New recipes and updates

Get new recipes
in your inbox

Cuisine Fiend

Find a recipe by ingredient

Karpatka (Carpathian mountain cake)

Sat, 4 May, 2024

Karpatka, Polish Carpathian mountain cake, is a giant éclair sandwich filled with patisserie cream or, as in my recipe, lightly sweetened vanilla whipped cream.


Beware of Polish hospitality

In Poland eating is a lavish affair. Any holidays, including birthdays and name days (because why have one bash a year if you can have two?), involve inviting a crowd to sit down at a table and keeping them there until every single crumb of the feast is gone.

And if you thought you were being clever and ask for a takeaway goodie bag, no chance: it’s not a done thing. You have to sit and stuff your face until the host decides you’ve had enough of their offering.

And my goodness, the offering! Starters take over the table, with charcuterie, salads, pickled foods and jellied foods. They will be followed by soup followed by main course with at least five different vegetable sides plus potatoes, noodles or both.

Then of course cakes, sweets, coffees, and about half an hour later, as soon as the first diner stirs from the gluttonous stupor, cold meats and galantines ride on again! Just in case someone was peckish.

I have been to parties which actually started with cake and biscuits, only to then follow the customary four or five course feast on the loop.

carpathian mountain cake

Polish desserts are lavish too

Cakes and sweet confections follow suit: they invariably involve lots of buttercream or custard, layers, toppings and frostings, all in quantities that would take your breath away. My 23cm (9 inch) cake tin is only used occasionally because I consider it enormous; in Poland 28cm (11 inch) is standard.

Pound cake? You must be joking: they make a kilo cake! or at least one a metre long.

Cream cakes are typical, or baked cheesecakes stuffed with dried fruit and nuts, enormous brioche-like babas, apple cakes and certainly the oddest: makowiec, a cake with enough poppy seeds in the filling to send the whole party into a coma (I’m joking of course: it’s not the seeds that carry the opium content in poppies).

polish karpatka cake

Karpatka, napoleon cake or cream cake?

There is a host of apparently similar cakes in Polish patisserie tradition, all roughly based on French millefeuille.

One type is called napoleon cake (napoleonka), since the Poles have always been great fans of the French emperor. It is made with sheets of puff pastry with an enormously thick layer of patisserie cream in between. Why faff around with a thousand layers if you can make just two and make up in quantity?

Sometimes the patisserie cream is replaced with Chantilly, sweet whipped cream filling and the napoleon pastry is sometimes called simply kremowka: cream cake.

Karpatka is slightly different in that it has choux pastry layers sandwiching the filling, rather than puff. What a relief! Something slightly lighter since choux is not quite as rich as puff.

To compensate, it is usually filled with custard-based buttercream – crème pâtissier. The amount of butter that is beaten into sickly sweet, homemade custard could harden your arteries on mere sight.

carpathian mountain cake with cream filling

My take on karpatka

And that is why my version of the Carpathian mountain cake, macho as it might sound, is a much lighter affair than it is back home. After all I’ve spent over twenty years on scones and Victoria sponge.

The name is pictorial: choux pastry layer swelling in the oven in a random, undulating manner looks a little like a mountain range, albeit a model of it made by an eleven-year-old.

Two layers of choux, like a giant éclair, sandwich the whipped cream filling, with an added lick of passion fruit curd, just for the hint of a tang. The whole thing is showered with icing sugar and cut into generous portions – of course.

karpatka with chantilly filling

How to make choux pastry layers

Choux pastry was the first (and last as far as I remember) dish I was taught to cook at school, aged seven. It can’t have been a stunning success since it took me about forty years to make it again.

But it wasn’t a disaster, because choux pastry is really easy to make, albeit the method is weird. You start it by cooking flour in a boiling mix of water and butter, beating it with a wooden spoon until a smooth lump of dough pulls cleanly away from the sides.

choux dough

When it cools down a little, add eggs one after another, beating thoroughly after each one.

