Napoleon Cake – Grain, Dairy and Sugar Free

I never thought that it would be possible to create Napoleon cake recipe with dietary limitations, acceptable in this blog. This cake has all the attributes of true Napoleon – several layers of crisp pastry, that does not go completely soft after a night in the fridge, generous layers of silky cream with intense  flavour, separating pastry, and overall distinct Napoleon texture feel with the first mouthful.

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From the classical taste of Napoleon, this cake differs in cream predominant flavour. Crème mousseline, with its magnificent smooth texture, created by the mix of egg yolks, milk, cream and butter, and an abundance of vanilla flavour, coming through from seeds of juicy vanilla beans, was out of my reach for this recipe. Intense and quite specific flavour of coconut cream, as non-dairy alternative for the cream base, had to be balanced, if not completely overpowered, by another potent flavour. I went for the version of coconut lemon curd. I have been experimenting with coconut lemon curd to reach the right flavour balance, together with thick and smooth texture, I needed for this cake.

I had several problems to overcome:

  • to make my cream based on the total content of coconut cream package, without separation of its solid and liquid parts
  • to reduce too intense lemon flavour in the curd, just to be enough to balance coconut taste
  • to increase sweetness in the cream, to make up for completely sugarless pastry
  • to make sure that the final texture of the cream is silky smooth

To achieve those objectives, several changes to the previous version of lemon curd recipe, used to fill tartlets, were made.

Pastry recipe was designed to obtain the dough, possible to be rolled very thin. When baked, it had to be crisp and dry, and stay dry when stored in air-tight container. With coconut flour in the recipe, I am glad, that I was able to achieve that.

So, here it is – more than Paleo Napoleon, because none of the pseudo-grains (buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth) or non-grain starches (tapioca, arrowroot) were used to make it.

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The recipe is for a small, 18cm diameter, 6 pastry layers cake. To make taller cake with more pastry layers, or to make pastry layers thicker, double the quantities for pastry and cream.

Ingredients:

pastry

310g, 6 pastry layers, 50g each to roll

  • 100g almond meal
  • 40g coconut flour
  • 50g lard
  • 20g chia seeds, ground and sifted
  • 1 large egg
  • pure apple puree (I used SPC), approximately 50g, add puree to an egg to make 100g

cream – lemon coconut cream curd with chia

  • 250ml coconut cream (I used 1/2 of 500g package ALDI pure coconut cream 24% fat, with natural gums)
  • 260g honey
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 100ml lemon juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks (yolks + eggs weight was 150g)
  • 30g white chia seeds
  • 2 gold grade gelatine leaves

Lemon juice and honey may differ in flavour intensity. I would advice to taste the cream, and adjust quantities of lemon juice and honey to get the right flavours balance, if necessary. Be aware, that acidic taste in freshly prepared lemon coconut curd will settle, and become less prominent the next day.

Preparation:

For best results prepare cream and pastry the day before making the cake. This cake has to rest refrigerated overnight.

pastry

  • grind and sift chia seeds
  • mix an egg with apple puree
  • place coconut flour into a wide bowl
  • work lard into coconut flour
  • add egg and apple puree mix, combine them together
  • add almond meal and ground chia seeds
  • combine all ingredients and shape the dough into a ball
  • wrap the dough and refrigerate for 1 hour
  • roll each piece of the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper (it is easier to do when the dough is cold)
  • peel the top sheet of baking paper
  • use any plate, or removable bottom of the baking pan, to cut 18cm circle, leave all pastry on the baking paper
  • bake rolled pastry on the same bottom sheet of baking paper in preheated to 140C fan forced oven for 20min, watch the pastry after 15min to avoid burning (it is better to bake at lower temperatures for a longer time, than to risk burning the thin layer of the pastry)

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  • collect pastry off-cuts and use rolling pin to make crumbs

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I baked 2 pastry layers from the freshly made dough, and 4 remaining from the dough, refrigerated for 2 days. There was no difference.

cream

  • combine eggs and egg yolks with honey and beat the mixture on high for 8 min
  • place gelatine leaves in cold water, let them soak
  • reduce the speed of your mixer, add coconut cream to eggs and honey mixture
  • mix it on medium speed to combine
  • add lemon juice, mix for 30 sec (lemon juice incorporation can be done with a whisk)
  • pour the mixture into a sauce pan
  • add lemon zest
  • weigh chia seeds and have them close
  • start heating cream on low heat, constantly stirring with a whisk or a spoon
  • if using thermometer, the temperature can’t go over 80 degrees C
  • when the mixture warms up and only starts to thicken a little, add chia seeds (if chia seeds added at the beginning, they will gather at the bottom of the pan and stirring will be complicated)
  • continue cooking on a very low heat constantly stirring the mixture
  • to cook chia seeds and to get the most of their thickening effect, it might be necessary to take the pan from the heat, let it rest for 3-5min and start cooking again
  • let the mixture rest for 10 min
  • squeeze water from gelatine leaves
  • add gelatine to the pan with cream
  • stir gelatine until it dissolves in cream
  • let the cream cool down to room temperature, stirring occasionally to spread chia seeds evenly, they tend to gather at the bottom
  • pour the cream into a glass container, preferably with a lock-up lid
  • refrigerate and use the next day

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  • the cream will be set
  • transfer cream to a round bowl

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  • whisk the cream to obtain smooth even texture

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  • line working surface with baking paper (I like to use large chopping board for convenience and flexibility)
  • assemble the cake
  • use approximately 2-3 serving spoons of cream between pastry layers

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  • use palette knife to spread the cream evenly, baked pastry will not be completely flat, be gentle, do not press  cream or pastry down
  • use extra cream for the top layer

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  • let the cake stand for 15-20min for the excess of cream to leak from the edges
  • use the cream for edges of the cake
  • clean surrounding baking paper with wet paper towel, make it dry after that
  • use crumbs on the top and sides of the cake (I did not have enough crumbs, so I used one biscuit to cover gaps on the sides of the cake

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  • cover the cake and refrigerate it overnight

Slice and enjoy it the next day. This cake can be kept in the fridge for 3-5 days and will get only better. Simply cover it to prevent drying and absorption of other smells.

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As I have mentioned earlier, you will not get traditional vanilla flavour from this cake, but lemon coconut curd with chia seeds gives this Napoleon truly vibrant citrusy taste, with very smooth texture, where chia seeds are practically dissolved and impossible to feel. I was apprehensive about this cake with such severe limitations to its crucial ingredients. I am happy with the result. I might go with a touch thicker pastry layers next time I make it, and see what it does to overall feel of the cake.

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