The Mille-feuille (French 'thousand sheets'), Napoleon (U.S.), vanilla slice, cream slice or custard slice (Commonwealth countries) is a pastry made of several layers of puff pastry alternating with a sweet filling, typically pastry cream, but sometimes whipped cream, or jam. It is usually glazed with icing or fondant in alternating white and brown (chocolate) strips, and combed. The name is also written as "millefeuille" and "mille feuille".
There are also savory mille-feuilles with cheese and spinach or other fillings.
In Italy, where the pastry is thought to have originated in Naples, it is called mille foglie and contains similar fillings. A savory Italian version consists of puff pastry filled with spinach, cheese or pesto, among other things.
In the Commonwealth (Quebec excepted), mille-feuille is known as ‘vanilla slice’ or ‘cream slice’, and usually has only a top and bottom pastry layer. The filling is often flavored with chocolate. In Australia, popular icings include vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, raspberry, and passion fruit. In New Zealand, it is usually called a ‘custard square.’
A variation popular in England is the Bavarian Slice which has a layer of raspberry or strawberry jam and rippled icing, although there is no evidence that this is a traditional Bavarian dish.
In Australia, there are varying forms of this pastry. Balfours, claiming to be Australia's largest bakery, produce their own form of Napoleon Cake which is multi layered and contains icing, pastry, cream, jam and sponge cake. This differs from the more widely known vanilla slice which is composed of icing, pastry and custard.
In Melbourne, Australia, The Age, one of Melbournes top newspapers, recognised The French Lettuce for having the best Vanilla Slice in Melbourne.
In Sweden as well as in Finland the Napoleonbakelse (Napoleon pastry) is a mille-feuille filled with whipped cream, custard, and jam. The top of the pastry is glazed with icing and currant jelly.
The Netherlands and Belgium eat the tompoes or tompouce. Several variations exist in Belgium, but in the Netherlands, it is iconic and the market allows preciously little variation in form, size, ingredients and colour. See tompouce.
The origin of the mille-feuille is unknown. The Hungarian city of Szeged may have something to do with its origins. Carême (writing at the end of the 18th century) considered it of 'ancient origin'. It was earlier called "gâteau de mille-feuilles" 'cake of a thousand leaves'.
In France, a Napoléon is a kind of mille-feuille filled with almond paste.
An annual competition for the best vanilla slice baker is the Great Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph held in Ouyen in western Victoria (Australia). Judging criteria include "when tasted, should reveal a custard with a creamy smooth texture and a balance of vanilla taste with a crisp, crunchy pastry topped with a smooth and shiny glaze/fondant".
Names for the Napoleon pastry in other languages: