The ultimate Russian Napoleon cake layers of thin puff pastry sheets and a creamy custard filling.
Wet ingredients: In a large cup whisk together 2 eggs, ⅛ tsp salt and stir in ⅔ cups cold water, then add 2 tablespoon vinegar & 3 tablespoons of vodka. Set aside.
Combine flour & butter: Add 6 cups flour and 1 ¾ cups of cold cubed butter to the cup of food processor. Then keep pulsing the mixture until the the mixture is the size of peas.
Add the egg mixture into the flour-butter mixture and continue pulsing until the dough starts sticking to itself, forming a dough, but is not formed yet.
Form a dough: Turn out the contents of the food processor bowl onto work surface and start gathering and sticking the dough together with your hands, trying to work it as little as possible. Knead it several times, but as soon as the dough comes together stop kneading/working it. The butter needs to stay in small chunks within the dough or the puff pastry will not have puffy layers.
Divide & refrigerate: Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, flatten it into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours (or up to several days if making ahead of time).
This will allow the flour to fully absorb the liquids and the butter to harden again.
Egg yolk mixture: In a 6 qt pot whisk together 7 egg yolks and 2 cups of sugar adding a little bit of milk as needed to help with mixing. Next, whisk in 2/3 cups flour until you have a uniform, lump-free batter adding bits of milk as needed to help with mixing.
Hot milk: In a saucepot heat the remaining milk over medium heat whisking continuously to keep the bottom from scorching. Alternatively you can microwave the milk until it is boiling.
Temper the egg yolk mixture by slowly pouring the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture, all the while mixing.
Thicken the custard: Now bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking continuously (!!) preventing the bottom of the pot from scorching. Once boiling, cook for 2-3 minutes or until the custard is thickened and the taste of flour desipates.
Flavor it: Add 1 tbsp of vanilla extract and 1 ¾ cups of butter and whisk until completely melted.
Make it smooth: If your custard had clumps, run it through a fine sieve to remove clumps.
Allow the custard to cool by pouring it into a rimmed baking sheet and covering it with plastic wrap. The plastic wrap should touch the surface of the custard, to keep a skin from forming.
Tip: If making ahead of time, refrigerate covered for up to 3 days.
Prep: Preheat oven to 400°F. Set the rack in the middle.
Prep the baking sheet: Turn a 12" x 16" baking sheet over (or use a flat cookie sheet, right side up) and set it on a damp kitchen towel to prevent it from moving as you'll roll your cake layers on top of it.
Roll the cake layers: Remove 1 dough ball from the fridge at a time and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 12 ½" circle on top of the upside down baking sheet dusting the surface with flour as needed. The cake layers will be very thin.
Prick with a fork every 1-2 inches, to prevent uneven rising. Bake for 5-7 minutes, or until lightly golden.
TIP: Start a timer every time a cake layer goes in the oven to prevent it from burning. The cake layers bake fast and it is easy to forget and burn them.
Trim: As soon as the cake layer is baked and out of the oven, place an 11-inch stensil (dinner plate, large lid, etc.) on top of the cake layer and use a very sharp knife or a pizza cutter to cut around it. Collect the scraps into a separate bowl and be careful to keep the round cake layers from cracking. Use a flat cookie sheet, a cake transfer
Repeat steps 3 & 4 with the rest of the dough, to achieve 8 layers total.
Crumble the cake scraps into finer crumbs. Set aside. This will be used to cover the outside of the cake.
Divide the frositng into 8 equal pieces by "cutting" it with spatula or spoon. As the frosting cools it will be thickened like a jelly so it will be easy to divide.
Now put a small dab of frosting on your serving plate and top it with the first cake layer. Press gently to adhere.
Surround the cake layer by a cake ring & secure it with a ribbon or a cake strip.
The cake will be layered inside the ring. The cake ring is optional, but it does help to keep the edges tidy.
Layer the cake: Add 1/8th of custard to the cake layer inside the cake ring and spread it evenly.
Now repeat with the remaining cake layers and custard, finishing with half of the remaining custard on top.
Sprinkle some of the cake crumbs on top of the cake to cover the top surface completely. The remainder of the crumbs will be used for the sides of the cake, later.
The cake crumbs are used to prevent a film from forming on the custard.
Remove the ring: Run a thin knife on the inside of the cake ring to losen the cake from the ring. Remove the ring.
Cover the sides with the remainder of the custard in an even layer. Press the remaining cake crumbs against the sides of the cake, covering the sides completely. If there are any remaining crumbs, sprinkle them on top.
Tap the serving plate with the cake several times allowing any lose crumbs to fall to the sides of the plate. Now clean up the edges of the cake plate and refrigerate the cake until ready to eat.
See notes for serving suggestions.
If you cut into the cake anytime between the time of option 1 or option 2, the cake layers will be a bit gummy and hard to slice through with a fork/spoon. So, either serve it right after assembly or wait until the cake layers have had the time to absorb the cream and become tender.
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