Sour Cherry Cheesecake Napoleons (Mille Feuille)
July 1, 2021
You know I love a good combination dessert, and this one is a winner. Picture a classic NY-style cheesecake covered with gooey, bright red cherries mashed up with the layered French pastry mille feuille. These sour cherry cheesecake napoleons bring together the best of both, and top it all off with a cherry striped and combed glaze.
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As a kid in New Jersey, we’d frequent delis that had pickle bars and served giant club or sloppy joe (Jersey style) sandwiches. But my favorite memory was the time I ordered a napoleon, and when it was delivered to my table it was as big as a dinner plate, covered in that gorgeous chevron pattern in the icing.
These treats are more of a friendly size, and the flavors are a little different too. I decided to highlight the seasonal sour cherries we get this time of year. Then I paired those with a cheesecake filling, which kind of reminds me of a New York-style cheesecake. Of course, I had to feature the pretty napoleon pattern on top, but this time in a natural pink from the cherry juice.
What You Need to Get Started
You can easily find all of the ingredients for these cherry cheesecake napoleons at your grocery store:
- Freezer: Puff pastry
- Produce: Sour cherries
- Pantry: Sugar, Apple cider vinegar, Confectioner’s sugar
- Spice Rack: Vanilla extract, Sea salt
- Fridge: Heavy cream, Cream cheese
- Equipment: Rolling pin, Bench scraper, Parchment paper, Baking sheets, Mixing bowls, Hand mixer or stand mixer, Silicone spatula, Piping bag, Toothpick
How to Prepare Puff Pastry for Napoleons
This is one of those recipes that looks like a lot, but that’s only because it has so many different pieces to put together. It’s simpler than a layer cake, but nothing here is difficult, technique-wise. If you have the time, you can definitely make these towering treats.
Before you get started, check your frozen puff pastry box. Mine needed to thaw for about forty minutes, so you’ll want to account for that time. Once you are ready to work with the pastry, it’s a good time to preheat your oven with a rack in the center.
You can also line one sheet pan with parchment paper and set it aside. You will need a second sheet pan, in addition, to place on top when baking, so pull that out as well.
On a working surface, roll out each puff pastry sheet. You are going to be cutting these into evenly sized rectangles, so measure as you roll to stay consistent. If your puff pastry package has only one larger sheet, cut it in half first to work with.
Measure out the dough and mark it to cut into twelve equal sized and shaped rectangles. To make the actual cuts, use a bench scraper, and press straight down into the dough. If you don’t have a bench scraper, use a sharp knife, but be careful not to saw or stretch the dough while cutting, as that can affect its flakiness.
Place eight of the rectangles onto the lined baking sheet you had set aside. Use a fork to poke a few holes in each. Then, add another layer of parchment on top and place a second sheet pan on top of that, nested in the first.
The extra sheet pan will apply pressure to the puff pastry, and the fork holes are for venting. Both of these will help keep it from getting too puffed up while baking. If you only have super lightweight aluminum baking sheets, you may want to add something extra on top like pie weights or a ceramic pan.
Bake the pastries for ten minutes. They will be slightly puffed up, about a quarter of an inch, and lightly golden. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool. Add another eight pieces of cut pastry dough to the baking sheet and repeat.
In total, you will have three batches of puff pastry that need to bake. You can do two of these at the same time, but it requires using four baking sheets, which you may not have in your kitchen. While the puff pastries are baking and cooling, you can begin preparing the cherry and cheesecake fillings.
Note that the baked puff pastry pieces do not store well, so I suggest you bake them as close to assembly as possible. However, you can roll and cut the puff pastry and freeze them raw. They can be baked directly from frozen, but may need more baking time. Keep an eye out for that light golden color to indicate they are done.
Let’s Make Cherry Cheesecake Napoleons
If you are working with farm-fresh cherries, you will need to pit them. I definitely recommend investing in a cherry pitter. They are inexpensive, and can save you plenty of time and effort. However, always double check your cherries, as pitters aren’t perfect.
In a medium saucepan, combine the cherries with sugar. Stir these together, and heat over medium until the cherries begin to release their juices. Bring the mixture to a boil. Continue to cook, stirring until it is slightly thickened, about ten minutes. If you are using frozen cherries, it may take a bit longer.
Once slightly thickened and the cherries have somewhat softened, turn off the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract and salt. These will both help add a little bit of extra flavor to the cherries. If you’d like, try replacing the vanilla with half the amount of almond extract instead.
Transfer the cherries and the syrupy juice to a bowl. Cover and chill these in the fridge for at least an hour. You can make this in advance and store in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days.
