A member of the Napoleon pastry family, this dessert of crisp puff pastry layers sandwiched with a thick strata of cream-based filling is even richer than its French cousin. (By the way, Napoleons were originally Italian, and called Neapolitans, but the recipe was appropriated by French bakers, who changed the name.) Napoleons are usually prepared with classic pastry cream, but the Austro-Hungarian baker can’t bear not to add whipped cream, a step that lightens the filling. Some bakers forego the pastry cream altogether and slather a slab of gelatin-stabilized whipped cream between only two layers of pastry. In either case, the Viennese call these Cremeschnitten. But in Budapest, where the dessert is usually topped with a simple coffee icing, it’s called Francia kremes.
The trick to making Napoleons, Creme schnitten, and similar confections is to bake the puff pastry into firm, crisp, but unpuffed layers. This takes some cajoling, as this pastry is supposed to puff. The pastry must be pierced well with a fork or pastry docker (this useful tool for evenly perforating puff pastry can be found at professional bakery suppliers and many kitchenware shops), weighed down with a heavy pan (a baking sheet is too light), and baked at varying temperatures to dry out the interior.