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Karpatka, one of the most popular Polish cakes, has two layers of choux pastry sandwiched with a decadent vanilla cream filling. A dusting of powdered sugar on top helps the rustic pâte à choux resemble the snow-capped Carpathian Mountains in Poland.

karpatka cake on wooden cake stand with boquet of white roses in background

This popular Polish dessert is meant to look rugged and mountainous, and is named after the snowy Carpathian Mountains in Poland.

Karpatka and Napoleonka are often confused for one another. They’re similar Polish cakes, both with a creamy vanilla custard filling, but they use different types of pastry.

Karpatka uses choux pastry, which is called pâte à choux in French.

Napoleonka features puff pastry or laminated dough, which is known as pâte feuilletée in French. Napoleonka is called Kremówka in some parts of Poland, and is also known as Papal Cream Cake.

single slice of polish karpatka cake recipe on white stoneware plate

Kremówka is the more-refined version of this cake, while Karpatka is a bit more rustic with a rugged top that’s meant to symbolize Karpaty, the Carpathian Mountain range. And of course with a generous sprinkle of powdered sugar, it looks like snowy mountains. Karpatka is essentially a giant cream puff cake, and that’s exactly what it tastes like.

Like most Polish cakes, both of these are absolutely divine.

Karpatka is traditionally served along with coffee or tea. It really is a show-stopping cake that’s fit for just about any occasion that calls for cake, birthdays and holidays included! I think it would be particularly lovely as a Christmas or Easter dessert.

polish karpatka cake with one slice missing on wooden cake stand

Karpatka Recipe (Polish Cream Puff Cake with Cream Mousseline)

This Polish cake is made with choux pastry dough, a type of French pastry that’s also used to make cream puffs, éclairs, gougères, and French cruller doughnuts.

Choux pastry puffs up a lot when baked. This pastry is golden with a crisp texture outside. Inside, pâte à choux is airy and light. It has a slightly custardy flavor, but is quite neutral. That means this type of pastry dough is good for both sweet and savory pastries.

Ingredients in Karpatka

Crème Mousseline Ingredients:

karpatka cream ingredients
  • Egg yolks – egg yolks are a classic thickener in pastry cream; in addition to helping thicken the custard, egg yolks add rich color and flavor
  • Sugar – use regular granulated white sugar here
  • Potato starch – this is the thickener in our pastry cream; if you prefer, you can use 3 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch instead
  • Whole milk – use whole milk for a little richness here
  • Salt – a touch of salt elevates the sweet, aromatic flavor of vanilla in this creamy custard
  • Vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste – this adds flavor and aroma to our custard; if you don’t have vanilla bean paste, simply use more vanilla extract
  • Unsalted butter and sugar – we cream together room temperature butter with a little sugar and then we whip in our pastry cream to make crème mousseline

Choux Pastry Ingredients:

choux cake ingredients
  • Water – I prefer water instead of milk for making Karpatka because it yields choux pastry that’s lighter and crisper than that made with milk
  • Unsalted butter – this adds rich flavor
  • Salt – so the dough isn’t bland
  • Flour – this is the base of the choux pastry; flour provides the necessary structure
  • Eggs – egg whites provide structure and egg yolks add richness

Other:

  • Butter – this is to prevent the choux pastry from sticking to the pan
  • Powdered sugar – Karpatka is typically dusted with powdered sugar so the resulting cake looks like the snow-capped Carpathian Mountains
close up of partially eaten slice of polish cream cake

How to Make Karpatka

Before we jump right into making this gorgeous Polish dessert, I first want to encourage you that you can make this recipe! It’s not hard to make if you break it down. It just involves making a choux pastry for the cake, and a vanilla custard for the filling.

Read the recipe through (twice) before starting, and measure out all your ingredients in advance. Take note because some ingredients need to be at room temperature.

How to Make Crème Pàtissèrie (aka Pastry Cream)

how to make pastry cream
  1. Add the egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar to a medium bowl. Use a handheld electric mixer to beat together until the mixture is thick and pale yellow.
  2. Beat in the potato starch until well-combined.
  3. Add the milk, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer. Remove the milk mixture from the heat. Gradually, starting with just a couple drops at first, whisk 1 cup of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture.
  4. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the pot and whisk in the vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste. Return the saucepan to the heat, and turn the heat down to low. Whisking constantly, cook until the custard is thickened.