Meanwhile, begin making the cheesecake filling. Add the heavy cream to a small bowl or jar. Whip using a hand or stand mixer with the whisk attachment, starting on low and increasing to the highest speed. Continue mixing until peaks form and the cream holds its shape.
In a separate bowl, add the cream cheese, sugar, and vinegar. Then use a hand or stand mixer with the beater or paddle attachment to mix these on medium-low until combined. I love adding vinegar to my no-bake cheesecake for just a little extra tang.
Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture using a silicone spatula until it is fully incorporated. These are two very different textures that you are working together, so be careful to only use the folding motion and not stir. That could collapse the whipped cream.
Place a large piping bag fitted with either no tip or a large round tip into a tall cup. Scoop the cream cheese filling into the piping bag and then set it aside.
The cheesecake fillings can also be made in advance and stored in a separate airtight container in the fridge for a few days. If storing, let the cheesecake filling come to room temperature before piping it.
Once the puff pastries have fully cooled, you can begin assembling. I suggest doing this part before mixing up the glazes, since those may begin to harden while set aside.
For now, you will be working with only sixteen of the puff pastry pieces, so leave the other eight off to the side. On each of the sixteen, pipe large dots of the cheesecake fillings around the border. These should be touching each other to make a frame, leaving space in the center of the pastry.
If you prefer, you can simply pipe lines around the edges, and these will taste the same. The dots just make for a little extra texture around the edges.
Use a slotted spoon or fork to grab three or four cherries, letting any excess juices drip off. You may end up with some liquid, and that’s okay for some nice pretty drips. We are mostly trying to avoid large puddles of cherry juice.
Add these cherries to the center of a cheesecake-outlined pastry, and then repeat for the other fifteen pieces of pastry and the rest of the cherries. If you have extra cherries, simply snack on a few or add them into a pastry that looks relatively emptier than its friends.
You will definitely have leftover cherry juice. There is a small amount that you need to make the pink cherry glaze, but don’t let the rest go to waste. A teaspoon or two added into a glass of lemonade is a perfect summer refresher. Add a splash of bourbon for a kick as well.
Place eight of the cherry and cheesecake-topped pastries on top of the other eight to create two layers, pressing very gently at the edges so they stay assembled, and then set them aside while you mix up the white and cherry glazes.
To make the white glaze, add the confectioner’s sugar into a medium bowl, and then do the same in a smaller bowl for the cherry glaze. Take a spoonful of the cherry juice leftover from the cherries and add it into the smaller bowl of sugar. Stir to mix it in and add that pink color.
Slowly add water to each, stirring it into the sugar until the glazes reach the desired consistency. What you are looking for is that it should be thin enough to spread, but not so thin that it flows. Use your finger to swipe a streak on the spoon. It should stay for about a second and then begin to “heal” itself.
As the water evaporates, these glazes will harden into a smooth icing. This is why it is best to prepare them just before using.
Grab the remaining eight plain pieces of puff pastry. On each one, add a spoonful of the white glaze, and spread it with the back of the spoon or a butter knife until it’s coating the pastry.
Then use your spoon, or a squeeze bottle if you prefer, to drizzle thin stripes of the cherry glaze across the white, leaving about twice as much room between each stripe as the thickness of the stripe. Then use a toothpick to draw lines perpendicular to the pink stripes in alternating directions to create the signature napoleon pattern.
If you prefer, you can try other designs on top. Add the pink glaze in medium-sized dots in a row, and then drag a toothpick through the center of them all the create a line of hearts. You can also swirl the toothpick around for a more marbly effect.
Gently place each of the glazed pieces of pastry on top of one of the stacks of cherry cheesecake pastries. Again, press gently at the edges so it stays in place, but don’t push down too hard.
The assembled napoleons are best served immediately, within a few hours, or after only one day in the fridge. If needed, you can refrigerate leftovers for a couple days in an airtight container, but the pastry will soften and lose some of its flakiness.
Cherry cheesecake meets puff pastry in this mille feuille inspired dessert. You need to try these sour cherry cheesecake napoleons!
How to Serve Cherry Cheesecake Napoleons
These are a perfect summer dessert. And they are so pretty, you could easily build a spread around them. Contrast them with other fun colors like naturally blue blueberry cheesecake cookies and bright yellow earl grey lemon bars. Or stick with pink and serve alongside mini rhubarb cakes with buttercream.
When deciding on drinks, I would compliment the light flavors here with something sweet yet delicate. A raspberry white hot chocolate can be served with or without alcohol for something warm. Or feel fancy with a colorful birthday cake martini.
