Polish Carpathian Cake Karpatka Recipe

This mountain-shaped cake with a layer of custard in between is popular all over Poland. Named after the Carpathian mountains, it’s a must-have Polish dessert!

The uniqueness of the Polish Carpathian mountain cake recipe is that the crust is made to imitate the shape of the Carpathian mountains. Hence it’s called a karpatka cake recipe. 

Covered with powdered sugar it looks like the famous snow-covered mountains in winter. Does anyone think that when covered with chocolate it looks like the slopes in autumn when the trees have shed their leaves? 

Who Invented The Polish Carpathian Mountain Cream Cake

Karpatka cake with the custard filling on a blue plate.
Karpatka cake topped with powder sugar

No one knows who invented the karpatka recipe, but it originated in Poland in the 1950s and became popular in the few decades following.

It’s said that the name wasn’t karpatka till around 1972 when some Philosophy students decided to name it after the Karpaty or Carpathian Mountain ranges. 

How Is The Karpatka Cake Made?

Creating a layer of the karpatka crust.
Creating a layer of the karpatka crust

The Polish karpatka cake is made by cooking two layers of shortcrust pastry unevenly so that they look like mountains. The flour for these layers can be either cooked in a pot or baked in an oven before being mixed with the eggs. 

Once the flour and eggs are mixed, the layers are baked in an oven. The first layer is then covered with custard cream and topped with the second layer. Sugar is then sprinkled on top to make it look like the rugged snow-covered Karpaty chain. 

karpatka baking in the oven.
Karpatka crust baking!

You’ll find some versions of this cake that use puff pastry instead of choux pastry or shortcrust pastry, but that’s usually what the kremówka is made with. 

karpatka cake.
A slice of karpatka goes well with coffee!

Tips For The Karpatka Cake Recipe – Polish Carpathian Cake

  • It’s important to keep the cake ​refrigerated!
  • You can either sprinkle the cake with icing sugar or cover it with a chocolate glaze.
  • Adding butter to the pudding once it has cooled down makes it creamier. 
  • If you don’t want the custard to form a layer while cooling, you can cover it with a layer of cling film.
  • For a more ‘special’ cake, add some amaretto or kahlua into the custard cream. 
  • Cut into 1.5-inch sized squares before dusting with icing sugar to serve! 
  • This Polish Carpathian cake goes really well with coffee!
Karpatka slice in a white plate.
Karpatka slice
  • Pro Tip: If you use 1 tbsp less butter and add 1 tbsp of lard instead, the chocolate glaze will be shinier!

Important Questions About Making Polish Carpathian Mountain Cream Cake

What Is The Difference Between Karpatka and Kremkowa?

The Polish Kremowka and the Karpatka are very similar, but the difference is in the dough. Kremówka is made of puff pastry while karpatka uses a shortcrust or choux-pastry-like dough.

Where Are The Carpathian Mountains?

The Carpathian Mountains are located in Central Europe and Eastern Europe and form an arc that is around 1500 km long. The parts that run through Poland are the Western and Eastern Carpathians. 

The famous Tatra mountains are also part of these Karpaty Mountains.  

How To Pronouce Karpatka?

Karpatka is pronounced car-pat-kah.

My Custard Cream Looks Lumpy. What Can I Do To Fix This?

If the custard cream is lumpy, pass it through a strainer or sieve to remove the lumps. Discard the lumps and use only the smooth custard.  

What Can Be Done With The Remaining Egg Whites?

You can use the remaining egg whites from this karpatka recipe to bake the Beza Polish meringues.

How Long Can I Store Leftover Karpatka Cake?

Store karpatka cake for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. Don’t keep it for longer or it will get mushy. Do not freeze! 

Polish Carpathian Cake Karpatka Recipe

Polish Carpathian Cake Karpatka Recipe

Karpatka cake with the custard filling on a blue plate.

This mountain-shaped cake with a layer of custard in between is popular all over Poland. Named after the Carpathian mountains, it's a must-have Polish dessert!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

Karpatka Dough Ingredients

  • 1 stick / ½ cup / 120g of butter or margarine
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of water
  • 5 eggs

Karpatka Cream Custard Ingredients

  • 3 sticks / 1 ½ cup / 350g of butter or margarine
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 8 tsps of potato starch (flour)
  • 3 heaped tsps of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 3 cups of milk

Topping 1 - icing sugar

  • 1 cup of powdered sugar

Topping 2 - chocolate glaze

  • 3 tbsps of cocoa
  • 1 stick / ½ cup / 120g of butter
  • 1 tbsp of water
  • 2 tbsps of sugar
  • 1 egg

Instructions

How To Make The Dough For Karpatka Cake?

  1. In a pot, melt the butter/margarine with water.
  2. Bring to boil, then reduce the heat.
  3. Start adding the flour, gradually, 1 tbsp at a time, stirring all the time.
  4. Cool down.
  5. When the mixture is cold, mix it with eggs until you get the smooth dough with no lumps.
  6. Preheat the oven to 392°F (200°C).
  7. Line 2 baking pans with parchment paper.
  8. Using a spoon, spread the dough onto the parchment paper. It doesn't have to be smooth. Make it look like a rugged mountain.
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes, one baking pan at a time.

How To Make The Custard Cream For Karpatka Cake?

  1. Pour 2 cups of milk into the pot.
  2. Add egg yolks, sugar, and whip it together until you will get a smooth, yellow color.
  3. Pour 1 cup of milk into the small bowl.
  4. Add flour, potato flour, and vanilla extract. Mix until dissolved.
  5. Place a pot on the stove, cook slowly, stirring all the time.
  6. When it nearly boils, add milk with flour and stir until you will get the consistency of pudding.
  7. Cool down.
  8. When the pudding is cold, blend it with butter until you get the smooth and creamy custard.

How To Assemble A Karpatka Cake?

  1. Spread the creamy custard on top of one of the pastry.
  2. Cover it with the second pastry.
  3. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or chocolate glaze.

Optional - How To Make Chocolate Glaze?

  1. In a pot, melt all the ingredients, except for the egg.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg using a fork.
  3. When the chocolate glaze is almost boiling, pour the egg, mixing all the time.
  4. Turn off the heat.
  5. Pour the chocolate glaze over the cake.

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