Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cake project 2 - Puffy Strawberry Napolean Shortcake

My friend came over my place on 2 consecutive days this week to bake a cake for her mum's birthday.  She suggested baking a napolean cake. This is the first time I had heard of this cake.

The traditional Napolean cake is made of 3 layers of puff pastry sandwiched with layers of  pastry cream or sometimes whipped cream. However, that was not what we planned. She suggested including sponge cake layers along with the puff pastry. I felt confident doing the sponge layers but was unsure about working with puff pastry as it was something I have not tried working with. So, we decided to get ready made puff pastry.

So the grand plan was born. The idea is to construct a cake consisting of 3 layers of puffy pastry coupled with 2 sponge cake layers. In between the sponge cake layers and puff pastry layers will be vanilla whipped cream with fresh strawberries. 

On the first day, things went smoothly with the sponge cake. When it came to preparing the puff pastry, things seemed a little out place. It was difficult to roll the puff pastry to a uniform thickness and into a square. When the pastry was baked, it was a mix of flaky and doughy texture. As it was getting late, we had to carry on with the remaining tasks the next day. As for the baked puff pastry, I did not dump it into the bin but matched it with ice cream. The combination proved to be a good one - an ice-cream strudel, puffy and ice cold creamy.

The next day, we tried out a different brand of puff pastry. On the second attempt, the puff pastry is butter based as compared to the first which is made of margarine. The butter puff pastries were shaped nicely into squares of uniform thickness, saving us the time to roll them. After baking, the butter puff pastries turned out better in terms of texture and appearance - crispy and golden brown.

With the barrier overcame, assembling the cake was the final hurdle. First step of assembling involved trimming the 3 puff pastries layer to the same shape as the sponge cake. The sponge cake was evenly sliced into 2 layers with the aid of a wilton cake leveller,a trusty cake tool I keep around for assembling layered cakes. To make the vanilla cream, we simply added icing sugar and vanilla extract and whipped the cream till it peaked. Lastly, freshly bought dark red strawberries were sliced and set aside.

To complete the cake project, a layer of puff pastry was laid on the cake board. Strawberries were added and a layer of cream was spreaded evenly over the puff pastry. A sponge layer was adhered onto the layer of cream. Another layer of cream and strawberries was then added to the top of the sponge layer. The layering of cream and strawberries continued whenever a puff pastry layer or sponge layer was added. In total, the cake consists of 3 puff pastry layers, 2 sponge cake layers and 4 vanilla cream and strawberries layers.

I was pretty eager to know the verdict of the taste and texture of the cake. My friend commented that the puff pastry layer was not as crunchy as it was when we first baked it. Her mum enjoyed the cake though. Perhaps we were too generous with the cream, resulting in the puff pastry turning soggy. Looking at the pictures, the sponge layer looked somewhat a little thick. A shortcake that is nowhere short.

Puffy Strawberry Napolean Shortcake
Equipement: 8 inch square cake tin, cake leveller or large serrated knife longer than 8 inches, baking/cookie tray, 9 inch square cake board

Sponge Cake:
5 egg yolks
55g caster sugar
60g vegetable oil
60g water
110g cake flour
1/2 + 1/8 tsp baking powder
5 egg whites
55 sugar

Preparing Sponge cake:
1) Preheat oven to 160 degrees C
2) Place egg yolks, 55g caster sugar, oil and water in a large bowl. Beat with electric mixer on medium high speed until thickened and fluffy (ribbon stage), about 10 minutes. The batter should increase in volume about 4 times and when the beater is lifted, the falling batter will leave a visible trail on the rest of the batter. The falling batter will not level with the rest of the batter immediately.
3) Whisk flour and baking powder in a large bowl to combine. Sift the flour mixture into beaten egg yolks in 3 batches and fold each batch gently using a ballon whisk. The volume will decrease due to inflating of egg yolk batter. Be sure to fold gently to prevent excessive deflating. Use a spatula to scrape sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure flour mixture is evenly incorporated.
4) In a clean metal bowl, whisk egg whites on low speed. Increase speed slowly to medium and beat untill egg whites are foamy. Gradually increase speed to high and add the other 55g of sugar gradually. Beat untill egg whites are stiff but moist looking. This is when the beaters are lifted, the egg whites will form peaks that are upright and not drooping slightly. Egg whites will resemble whipped cream.The entire bowl of whites will not drop out when the bowl is overturned.
5) Using a ballon whisk, fold one third of beaten egg whites into egg yolk batter gently to lighten and combine. Fold in the rest of the beaten whites to combine in another 2 batches. Final batter should be foamy and uniform in colour with no streaks of egg white present. Folding egg whites gently using balloon whisk will prevent egg whites from deflating too much.
6) Pour batter into a greased and lined 8 inch square pan and bake at 160 degrees C for 30 - 35 minutes. Test doneness using a skewer or toothpick.
7) Unmould sponge cake and leave to cool on wire rack.
8) Slice of the part that has domed. Slice cake into 2 layers.