How to Make Crème Mousseline

how to make creme mousseline

I know it sounds fancy, but remember, crème mousseline is just pastry cream that’s whipped with butter!

  1. Once the custard is cool, add the butter and 2 tablespoons sugar to a large bowl.
  2. Use a handheld electric mixer to cream them together until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add a spoonful of vanilla custard at a time and beat until incorporated, continuing until all the custard is mixed in.
  4. Continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

How to Make Choux Pastry

how to make choux pastry
  1. Add the water, butter, and salt to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour all at once.
  2. Turn the heat down to low and return the pan to the heat. Cook until the dough forms a ball and leaves a residue on the bottom, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Transfer the dough to a large bowl and let it cool until it’s still quite warm, but not too hot to touch, about 5 to 10 minutes. Use a handheld electric mixer to beat in the eggs and egg yolk 1 at a time until fully incorporated.
  4. The resulting batter will be smooth and glossy.

Bake Choux Pastry for Karpatka (Cream Puff Cake)

how to bake choux pastry for karpatka
  1. Divide the dough between the 2 prepared pans.
  2. Spread the dough out to cover the bottom of each pan, and then use the back of a spoon to spread it unevenly to create divots and peaks (this is so the finished cake looks like the Carpathian Mountains).
  3. Bake until the choux cake is puffed and evenly golden, about 25 to 28 minutes.
  4. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then remove the cakes from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

How to Assemble Karpatka

how to assemble karpatka
  1. Once the choux cakes are completed cool, put 1 of the choux cakes back into a springform pan.
  2. Spread the vanilla custard evenly on top.
  3. Place the other choux cake on top.
  4. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving, and then remove it from the springform pan. Right before serving, dust the top with powdered sugar.

Storage

Store Karpatka in the fridge for up to 3 days. The pastry will soften the longer it sits.

serving slice of polish carpathian cream cake

Karpatka Tips for Success

  • When you make the crème mousseline, make sure the butter and the pastry cream are the same temperature. Both should be at room temperature, about 70 to 74F.
  • Don’t swap out the water for milk in the choux pastry for this recipe. Water helps result in a crisper, lighter choux pastry, and also prevents over-browning. On the other hand, milk in choux pastry acts as a tenderizer, and yields a softer pastry.
slice of polish karpatka cake with whole cake on wooden cake stand in background

Karpatka Cake FAQs

What is the Cream Filling in Karpatka?

Karpatka typically has a rich, creamy, custardy vanilla filling known as crème mousseline.

What is Crème Mousseline?

Crème mousseline is pastry cream (aka crème pàtissèrie) that’s whipped with butter. The end result is a decadent, silky smooth vanilla cream similar to frosting that’s perfect for pastries of all kinds, including this choux pastry cake.

What is Crème Pàtissèrie?

Crème patisserie, also known as pastry cream, is a mixture of milk, sugar, and egg yolks. It is thickened with starch (such as cornstarch), and flavored with extracts (like vanilla).

For this Polish Carpathian cream cake, we make crème patisserie and whip it with butter to turn it into crème mousseline. This is the thick, rich, custardy vanilla filling for Karpatka.

slice of cream puff cake on rustic stoneware plate with bite on a fork

What Can I Use Instead of Potato Starch in the Pastry Cream?

There are quite a few different starches that you can use as thickening agents when making custard.

  • Cornstarch, in a 1:2 ratio with potato starch (use half as much cornstarch as potato starch)
  • Arrowroot starch, in a 2:3 ratio with potato starch (use 1/3 less arrowroot starch as potato starch)
  • Tapioca starch, in a 2:1 ratio with potato starch (use twice as much tapioca starch as potato starch)

What is Choux Pastry?

Choux is a doughy batter that’s made of butter, water and/or milk, flour, and eggs. Instead of a leavening agent, the high moisture content in choux pastry creates steam and causes it to puff when cooked.

The end result is a delicate, light pastry that’s crisp and golden outside, and airy inside. Because they’re hollow, pastries made from pâte à choux are perfect for filling.

More Delicious Cake Recipes to Try

overhead view of polish choux pastry cake with cream filling with babys breath flowers

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Karpatka (Polish Carpathian Cream Cake Recipe)

5 from 4 votes
Prep Time45 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Other Time1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Karpatka, one of the most popular Polish cakes, has two layers of choux pastry sandwiched with a decadent vanilla cream filling. A dusting of powdered sugar on top helps the rustic pâte à choux resemble the snow-capped Carpathian Mountains in Poland.

