe that is more immersive but no less tasty and no less accomplish-able, just more intricate, if you will.  I’ve been meaning to share this one for far too long now too.

Now don’t freak out, Tort Napoleon is not a difficult cake to make.  I’d go so far as to teeteringly say it’s easy.  I hear you, brushing me off with a chuckle.  I would not share if it was too hard or not worth it, trust me.
tort Napoleon close up
Looks deeeelicious, yeah?  ‘Cuz it is.  I apologize for some of these artificial light photos, they hardly do the cake justice.
Mike and I met our super sweet friend Veronica at a hang-out joint nearby.  She’s from Moldova and when we met her, she’d only been here in the United States for a mere two, ‘tree years.  

Have I mentioned how super sweet she is?  Oh my.  So sweet.  One of The Sweetest Ever.  Ever.

When she was barely twenty or so her name popped up in the Moldovian visa lottery, giving her the opportunity to come to the US.  The only one of her family.

weighing butter on kitchen scale
Measuring the butter here on my scale* to get to the 12.5 ounces.  So it’s 3 sticks plus a little extra.
Could you imagine, that age (think back to who you were [eerrrgg, try!] and where you were in your own life), not able to speak or read a lick of English, leaving the only country you’ve ever known, your family and friends, to come to the US by yourself and build a new life?

It can be a bit mind-boggling to think about, not in a bad sense, imagining the unknowns, landing in a place you’ve never been, a completely foreign language.  That takes some serious cajones and bravery.  Completely blows my mind, really.  Endless kudos to Veronica.

adding grated butter to flour in a bowl
Here’s a bit of the grated* butter with the flour. You’ll still need to work the flour into the butter much like my scones.
Yeah, indeed, a new country, it’s exciting but I imagine it’d also be scary too.

She picked up English in a flash, which uhhh, wow.  She’d occasionally run into something she didn’t know the word for or understand the meaning of but of course we always helped her out.  We made sure she knew she could ask us anything any time, to not be embarrassed as we care.

Other times she’d ask us to explain stuff, requiring us to share with her some unseemly sides of American life, that things don’t work like they should, people are not always nice, not always honest, not looking out for her, and at times, don’t do the right thing.  It was always heartbreakingly crushing to watch her sweet, beautiful face turn to disappointment.

assembling the custard by tempering the eggs
Making of the custard.  All the ingredients mixed, ready to go at top.  Left, tempering the milk-egg-flour mix (as you can see, be sure to strain it), then on the right, the cooked custard with plastic on the surface ready to chill.
Last year she decided she was going to throw herself a big birthday bash and she was very very very excited about it.  Inspired by her excitement, I offered to make her a birthday cake, heh, of course, because that’s what I do.  I asked her what she wanted. “A Napoleon!” she blurted without any hesitation.  “Ok, great!”

I started searching around for recipes, ya know, a Neapolitan, like the ice cream I thought, layers of chocolate, vanilla, strawberry.  But how do I know what the heck she is looking for?  I asked her.

coarse crumbles of butter cut into flour
Coarse crumbles of flour and butter here.  Use a pastry cutter* or your fingers to get those crumbs.
“Oooh nooo, not like that!  It’s a Russian cake,”  “Oh!  Oh!  Ok!”  And she helped me find on the interwebs what it was as I had zero clue.  Obviously. 

A Tort Napoleon!  A very popular Russian cake, very very different than Neapolitan, duh, like couldn’t be any more different than the American triple flavored ditty.  Yikes was I befuddled.  

“Ok, sure, I’ll make that for you,” I said, “it looks fantastic!”  And her eyes danced in anticipation. 

So researching this new route, there were just as many recipes, all different from each other, oh boy, how do I know?

Heh, so I asked her again. “I trust you,” was the exact only response I got.  Oh jeez.  Ah crap.  Oh dear.  Ok.  No pressure.

dough rolled into a log and then sliced
Log of dough before.  Log of dough cut into twelve evenly-ish sized slices.
After narrowing it down to six to three then two recipes I went with one from Kitchen Russian, a website that no longer seems to be functioning, hence no link, apologies.

Aaaand, I misplaced my print out with notes.  Gosh darn it, aarrgg!!  Wow, that’s frustrating.  So if you make this and run into something, please comment so as to jog my memory.  Thank goodness for photos….I think I’ve got it though, I see some notes in my recipe app.

dough segment rolled flat into a circle
Paaaaaper thin, roll those layers huge, way larger than you need and paper thin.  Thinner than this.  You should be able to see through them. The dough will shrink tremendously in the oven.
Now again, a Tort Napoleon is not a complicated cake per se, it just takes a healthy portion of time so schedule accordingly.  Read it through first then plan.  Once it’s nearly assembled, it does need to sit, rest, then go for a chill so making this the day before is a must. 

Mike and I attended her birthday party which she had done all the cooking for, like a huge spread.  I had completely misunderstood her and we mistakenly ate beforehand which sucked as we missed out on all her favorite Moldovian dishes. 