Puff pastry
3 square sheets of puff pastry larger than 8 x 8 inches
1 egg mixed with 1 tbs caster sugar

Preparing Puff Pastry:
1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees C
2) Brush egg wash over the surface of a puff pastry sheet.
3) Bake puff pastry on a lined cookie/baking tray for 15 -18 minutes until top is puffy and golden.
4) Remove puff pastry and allow to cool. The bottom will be oily and soggy
5) Flip the baked puff pastry and bake the bottom (now facing up) for another 15-18 minutes. Both sides should be crispy when properly baked. Leave to cool.
6) Repeat steps 2) to 5) for the other 2 puff pastries.
7) Place the 8 inch square baking tray on top of a puff pastry. Trim puff pastry to 8 x 8 inches following the outline of the tin using a sharp knife. Repeat for the other 2 puff pastry sheets.

Cream layer:
400ml chilled whipping cream (we used dairy whipping cream)
2 tbs icing sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
350g ripe strawberries

Preparing Cream Layer:
1) Place chilled whipping cream in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla extract.
2) Beat on low speed to combine sugar, whipping cream and vanilla extract. Add more sugar and/or vanilla if desired.
3) Continue beating on medium high speed till creamy and stiff. The cream should hold its shape well and the cream will not budge much when bowl is overturned. Do not overbeat else the cream will separate into butter and water.
4) Wash and remove leaves and stems from strawberries. Cut 2/3 of the strawberries into thin slices. Set aside the rest for decorations.

1) Place a layer of square puff pastry on a 9 inch square cake board.
2) Arrange a layer of strawberry slices on top of the puff pastry, leaving a small border at the edges.
3) Apply a thin layer of cream evenly over the strawberries, enough to cover them and filling the entire square.
4) Place a sponge cake layer over the strawberries and cream.
5) Repeat steps 2) and 3) on the 1st sponge cake layer.
6) Next, place a 2nd  layer of puff pastry over the cream layer.
7) Repeat steps 2) and 3) on the 2nd puff pastry layer.
8) Next, place a 2nd sponge cake layer over the strawberries and cream.
9) Repeat steps 2) and 3) on the 2nd sponge cake layer.
10) Next, place a 3rd layer of puff pastry over the cream layer. Cake is fully assembled.
11) Dust top of assembled cake with icing sugar and decorate with remaining strawberries.

Instagram link:


  1. If I'm not wrong, "Napolean" is the American way of calling this French dessert, which is originally known as "mille-feuille" (thousand-leaf, literally). You and your friend were daring enough ... Even gave your own interpretation of mille-feuille ... Haha! *Faint*

    Seriously, you went through a lot just for this dessert. The pâte feuilletée! I tried making pâte feuilletée ... but the inverse way! MAN, that was tough to execute! Haven't revisited the pastry since then ... *Sigh* You can look at my failed pâte feuilletée inversée here:

    Last weekend, I bought 500 g pastry margarine. Just waiting for the right time for me to revisit the nightmare. I think pastry margarine should make it easier to handle compared to butter, especially in our hot and humid weather!!??

    Like me, you can also consider this short cut way of making pâte feuilletée ... A bit like making pâte brisée. Helene of Tartelette has shared a great post and recipe with us here:

    Another one of Helene's great posts and recipes:

    I think in your rendition here, you've incorporated the Japanese strawberry cake element into this French deal. Haha!

    OK, will wait for your pics then ...

