Babka Piaskowa: Polish ‘Sand Cake’

Babka Piaskowa

Come Easter (or, let’s be honest, any time really!), there’s no Polish dessert more universally loved than a good-old Babka cake. 

This particular recipe is known as Babka ‘Piaskowa’ (literally ‘sandy’ – pron. ‘babkah pyas-cova’). It’s delightfully light and fluffy cake, a bit similar to its close cousin German Sandcake (Sandkuchen) or a classic Pound Cake.

What makes it so sand-like and airy is the addition of… potato flour. While it does sound heavy, potato flour has an opposite effect – it turns this Babka into a light cloud of sweetness.

For the full list of ingredients & detailed instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post. But before you scroll, there’s important stuff to know below.

I’ve adapted this recipe from an old Polish cookbook from the 70’s called “Pieczenie Ciast i Ciasteczek” (“Baking Cakes and Cookies”) by Irena Głowacka.

I’ve altered the proportions ever-so-slightly, to make our baking process easier.

"Pieczenie Ciast i Ciasteczek" by Irena Głowacka. Polish cookbook cover from the 1970's.

Like other Polish Babkas, this cake is usually baked in a tall bundt mold (loaf pan is occasionally used instead; as a less celebratory substitute).

The big, fluted cake looks impressive (like it took a lot of work or expertise) – but in fact, the batter is no more involved than any other cake. Plus, it’s pretty much impossible to mess it up. Here’s how.

Do you need any special ingredients or equipment to make this Polish ‘Sand Cake’ Babka?

Most of the ingredients should be available in any major supermarket.

The only potentially troublesome ingredient would be potato flour (do not confuse it with potato starch, they aren’t the same thing). If you can’t find it in-store, try online (e.g. on Amazon).

Equipment-wise, you’ll need a planetary mixer, or at least a hand-held one. Kneading by hand for longer periods of time can be exhausting.

Get a tall, fluted Bundt mold as well – ideally a non-stick version, so it’s easier to release the cake later on.

What could you serve with this Babka Cake?

Babka Piaskowa pairs nicely with a cup of hot beverage. While it’s mostly enjoyed plain; you can cover each slice with a touch of soft butter and fruit preserves.

Can you bake this Polish Babka another way?

Yes, you can:

  • Add some additional ingredients: a handful of raisins, grated orange zest, chopped nuts and/or chopped dried fruit. Add them into the batter prior to baking.
  • Make a ‘Marble’ Babka (Babka Marmurkowa, pron. ‘babkah mar-moor-kovah’):
    Remove one-third of the batter and add in 1 tablespoon of sifted cocoa powder into it; blend together. When filling the mold, pour in the batter interchangeably: a portion of light batter first, then some of the dark batter and so on. Using a butter knife, swirl the batters together with a zig-zag motion, but do not overdo it. Proceed to bake as per the recipe.
  • If you’re not a fan of the fluffy, sand-like texture of this cake, try a yeast-based Babka. It’s richer and more moist.

What diets is this Babka Piaskowa suitable for?

This recipe is suitable for vegetarians. If you’re avoiding sugar, dairy and/or gluten – sadly this recipe isn’t for you. 

Can I freeze this ‘Sand Cake’ Babka?

Yes, but freeze each slice individually. Wrap each slice in cling film or freezer-friendly bag, and label with today’s date. Aim to consume within 2-3 months.

To thaw, remove a piece of babka from the freezer and leave it out at room temperature for 5 hours or so.

Smacznego!

Babka Piaskowa - Polish Bundt "Sandcake"
Babka Piaskowa - Polish Bundt Sandcake

Babka Piaskowa: Polish Bundt ‘Sand Cake’

Yield: 8-12
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs, medium
  • 1 stick (4 oz, 115-125 g) butter
  • ¾ cup (150 g) sugar
  • 1 cup (4.25 oz, 120 g) flour
  • ¾ cup (4.25 oz, 120 g) potato flour
  • 1 flat tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp light cream (18-30% fat)
  • Beans of 1/2 vanilla pod; substitute with 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • salt
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • butter and breadcrumbs, to grease and dust the mold
  • icing / powdered sugar, for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. [Before you start] Make sure that all of the ingredients (especially eggs, butter and cream) get a chance to warm up (at a room temperature), for at least 30 minutes before baking.
  2. Separate egg yolks from egg whites, set aside.
  3. Whisk butter and sugar together, until sugar dissolves completely and the mass becomes white and fluffy. This took me roughly 8 minutes using a planetary mixer.
  4. As you continue whisking, gradually add in one yolk at a time. (If you add the yolks too quickly, the mass will curd up. This shouldn’t affect the flavour though). Once you’re out of yolks, change the whisking attachment for a flat beater.
  5. Sift both flours with baking powder into a separate bowl/container. As you continue mixing, gradually add these dry ingredients into our ‘sugar & egg’ mass. 
  6. Add 3 tablespoons of cream and ground vanilla beans. Mix everything together for 20 minutes with the food processor until well combined.
  7. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt, until stiff peaks form. 
  8. Add stiff egg whites into the dough, together with grated lemon zest. Combine everything gently by hand, with a spatula or a spoon. 
  9. Grease the bundt mold (or loaf pan) with butter, dust the inside with breadcrumbs or flour. Pour the dough into the mold.
  10. Bake for 60 minutes at 320ºF (160ºC), without fan-assist. To check if babka is done, poke it with a toothpick. If it comes out dry, that means the cake is ready. If not, check again in 10 minutes.
  11. Remove the cake from the mold while the form is still hot (don’t burn yourself though!).
  12. Once babka cools, sprinkle it generously with icing/powdered sugar. Alternatively, you can make some icing and pour it over the cake.

Notes

  • This recipe was adapted from an old Polish cookbook from the 70’s called “Pieczenie Ciast i Ciasteczek” (“Baking Cakes and Cookies”) by Irena Głowacka.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 226Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 89mgSodium: 325mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 2gSugar: 21gProtein: 6g

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Kasia Kronenberger

Kasia Kronenberger is the founder of Polonist, where she celebrates Poland’s very best food.
She’s a self-taught home cook, who – through her own culinary attempts – wants to show you how to recreate Polish flavours at home, wherever that is.
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