Karpatka – Polish ‘Mountain’ Cake

Poland holds a special place in my heart. The people, the food, the generosity.  Three close friends of mine are Polish and they have taught me how beautifully wonderful their culture is (as well as a few bad polish words too!). Last year I was fortunate enough to attend a Polish (which was absolutely bananas by the way!) and since then I have been eager to return. The plan was to visit in March, but the beast from the east scuppered my plans and my flight got cancelled. It’s okay though, I plan to go in June instead when the weather will *hopefully* be a bit kinder to me.

You see, Polish desserts are something else. I was first introduced to this dessert a few years ago and I was adamant to try and make it for myself. My friend brought me home a packet mix from Poland so that I could make it, but with a bit of a dodgy translation – I ended up mixing the eggs in the wrong thing and it all went a bit funky. So then I tried again, this time using a proper translation and making sure the eggs got mixed in the right place. It was wonderful, but I didn’t want to have to rely on a packet mix shipped over from Poland in order to make it. So after a quick google and help from my Polish friends, I was able to translate a recipe that I could share.

Karpatka translates to ‘mountain cake’ as the pastry rises in the oven, making it look like peaks of a mountain. Then, the most indulgent cream I have ever made is created, thick with sugar, milk and butter. The flavour of the cream comes from the custard powder and butter and it is addictive. You will not be able to stop licking the bowl after you have made it. Sandwich the cream between two sheets of crisp, buttery pastry and you have a match made in heaven.

Karpatka is not as simple as most of my recipes, but it is by no means difficult either. Begin first by making the cream as you want to give it plenty of time in order to cool down before adding the butter. Next, make the pastry which is very quick to bring together. Once in the oven, the pastry will rise forming peaks that looks like a mini mountain range. Leave to cool completely before sandwiching with the cream and then I’d advise leaving in the fridge for around 30 minutes or so (if you can wait!), so it is easier to slice. 

Ingredients for the cream:

  • 235 ml milk + 125ml milk
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp custard powder
  • 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 220g butter, cut into cubes

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • 250ml water
  • 125g butter
  • 150g flour
  • 5 eggs
  • ½ tsp baking powder

Method for the cream:

  1. Put 235ml milk and sugar into a pan and on a medium to high heat, bring to a boil 
  2. Mix the custard powder, flour, icing sugar and cornflour with 125ml cold milk until completely incorporated
  3. Pour the cold mix mixture into the pan with the hot milk and whisk until thickened, this should take a few minutes. You want it to be the consistency of thick custard. 
  4. Allow to cool completely (put some cling film over the top to prevent a skin from forming)
  5. Once cool, whisk in the cubed butter. Mix in until completely smooth then set aside 

Method for the pastry:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200c and line two large trays (25cx30cm) with baking paper
  2. Boil the water in a large pan, then add the butter and flour and whisk until it thickens 
  3. Transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool for 10 or so minutes
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time whisking until fully incorporated. Finally, add the baking powder 
  5. Divide the mix between the two trays and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Leave to cool before assembling

To assemble:

  1. Place one sheet of cooled pastry onto a large chopping board. Top with the cream, making sure it is completely covered, then add the second sheet of pastry on top. Leave in the fridge for 30 minutes before slicing into bars with a sharp knife. Dust with icing sugar.