    Btw, we were quite surprised at the fact that poppy seeds are banned in Singapore! Actually, I learned about it through Yan Ee. Then, I had quite a bit of debate on Twitter about this with a few other bloggers. Man, we're SO not gonna stuff our baggage with anything poppy seed when we visit the Red Dot! Haha! Ya know what, I tried to find Heath (candy) bars at Cold Storage today. No luck. T_T

  2. hi pei-lin,

    i googled napolean and yup its called mille-feuille as u mentioned. my fren's idea of the napolean cake is more hk style and thats what her mum had in hk. according to my fren, we hardly have the napolean cake around in singapore. ya agree that my fren's idea was kind of like jap shortcake fusioned with the mille-feuille. hope it turns out good. im asking to ask her verdict regarding the taste and texture.

    ur puff pastry looked pretty good. maybe u can use a knife to "knock" the edges, meaning make several parallel slits. this may help it to rise better. found this tip in my tart book.

    i read about the rough puff pastry or cheat puff pastry. it seemed as tedious as the real McCoy.

    i dun really like margarine pastry (sunshine bran). it smells weird while baking. u can try it out. butter pastry smells alot better.

    I read about ur comments on yan ee's blog. i only got to know poppy seeds are banned in singapore few weeks ago. read a article that marks and spencer was fined for bringing in poppy seed cookies (or some munchy containing poppy seeds)

    I may be able to get heath bars over here. but its going to be expensive! there is this big candy store called Candy Empire selling lots of candy bars that are imported.


  3. Erm ... By what I've gathered through reading your previous grand cake projects, I'm sure this your strawberry mille-feuille will turn out fine. Maybe you can even rename it: mille-feuille au creme-chantilly et fraises!!?? Haha! But do keep us posted on the outcome. That's the nice thing about blogging. It's so fun seeing what others have made and learning from each other! Thanks for the tip on getting better rise with pâte feuilletée! The slits are to be made at which part of the pastry? You meant on top? The rationale behind? To enable an easier time for the layers to puff up?

    Actually, I do think baking is a combo of science and art, compared to cooking, though the latter does involve science. But messing one thing up in cooking a dish won't probably have you chuck the whole thing into the trash can.

    Well, it's gonna be my first time trying out pastry margarine. Lemme see how things go ... Haha! I wanna revisit pâte feuilletée, try croissants and Danish too ... As for the rough pâte feuilletée, I will ... Just waiting for the right time to come ...

    I just feel sad for you guys don't get to add a lil' poppy seeds in your bakes and whatnot. There's this one recipe in Beranbaum's book that calls for poppy seeds. So far, that's what I can recall off from my head. I guess you all will just have to forgo that ... till the ban has been lifted. =_=""

    Btw, I noticed you're into cheesecakes too. If you do read Chinese, you can consider getting a few cookbooks from Taiwan and Japan, which, I think, are pretty detailed. The recipes featured suit us better somewhat. No doubt, some ingredients like sakura extract, dried sakura and whatnot are no where to be found here though. Try "Cheese Cake Book" or 《我愛乳酪蛋糕》. It's originally in Japanese, but some Taiwanese translated it. So is "I Love Macarons" 《我愛馬卡龍》. They are VERY good! You can Kinokuniya. In KL, that's my preferred place to look at and shop for books.

    Keep up with the good work! If only I have more time to engage myself in grand baking projects like this ... *Sigh*

  4. zy, check your email at hotmail (:


  5. hi pei-lin,

    the cake turned out ok. I think it could do better with some fine tuning, eg less cream and thinner sponge layers.

    yup i agree totally on the part on sharing our baking experiences with each other.

    the slits are to be made at the sides of the pastry, not the top. imagine the side view of a book where u can see hundreds of lines due to the pages.

    baking involves a lot of science. there's a lot of reactions and chemicals involved. the slightest glitch can screw everything up.

    actually i dun look forward to poppy seeds. yes there is one recipe is rose's book requring it.

    I have got a book named "cheesecake seduction" by catherine lau. Its not bad. Read some other chinese cheesecake books too but have yet to buy the, came across 'i love macarons' sometime back. looks really good but im not very much into macaron making at the moment. its too high in sugar level. but i do plan to master it one day.

    thanks for the encouragement. u're doing a good job too. hope u can find the time to engage in a project urself too. =]


  6. I'm so suaku, I didn't know puff pastry can be used in a sponge cake. your final product looks good leh... inspiring but I'm still not confident to do baking projects of this scale (haven't even tried my pandan cake ready mix yet hehe).

    btw, the second round, you're using pampas brand of puff pastry? coz that's the only one I know is butter based.