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Equipment

Ingredients
 

Crème Mousseline:

Choux Pastry:

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk

Other:

Instructions
 

Start the Crème Mousseline (aka Make the Crème Pàtissèrie):

  • Add the egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar to a medium bowl. Use a handheld electric mixer to beat together until the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Beat in the potato starch until well-combined.
  • Add the milk, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer.
  • Remove the milk mixture from the heat. Gradually, starting with just a couple drops at first, whisk 1 cup of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the pot and whisk in the vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste.
  • Return the saucepan to the heat, and turn the heat down to low. Whisking constantly, cook until the custard is thickened. This should take less than a minute.
  • Once thickened, transfer the custard to a bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top. Cool to room temperature.

For the Choux Pastry:

  • Preheat the oven to 380F. Line the bottom of 2 (8 or 9-inch) springform pans with parchment paper that’s trimmed to fit inside. Grease the sides with butter.
  • Add the water, butter, and salt to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour all at once. Turn the heat down to low and return the pan to the heat. Cook until the dough forms a ball and leaves a residue on the bottom, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Transfer the dough to a large bowl and let it cool until it’s still quite warm, but not too hot to touch, about 5 to 10 minutes. Use a handheld electric mixer to beat in the eggs and egg yolk 1 at a time until fully incorporated. The resulting batter will be smooth and glossy.
  • Divide the dough between the 2 prepared pans. Spread the dough out to cover the bottom of each pan, and then use the back of a spoon to spread it unevenly to create divots and peaks (this is so the finished cake looks like the Carpathian Mountains).
  • Bake until the choux cake is puffed and evenly golden, about 25 to 28 minutes.
  • Cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then remove the cakes from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

Finish the Crème Mousseline (aka Turn the Crème Pàtissèrie Into Crème Mousseline):

  • Once the custard is cool, use a handheld electric mixer to cream together the butter and 2 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy.
  • Add a spoonful of vanilla custard at a time and beat until incorporated, continuing until all the custard is mixed in. Continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  • Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the crème mousseline if the cakes aren’t completely cool yet.

To Assemble:

  • Once the choux cakes are completed cool, put 1 of the choux cakes back into a springform pan. Spread the vanilla custard evenly on top. Place the other choux cake on top.
  • Refrigerate 1 hour before serving, and then remove it from the springform pan. Right before serving, dust the top with powdered sugar.

Notes

  • Vanilla Bean Paste Substitute: If you don’t have this on hand, simply use more vanilla instead.
  • Potato Starch Substitute: You can use 3 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch instead.
  • Choux Pastry Tip: Don’t be tempted to swap out the water for milk in the choux pastry for this recipe. Water helps result in a crisper, lighter choux pastry, and also prevents over-browning. On the other hand, milk in choux pastry acts as a tenderizer, and yields a softer pastry.
  • Crème Mousseline Tip: When you make the crème mousseline, make sure the butter and the pastry cream are the same temperature. Both should be at room temperature, about 70 to 74F.
  • If You Don’t Have 2 Springform Pans: If you only have 1 springform pan, you can bake the choux cakes 1 at a time. Just be sure to place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the dough while the first cake bakes. Alternatively, if you don’t have any springform pans, you can line 2 large baking trays with parchment paper and draw 1 (9-inch) circles on each. Spread the batter out onto the circles you drew and bake that way.

Nutrition

Calories: 346kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 195mg | Sodium: 118mg | Potassium: 163mg | Fiber: 0.5g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 863IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 91mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Polish
Keyword: Carpathian Cake, Carpathian Cream Cake, Choux Pastry Cake, Karpatka, Karpatka Cake, Karpatka Recipe, Polish Carpathian Cake

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Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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Recipe Rating




4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I followed your recipe and my Karpatka turned out perfect. It tasted even better than it looked. My guests raved about it!
    I used corn starch instead of the potato using 3 1/2 tablespoons per your notes. I did not have 2 springform pans so I used 2 9-inch cake pans. Your instructions are written clearly, and I appreciate all the tips. I will definitely make it again. Thanks for the recipe.

  2. Ofira Ben Zvi says:

    5 stars
    It was exquisite.
    All the guests praised it.
    A recipe to keep.

  3. 5 stars
    I made this and am almost embarrassed to say it was gone within 2 days! I had a little help, but I couldn’t control myself. Wow, is it good!!!

  4. 5 stars
    If you are looking for a delicious cake that you cannot stop eating, this is the one. Soo good!

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