Flaky, crumbly and creamy all at once, the decadent French dessert, millefeuille (pronounced “meel-foy”) — which translates as “a thousand leaves” — is one of the most delectable pastries out there. Known in the English-speaking world as a custard slice, a Napoleon or vanilla slice, the millefeuille is sweet without being overly sugary, complex without being overwhelming, and somehow paradoxically light and rich at the same time.

Crafted from thin layers of pastry, cream and a topping of cocoa, vanilla icing or almond fondant, the concoction is a staple in all good pâtisseries, and a favorite of the discerning French.

Millefeuille or Napoleon?… historical ambiguities

Importico's Bakery Cafe

Despite its widespread popularity, we know very little about the millefeuille’s background, and its exact origins are unknown. Mention of the millefeuille dates back to 1600s France, when gastronomic chronicler François Pierre de la Varenne recorded it in an early cook book. However, a century later, renowned chef to the aristocracy and pioneer of French haute cuisine Marie-Antoine Carême enigmatically referred to it as an “ancient recipe.” At the time, the dessert was more poetically named gâteau de mille feuilles, or “cake of a thousand leaves.”
The alternative name, “Napoleon,” refers not to France’s 19th-century emperor (although it would be just like him to extend his personal propaganda strategies to pastries), but to uncertain connections with the Italian city of Naples. However, whether the dessert was originally Italian or French is contested. There is even some suggestion that the millefeuille owes its layered design, though not its ingredients, to the Hungarian caramelized dessert, Szegedinertorte.

Source: epicureandculture.com

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