  7. hi wiffy,

    actually its the 1st time i seen sponge cake and puf pastry combine, haha. i'm sure you be able to take on baking projs one day. look forward to seeing more baked goods from your blog. I happen to have an unused box of pandan cake mix too given by my aunt.

    yes the pastry is pampas brand. comes with only 3 sheets and cost about 8bucks plus. not cheap! sunshine brand has a weird smell.


  8. Thanks for taking the time to explain! Will incorporate that tip into my future experiments ... Hehe ...

    Btw, I noticed you purchased some Baker's unsweetened baking choc squares ... You have that in Singapore!? The ones I brought back from the States, only 4 oz left ... I tried looking out for it at the Cold Storage downstairs at my workplace, none! I'll try my luck at a larger CS soon ... Is it easily accessible in Singapore ... As in like you can find it just as easy as products for the brand Van Houten? If it is, I'll lug some Baker's choc back on my trip down to SG ...

    Nice shot of your cheesecake ... I could see the texture very well ...

  9. Hi pei-lin,

    unsweetened chocolate can be found with some slight effort and a bit of luck over here. some supermarkets do not carry van houten i believe. we have hershey's unsweetened chocolate and hershey's unsweetened chocolate. Most cold storage outlets, sheng siong and larger NTUC outlets here carry them.

    I used a ordinary sony digital camera to shoot my cheesecake. Nothing special about the shot really. Just borrowed a better camera from a friend. hope my pictures will improve in time to come.


  10. This looks like such an amazing cake! I am going to attempt for my FIL's birthday this weekend. But first, must test-run a smaller portion tonight. I'm going to try it without the pastry though, and peaches instead of strawberries, and perhaps cream the sides and coat with ground peanuts instead. Hope it doesn't turn out tasting weird.

    One question... can this cake be make one day in advance? Will the cream maintain its structure in the fridge overnight?

  11. Hi NEL,

    If you are doing it without the pastry, it will be a cream layered sponge cake just like those sold in bakeries. yup peaches or other sliced fuits will work well too. the sides can be coated with toasted chopped almonds or flaked almonds as an alternative. The top can be decorated with mangoes,kiwi,peaches, strawberries or any combination to your liking, just like a fuity cream cake.

    yes this cake can definitely be made in advance. keep it in a cake box (available from phoon huat or SKP) or covered so that it doesnt dry out. The cream will be stable when cooled and chilled but may not hold well if left too long unchilled outdoors in our humid and warm weather.

    If you are doing a slightly smaller portion, you may refer to the sponge cake recipe from my strawberry yoghurt mousse cake for an 8 inch round cake.

    if doing an even smaller cake, using half the 8 inch round sponge cake recipe should yield enough batter for a 6 inch round cake. amount of whipped cream used should be half of what is mentioned above as well.

    cheers =]

  12. Your sponge cake recipe is amazing! It's the most delicious sponge cake ever and with the perfect texture! My peaches & cream version was a hit :) I only wished the whipped cream turned out a little stiffer. I kept everything really cold, but just didn't seem to whip up stiff enough.

    Thanks for your tips. And I'm gonna try your strawberry yoghurt mousse recipe soon :)

  13. Hi NEL,

    I just saw your new post on the cake. Glad it turned out well =].

    The sponge cake recipe is a pretty good one and credits goes to the book I referred to. It is so soft, moist and fluffy.

    Regarding the whipped cream, I have the same problem sometimes too. Always feel that it is not stiff enough sometimes. I read from somewhere that the cream should be whipped at medium speed until it is at soft peaks then whipped on low speed until stiff. Sounds like it will work well.

    For the strawberry yoghurt cake, the amount of gelatine used is almost the bare minimum required. any lesser and the mousse might not set. the yoghurt mousse cake wont hold its shape well when left unchilled for long hours.


Dear readers, thanks for visiting my humble little blog. Feel free to leave a message so that I can learn and be a better baker. Its a great feeling to share our culinary experience and adventures in the kitchen.

Thank you and have a nice day! Cheers =]

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