An amaretto old fashioned is the perfect way to continue with a cherry theme. But for really hot nights, try pairing these with something super refreshing like a raspberry lemon mojito or zero-proof strawberry shrub julep.
Use Up Leftover Ingredients
- These sour cherries are the star in a cherry cobbler with sour-milk biscuit topping.
- Feature extra cream cheese in cheesecake, naturally, like no-bake molasses cheesecake or a decadent peanut butter cup cheesecake.
- There is so much you can do with puff pastry, so browse these tips and ideas to get you started.
Sour Cherry Cheesecake Napoleons (Mille Feuille)
Puff Pastry Layers
- 1 17-oz box Frozen Puff Pastry thawed according to the decoration on the box
- 50-60 Fresh Sour Cherries about ½ quart, pitted; for frozen see note
- ¼ Cup Sugar
- ¼ tsp Vanilla extract
- pinch Sea Salt
- 5 oz Heavy Cream
- 8 oz Cream Cheese
- ½ scant cup Sugar
- ¾ tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Cup Confectioner's Sugar
- 2-4 tsp Water
- ¼ Cup Confectioner's Sugar
- ½ tsp Cherry Juice from the cherry filling
- ½-1 tsp Water
Puff Pastry Layers
- Preheat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the center, and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Roll out each puff pastry sheet to about 10 ½ x 12" rectangle. If your box has only one larger sheet, cut it in half first to work with. Measure and cut the rolled pastry pieces with a bench scraper into 3 ½ x 4-inch rectangles.
- Place 8 rectangles on the prepared baking sheet and poke a few times with a fork. Top with another layer of parchment and another sheet pan nested in the first, to add pressure on top of the pastry and prevent too much rising (if your baking sheet is light, you can weigh it down with pie weights).
- Bake 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with other 16 pieces of puff pastry in two batches.
- In a medium saucepan, combine cherries and sugar. Heat over medium until the cherries begin to release their juices. Bring this to a boil and cook, stirring until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and salt.
- Transfer the cherries and syrup to a bowl and chill in fridge for at least 1 hour.
- Add the heavy cream to a small bowl or jar. Whip using a hand or stand mixer with the whisk attachment, starting on low and increasing to the highest speed. Continue mixing until peaks form and the cream holds its shape.
- In a separate bowl, use a hand or stand mixer with the beater or paddle attachment to combine the cream cheese, sugar, and vinegar in mixer on medium-low until combined and softened.
- Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture using a silicone spatula until incorporated. Fill a piping bag fitted with large round tip or no tip with the cheesecake filling and set it aside.
Cherry and White Glaze
- Add the confectioner's sugar into a small bowl for cherry glaze and a medium bowl for white glaze. Stir the cherry juice into the small bowl of sugar to color it pink.
- Slowly add water to each, stirring into the sugar until it reaches desired consistency. It should be thin enough to spread, but not so thin that it flows. Use your finger to swipe a streak on the spoon. It should stay for about a second and then begin to "heal" itself.
Build the Napoleons
- Set aside 8 of the puff pastry pieces. On the other 16, pipe large dots of the cheesecake fillings around the border, touching each other but leaving space in the center of the pastry.
- Add 3-4 cherries to the center of each cheesecake outlined pastry, allowing any excess juice to drip off the cherries into the bowl first.
- Place 8 cherry and cheesecake-topped pastries on top of the other 8 to create 2-layers, pressing very gently, and set these aside.
- On the remaining 8 puff pastry pieces, spread the white glaze.
- Drizzle stripes of the cherry glaze across the white. Then use a toothpick to draw lines perpendicular to the pink stripes in alternating directions to create the signature Napoleon pattern.
- Gently place each glazed piece of pastry on top of one of the stacks of cherry cheesecake pastries. Serve and enjoy!
- To use frozen cherries: Follow the same instructions for making the cherries, but they make take longer to cook and thicken.
- Make ahead tips:
- The cheesecake and cherries fillings can be made in advance and stored in separate airtight containers in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- The baked puff pastry pieces and do not store well, and I suggest you bake them as close to assembly as possible. You can roll and cut the puff pastry and freeze them raw. They can be baked directly from frozen, but may need more baking time.
- The white and cherry glazes will begin to solidify, so it is best to prepare them just before using.
- Assembled Napoleons are best served immediately or after one day in the fridge. If needed, you can refrigerate leftovers for 2-3 days in an airtight container, but the pastry will soften and lose some of its flakiness.