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Pope John Paul’s Papal Cream/Napoleon Cake

Papal Cream Cake

Papal Cream Cake

We celebrate Saint Pope John Paul II’s feast day on October 22. Along with being the second longest serving pope, he was known as the Polish  pilgrim pope, visiting more than 100 countries. A rich cream cake, now called Papal Cream Cake, was one of his favorite desserts often made with sweet pastry cream layered between a puff pastry crust (Napoleon Cake).
Here’s my version of this famous cake, made easy by using a boxed cake mix and a from scratch pastry cream or store bought pudding, doctored up.  Sometimes you’ll see it called Napoleon cake if the recipe contains puffed pastry.


Pastry cream:

2 cups cold milk

4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

6 egg yolks, slightly beaten to break them up


In a nonstick or heavy saucepan, combine the cold milk and cornstarch. Whisk until smooth. Add vanilla, sugar, salt and egg yolks. Whisk until blended. Over medium heat, cook mixture, whisking constantly, until you see a gentle boil forming: bubbles popping up all over. Continue stirring and keep at a boil for 3 minutes.  Pour into bowl and place a piece of sprayed plastic wrap on top to prevent a skin from forming on top of the pastry cream. Place in frig until cold or up to 2 days.


No real recipe here but I make it this way: mix according to package directions but add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Bake as directed. You can make 2 eight inch square cakes, 1 9×13 “ cake or a batch of cupcakes.

I split the cake in two and put cold filling in between layers.

For the cupcakes, I cut off the top, dug out a nice hole in the center, leaving sides intact, and filled it with pastry cream.

Dust top of cake/cupcakes with powdered sugar.



#1:  Substitute a large box of vanilla pudding. Add a slightly beaten egg to the bottom of a liquid measure, then fill it with the milk called for in the recipe. Also add a teaspoon of vanilla to the milk mixture.  This makes the store bought vanilla pudding taste like homemade. Follow directions on box for pudding.

#2:  Use a 3.4 oz pkg instant vanilla pudding with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and  1 cup milk. After it’s thickened, fold in about 1/2 cup or so Cool Whip or even whipped cream – go to taste – you’ll need the pudding to be firm enough to sit between the layers.


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