Huge group, everyone’s hanging out, having a good time, blah-dee blah when suddenly a huge knife was out and Veronica was slicing and dicing, carving up the cake.  I was in a panic.

baked pastry pieces before trimming and after
Immediately out of the oven, yes right away, trim the pastry to size.  I used a 9″ pot lid from my grandma and a pizza cutter.*  Save the cutoff bits. As I went through the process of baking, I improved my technique and the layers got nicer looking, as you can see.  Not that it matters as it won’t.
We got our pieces, everyone is inhaling it, I am sooo totally totally nervous I can’t even taste my piece, they must’ve felt me staring when Olya who is another super sweet friend and Veronica both nodding turn and say “ooohh, juuust like home!”  Whewwww!

layering custard and pastry circles on a plate
Spread that creamy custard evenly edge to edge and just keep on keepin’ on with the stack and spread.
There ya go, verified with a stamp of approval by our local Tort Napoleon connoisseurs!

Sorry I don’t have a photo of the cake sliced, it was dark and a flurry of cake devouring.

custard covering entire cake
With the reserved custard, coat the top and sides then coat the top and sides with all those crispy cutoff leftover bits.
It truly is an exquisite cake, the creamy custard soaks the layers of crunchy pastry sorta like an icebox cake so it becomes this soft, supernatural vanilla wonderland.  I can’t thank Veronica enough for educating me!  Happy birthday!

finished tort Napoleon
Yikes, not a great photo, so sorry. But wowza, Tort Napoleon is a great cake!

Note:   This content originally appeared on Flaky Bakers.

Veronica's Tort Napoleon

Veronica's Tort Napoleon

12 slices
Prep time
45 Min
Cook time
3 H & 45 M
Inactive time
24 Hour
Total time
28 H & 30 M
A supremely delicious cake built of layer upon layer of crispy, delicate pastry, slathered in luscious vanilla custard.


Pastry Dough
  • 12.5 ounces (354 g) cold butter, just over 3 sticks
  • 3 1/2 cups (420 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) fine sea salt
  • 1 lemon
  • water as noted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup (237 ml) heavy cream
  • 3 cups (711 ml) milk (or 4 cups [948 ml] milk total, skipping the cream)
  • 3 tablespoons (42 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (198 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 g) vanilla
  • 1/4 cup (57 g, 4 tablespoons) butter


The pastry dough
  1. Grate the cold butter into a large bowl and add the flour. Using your fingers, smush the flour into the butter (or use a pastry cutter) until coarse crumbs form.
  2. Juice the lemon into the same cup that the flour was measured in, add the salt, then top with water to fill the cup. There is no exact measurement for the water.
  3. Pour the water with lemon juice and salt into the flour-butter mix and bring together until a dough forms. Lightly knead as necessary to form the dough into a log. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for an hour up to overnight.
  4. The custard:
  5. Combine 2 cups of the milk with the sugar in a saucepan and place on the stove over medium heat until it barely begins to boil.
  6. In a separate bowl, add the remaining milk (or milk and cream) with the eggs and flour, whisk to combine.
  7. Slowly stream the near boiling sugar milk into the milk-eggs-flour bowl, whisking constantly, until the milk-eggs-flour mixture warms. Pour the contents of that bowl through a fine mesh strainer back into the saucepan and place on the stove.
  8. Whisk the custard mix constantly until it thickens like a pudding then remove from the heat, add the vanilla and butter, stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface and place in the refrigerator to chill.
To bake the pastry dough
  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F (200° C). Or, using a convection oven, preheat to 375° F (190° C). Place a rack in the lower third of the oven.
  2. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and discard the plastic wrap. Cut the log of chilled dough into 12 evenly sized slices.
  3. Roll out the dough on either parchment or a silicone mat with a bit of flour and place both the dough and the surface material on a cookie sheet. Be sure to roll the dough much larger than the intended finished size and roll it paper thin, that it's see-through thin. It will shrink in size.
  4. Dock the dough with a fork to prevent puffing and bake at 400° for 15-20 minutes or 375° convection for 15-16 minutes, until evenly golden brown and crispy then remove from the oven.
  5. Using the lid of a pan or an inverted bowl and a knife or pizza cutter, immediately cut the baked pastry to the desired size such as 9 or 10 inches. Gather the cutoff bits into a bowl and once every layer has been baked, crush the bits into smaller pieces.
  6. While one is baking, roll out another piece or pieces of dough so they’re ready to go into the oven right when one comes out.
To assemble
  1. Set aside about 1 1/2 cups of the custard in a small bowl, cover, and place back in the refrigerator.
  2. Place one baked pastry round on the serving plate of choice.
  3. Divide the remaining custard by the number of layers you have which is about 4 heaping or 5 tablespoons of the custard per layer, give or take. Spread a portion of custard evenly over the first layer of baked pastry. Stack another piece of baked pastry atop and repeat until all the layers are piled up.
  4. Cover the cake with plastic wrap, give it a very gentle, overall even smush but don't break everything. Let it rest on the counter for 30 minutes then refrigerate for at least 6 hours but ideally overnight.
  5. When ready to serve, remove the serving plate from the refrigerator, remove the plastic and coat the top and sides with the remaining custard. Coat the top and sides with the crushed pastry bits and serve or chill further then serve.


Adapted from Kitchen Russian (website no longer working).

Nutrition Facts



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Please see the "info" section for nutrition details and information about gram weights.

tort, tort Napoleon, pastry

*The kitchen scales, graters, pastry cutters, and pizza wheels are Amazon affiliate links.  Happy baking, thanks!  Please see the "info" tab for more, well, info.

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