My mother’s cousin Ligia makes a fantastic eight-layer torte called Napoleon. While not made with the mille-feuille dough of a traditional Napoleon, it is the version often made East of Paris in Poland, Lithuania, and Russia. The layers are fragile and crisp. The cream filling is smooth and rich. Admittedly there is more butter per square inch than I want to think about, but a moderate slice is worth it. Think: enjoy torte, exercise more!
Cake Layers (the hard part):
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour
4 sticks (1 lb.) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 egg, slightly beaten
3 Tablespoons brandy
4 ounces sour cream (not low fat)
Cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is crumbly. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until the dough comes together. Divide into 8 equal pieces, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Roll out each piece of dough on heavy-duty foil in a circle and pierce all over with a fork. [Each layer needs its own sheet of foil. Use an 11 to 12 inch pan lid as a template for even circles.] Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375°F until lightly golden brown (it takes about 8 minutes for 2 layers in a convection oven at 375°F). Cool the layers completely before assembling.
Filling (the easy part):
1 large (4.6 oz.) and 1 small (1 oz.) package vanilla pudding mix (not instant)
3½ cups milk (2% fat works as well as whole milk)
3 sticks unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
Juice of ½ lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
Cook the pudding mix and milk stirring constantly until very think. When it is cool, add the vanilla. Cream the butter with the powdered sugar until light. Beat in the cooled pudding a little at a time until it is all incorporated in the butter, and then add the lemon juice.
Spread the filling on the first 4 layers of the torte. Spread the fifth layer with apricot jam. Finish adding layers and spreading them with the filling, also spread the filling around the sides. [It’s a good idea to press down on each layer before spreading with filling or jam. The layers will crack but the torte will not fall apart.] When finished, sprinkle with ground almonds and more lemon zest. Chill thoroughly before cutting.
Variation: For a chocolate cake, use chocolate pudding mix, substitute orange juice and orange zest for the lemon, and substitute ground walnuts for the almonds.
Rolling out the layers
Golden layers cooling on the table