Karpatka (pron. car-pat-kah) is a popular Polish cake. Two layers of choux pastry are filled with fragrant custard cream. There’s a crunch and there’s velvety softness – a perfect balance.
There are Karpatka baking mixes available in shops in Poland and in Polish stores internationally, but nothing beats the real deal.
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.
As the story goes, Karpatka was named after the Carpathian Mountains (in Polish: Karpaty). And you can see why – the pastry is shaped like a mountain landscape viewed from above.
Do you need any special ingredients or equipment to make Karpatka?
In general, all of the ingredients should be easy to get from any major supermarket. There are two ingredients that might be a little troublesome to purchase:
- A sachet (in Poland it contains roughly 16 g, a tablespoon-worth) of vanilla sugar. It’s a popular product in Europe, but elsewhere you can substitute it for one vanilla bean or 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
- Potato starch or potato flour. This ingredient is needed for our custard cream. If you can’t find it, skip it (and the regular flour too) and use a pack of powdered custard instead.
Equipment-wise, you’ll need a large rectangular cake tin (ideally 9 x 13 in / 23 x 33 cm) and a mixer (hand held or a standing one).
What could you serve with this Carpathian Cake?
Karpatka pairs well with warm beverages, such as classic English tea or a coffee of your choice.
Among wines, a semi-sweet or semi-dry sparkling wine balances the creaminess of this cake beautifully. Is it a special occasion? If you’re in Poland, I would recommend trying one of the Polish wines (such as Seyval Blanc from Dwór Sanna Winery). Otherwise, try Moet & Chandon White Star or a Californian Korbel Sec.
Can you make this Karpatka another way?
Some publications mention using a shortcrust base instead of a choux pastry base, but I’ve read that pro-bakers frown upon recipes like these. But hey – if you want to bake it this way, go for it.
You could potentially save yourself some time and use a store-bought instant vanilla custard, instead of making it from scratch.
Nothing tastes like a homemade cake, but there are a few manufacturers who make Karpatka baking kits (for the whole cake or just the cream), you’re likely to find them at Polish delis.
What diets is this Carpathian Cake suitable for?
Karpatka is meat-free, but it does include dairy and eggs (it’s suitable for lacto-ovo vegetarians).
How to store Karpatka?
Once you’ve served it, ideally you should eat it within 2-3 hours.
You can store any leftovers in a cool place, the refrigerator works too. Cover the cake tightly with an aluminum foil (karpatka tends to absorb flavours and smells from other products). Eat within 2-3 days. Warning: The longer you store Karpatka, the soggier it becomes.
If you’re making Karpatka ahead of an event, you can bake choux pastry layers a few days in advance, and store in an air-tight container (or wrap it tightly in an aluminum foil). Make the cream and assemble the cake on the day (in the morning) and store in the fridge.
Can I freeze Karpatka?
Sadly, no. The cream changes its texture in the freezer, and not in a good way.
But you can freeze baked choux pastry layers on their own. As soon as they’re baked and chilled, wrap them in foil and place in the freezer. Remember to label them well, so that you know what it is and when it was frozen. Aim to use these up within 2-3 months.
To thaw, leave them in the fridge overnight and place in the oven for 8-10 minutes at 360°F (180°C), to get rid of any excess water. Make the cream from scratch and assemble the cake.
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