Napoleon cake and mantecados…

Although I have retired I still do some voluntary teaching; I have returned to my original specialism and I’m teaching English conversation to a group of second language learners, all adults which makes a pleasant change.

As we are trying to encourage conversation I usually bring something different with me; I usually have the beginners group and today I took in some Parkin which I had cooked. Parkin is a traditional English ginger cake made with black treacle and oatmeal, it is simply yummy…. if you like ginger, which I do.

This prompted a conversation with my students, one Ukrainian, one Georgian, four Polish ladies and a Spanish gentleman, on what their favourite cakes were.

What a mouth-watering array of favourites, coffee and walnut cake, coffee and mandarin cake, raisin cheesecake, blueberry cheesecake, chocolate and pear cake, apple cake, carrot cake, Napoleon cake and mantecados…

I had never heard of the last two! You see, teaching is also about learning! I looked them up when I got home and I’m going to have a go at making them. In the meanwhile here are some recipes:

Mantecados - Traditional Spanish Crumble Cakes

Vincent’s favourites are these delicious little cookies:


preparation 25 minutes, cooking 15 minutes

makes about 7 dozen (yes, seven dozen, that’s 84 cookies)


  • 2 1/4 cups vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 shot glasses of anise (see note below for substitute)
  • 1 lemon peel, grated
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 7 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg white, beaten for glaze


In a very large mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to whip the vegetable shortening with the oil. Add the sugar and mix until smooth. Add the egg yolks, anise, lemon peel, juice and cinnamon and mix together. Add flour and baking soda to mixture, a cup at a time. Be sure to mix well. Dough should be very smooth and soft.

Preheat over to 325 degrees. Using a teaspoon, scoop out a dollop of dough. Form balls about the size of walnuts, using your hands. If dough is too sticky to roll into balls, mix in additional flour (from 1/4 to 1/2 cup). Place balls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Lightly press down on each ball to flatten slightly. Using the beaten egg white, brush on the top of each cookie. Bake cookies until they begin to turn light brown on the bottom edges – about 15-20 minutes.

Let the cookies cool 5 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet, as they are very delicate.

Nin0’s favourite is Napoleon cake:

Russian Napoleon Cake
Napoleon Cake

This Russian Napoleon Cake recipe is a national dessert. It’s made with up to 16 layers of dough filled with a custard cream

Preparation: 30 minutes, cooking 2 hours, chilling 8 1/2 hours


Pastry layers:

  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) softened unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 stiffly beaten large egg whites
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon vodka
  • Pinch salt
  • About 2 cups all-purpose flour

Custard filling

  • 6 cups milk
  • 10 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter


  1. To make the pastry layers: In a large bowl, beat together 2 ounces butter and 1 tablespoon sugar together until creamy. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites, sour cream, vodka and salt. Gently fold in the flour a spoonful at a time until the dough is soft and pliable. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 to 2 hours to make it easier to roll out.
  2. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a baking sheet pan and dust with flour. Divide the pastry dough into 16 pieces. Roll out each portion of dough directly on the prepared baking sheet into a very thin 8-inch circle (if you can get two circles of dough on one sheet all the better). Bake each layer until golden brown, about 6 to 10 minutes. If dough blisters as it cooks, pierce them with a fork. As each layer is cooked, remove from the sheet pan and set aside to cool on a wire rack. Repeat until all dough pieces have been baked.
  3. To make the custard filling: Pour the milk into a large saucepan and heat, but do not boil. In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks, egg white and 2 1/2 cups sugar until creamy. Add 6 tablespoons flour and mix well. Pour this mixture into the saucepan of milk, stirring initially with a whisk until smooth and then with a wooden spoon constantly over low heat until thick and creamy. Add the vanilla and butter and stir until smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Stir frequently as the mixture cools.
  4. To assemble: Place one layer of the cooked dough in the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan and cover evenly with a layer of cooled custard filling. Continue to build up the cake in this way, layering the custard on top of the pastry, finishing with the 15th pastry layer. Crumble the remaining pastry layer on the top. Refrigerate for 5 to 6 hours.
  5. When ready to serve, run a butter knife around the edges of the cake, remove the springform ring and, using a cake slice or two spatulas, carefully transfer to a serving platter. Cut very carefully!


      1. Alice

        One of my favorite times was having dinner with my students from Saudi Arabia. Sat on the floor for 4 hours – -a long, leisurely meal of dates and coffee and tea and rice and chicken…incredible hospitality. Of course I needed help getting off the floor…


    1. tinasrabbithole

      YUMMMM!!! I also like Napoleon cake, but I suppose my favourite is Chocolate cake… It’s a crazy recipe with hazelnut milk cocolate cover, rum cream filling and a normal sponge base, but with chocolate chip. Sooo soo good, not so easy to make. 😀


  1. Dina

    I loooove ginger and I’d love to learn a foreign language in this manner, that sounds like great fun! 🙂
    Have a relaxing evening and enjoy.
    Greetings from the Rhine Valley


      1. Lois

        Well it’s all volunteers and it’s very informal, but yes at first people are nervous but they soon relax when they see what harmless idiots we are!


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