The resulting batter will look like thick mayo: sticky but not unmanageable.

choux pastry

Do not attempt to spread it directly onto a baking tray, even greased: butter it lightly but then line with parchment, or you’ll be scraping pastry off the tray forever. Spread the batter over the parchment in a thin layer, reasonably evenly but don’t sweat about it being super smooth.

If your trays fit in the oven side by side, bake them together. Otherwise it’s fine to bake one layer after the other.

The most important tip: counterintuitively, the best mountains rise without convection/fan, in a conventional, top/bottom oven at 200C/400F.

And the layers can be baked a day ahead and stored uncovered, at room temperature.

choux layers

How to make the filling

This is simple Chantilly cream: whipped double cream sweetened with icing sugar and flavoured with good vanilla extract.

I whip it to stiffer peaks than I’d normally do for other desserts because it makes it firmer and neater to cut the cake, once chilled in the fridge.

Assembly and cutting

The addition of curd is optional, its flavour too if you want to use it. Spread it with a pastry brush in order not to crush the pastry mountains.

Both layers should be assembled wavy sides up, with the more presentable one on top. Pile the cream onto the bottom one and arrange the top one over it. No need to press it too much but it is necessary to shower the whole confection with icing sugar – like a sprinkling of snow over the mountains.

You can present it whole and cut it into portions as you serve, or cut it all into generous squares with a serrated, pastry or bread knife.

Filled, it will keep in the fridge for a day.

assembled karpatka

More creamy desserts

Blueberry and cream sponge cake: blueberry Victoria sponge cake, with layers of lightly roasted blueberries and whipped cream is an easy but very impressive dessert.

Matcha (green tea) sponge cake with lemon and bay leaf scented whipped cream frosting. It’s a beautiful dessert, beautifully simple to make (but nobody will believe you how easy it is).

Strawberry fool is the supreme of strawberries and cream, with layers of vanilla scented whipped cream and gorgeous fresh strawberry puree, barely sweetened.

polish karpatka with whipped cram filling

Karpatka (Carpathian mountain cake)

Servings: 10Time: 2 hours plus cooling


  • For the choux pastry:
  • 250ml (1 cup) water
  • 125g (1 stick plus 2 tsp) unsalted butter plus more for the trays
  • 150g (1 cup) plain flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 5 medium eggs
  • For the filling:
  • 3 tbsp lemon curd
  • 600ml (2½ cups) double cream
  • 60g (½ cup) icing sugar plus more for dusting
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract


1. To make the pastry, bring the water and butter to a boil in a medium saucepan. When boiling, add the flour and salt, and beat with a wooden spoon over low heat until the flour is absorbed and the dough forms a ball pulling away from the sides.

cooking choux dough

2. Take it off the heat and let it cool down a little. Preheat the oven to 200C no fan/400F/gas 6. Butter two baking trays about 30 x 20cm and line them with parchment.

3. Add the eggs to the flour mix one by one, beating them in with a handheld mixer or simply a wooden spoon. The batter will end up smooth, glossy and very sticky.

beating in eggs

4. Divide it between the baking trays and spread the batter evenly with a spatula.

choux batter

5. Bake both at once if they fit or one after the other for 30-35 minutes until golden and wavy. Remove from the oven and slide onto a wire rack to cool and dry, up to overnight at room temperature.

6. To make the filling, sift the icing sugar into a bowl with the cream and add the vanilla extract. Whip until reasonably stiff, so it holds the shape.

chantilly cream

7. Place the less attractive choux layer on a parchment lined tray and brush with the lemon curd. Pile the cream filling onto it and spread with a spatula. Cover with the top layer and press very gently.

assembling karpatka

8. Dust generously with icing sugar and chill in the fridge at least 1 hour before cutting into portions and serving.

NEW recipe finder

Ingredients lying around and no idea what to cook with them? Then use my NEW Recipe Finder for inspiration!

Recipe Finder

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published

Characters left 800
Recipe rating
Email address*
Web site name
Be notified by email when a comment is posted

* required

Cuisine Fiend's

most recent

About me

Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


Sign up to receive the weekly recipes updates

Follow Fiend