Choux Perfection: The Irresistible Snow Mountain Karpatka Cream Pie

Karpatka Cake

Karpatka cake or pie is an incredible Polish cream pie. This delicious choux pastry pie has a divine crème mousseline filling. It was created as an ode to the Carpathian mountains in Poland and has a signature ridged detail and powdered sugar on top that resembles snow. If you love profiteroles or eclairs you will absolutely adore this pastry - this is a pushy recipe Dear Reader!

Karpatka is named after the Carpathian mountains, a 1,500km-long mountain range that arcs across the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic and Ukraine. The exact origin or inventor of Karpatka cake is not well documented but it is thought that it was created in the 1950s and 1960s and became popular in the following 2 decades. It is usually served with a cup of tea or coffee. While karpatka is straight forward to make, stores in Poland also sell karpatka cake mixes.

Making Karpatka involves baking two layers of choux pastry (the same dough as profiteroles and eclairs). The layers are then filled with a creamy custardy crème mousseline made with milk, sugar, egg yolks, potato flour, vanilla or rum. The assembled cake is then dusted with powdered sugar that looks like snow.

Karpatka Cake

There are two main components to this Karpatka Cake:

1 - Choux pastry base and top. Choux pastry is one of the easier pastries to make and it puffs up beautifully as if by magic!

2 - Crème Mousseline which is similar to crème pâtissière but it has butter whisked through it so that it is like a cross between crème pâtissière and buttercream. It is often called German buttercream. It also holds its shape unlike straight custard or crème pâtissière.

The temperature of each component is important so please take heed of the notes on temperature. If you follow the directions, I promise that your karpatka cake will turn out beautifully. The first time I made this cake I didn't whip the butter enough and the custard was too warm so that it melted the butter. So the resulting mix was wet and didn't set properly in the centre. What I had created was tasty but it was not a mousseline. A mousseline has the texture of buttercream and sets firm once refrigerated. So the next time I made sure to cool the custard to 22C/71.6F and then whisk it with the whipped butter!

Karpatka Cake

Mr NQN bought me the beautiful flowers in this picture. Like all things over the past few years flowers have gone up in price but it seems like big bouquets are $150 to $300 and that's just the new normal. I know that Mr NQN thinks that flowers are a bit of a waste of money but he also knows how much I like receiving them. So we have a plan for times like Valentines Day where we are convinced that the flowers are days old because every time he has given me Valentines Day flowers they're dead within a couple of days. So we've decided that he is not going to buy me flowers on the actual Valentines Day but the week before or after.

He also buys them from a flower market at Fox Studios and he goes there early so that the selection is good and the flowers haven't been sitting in the sun all morning. He face-times me the selection that they have while I'm still in bed - that way he knows I'll get what I want and I choose them and he brings them home. Instead of paying $250 which is what this bunch would cost at the florist, this bunch was a mere $46. I also like to make the most of them by doing a lot of cake recipe development over the next few days so that I make the most of the flowers. And you know what? These flowers lasted a week instead of a couple of days!

So tell me Dear Reader, do you like receiving flowers? Have you ever tried karpatka?

Karpatka Cake


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An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott

Preparation time: 45 minutes plus cooling time

Cooking time: 60 minutes

Serves: 8 people

Pastry Cream Crème Mousseline Filling

  • 100g/3.5ozs egg yolks (from 5 extra large eggs)
  • 130g/4.6ozs caster or superfine sugar
  • 100g/3.5ozs potato flour
  • 600ml/20flozs whole full fat milk
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
  • 200g/7ozs butter, room temperature, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons caster or superfine sugar extra
  • 2 tablespoons icing or powdered sugar

Choux Pastry Layers

  • 130g/4.6flozs milk
  • 100ml/3.5flozs water
  • 100g/3.5ozs butter, chopped
  • 10g/0.3ozs sugar
  • 3g/0.2oz salt
  • 130g/4.6ozs plain all purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, beaten together

Karpatka Cake
Cover the surface of the pastry cream with cling film

Step 1 - First make the Pastry Cream as it needs time to cool down. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and potato flour in a large jug until the mixture is pale and there are no lumps. Place the milk and vanilla in a saucepan and almost bring to a boil. Temper the mixture by slowly pouring a cup-ful of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture whisking it in. Gradually add more and stir. Then return the whole mixture to the saucepan and cook on low-medium heat stirring until it is thickened and smooth ensuring that the custard doesn't catch on the base or in the corners. Once it can coat the back of a spoon well, place in a wide, shallow tray and cover the top directly with cling film. Cool until it reaches room temperature around 20–22°C or 68–72°F. This takes a lot longer than you would think and a bit of time in the fridge definitely helps in this but don't refrigerate for a long time. If it becomes too cold, leave at room temperature for an hour and whip it up again before using it.

Karpatka Cake

Step 2 -While it is cooling, preheat oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and line 2 x 20cm/8inch round springform tins with parchment. Place the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to almost a boil. Remove from the heat and quickly mix in the flour with a flat bottomed wooden spoon or spatula. Place back on low heat and keep stirring vigorously until the dough pulls away from the edges-it should take around 2 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes.

Karpatka Cake

Step 3 - Fit a mixer with a beater attachment and add the dough ball and start to beat and allow the heat to escape. Gradually pour in the beaten egg and keep beating until smooth and glossy. At this stage you can refrigerate this dough overnight or use straight away. Divide the dough among the two baking tins and create some ridges on the surface so that it isn't smooth-the more ripples and ridges the more it will resemble mountains. Bake for 28-30 minutes but do not open the oven during the first 26 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Karpatka Cake

Step 4 - With a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the butter and the 2 tablespoons sugar together until it is white (you may need to scrape down the sides multiple times to ensure that the whole butter mix is whipped and white). Then add the crème patisserie or custard into this, 2 tablespoons at a time. Whisk until fluffy and smooth.

Karpatka Cake

Karpatka Cake
Filling with mousseline, before refrigeration

Step 5 - To assemble the cake, choose the least ridged choux half for the base. Place this half into a 20cm/8inch spring form tin and spray the sides with oil spray. Spoon the mousseline all over it and smooth it over with an angled spatula. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Place the other half of the choux pressing down gently to stick to the custard. Sift icing or powdered sugar over the top and serve.

Karpatka Cake

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