Cakes and desserts

Cakes and desserts

By
Zuza Zak
Contains
12 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781849497268
Photographer
Laura Edwards

Dessert in Poland usually means cake. Patisseries thrive here because cake is such a major part of our culture and is eaten on a daily basis. This makes us all experts and it also means that general cake standards are kept high: only freshly baked cakes are considered acceptable. There also needs to be a clear balance of different flavours within our cakes, for example sweetness should be balanced out with tartness which in turn should be offset by creaminess. In Polish cuisine at least, an impressive cake means quite a bit of love and time has been put into making it. In this chapter there are a selection of cakes at both ends of the scale: quick and easy and more complicated ones, but they’re all made with affection.

There is always an opportunity to eat cake in Poland. Whether you are popping into someone’s house or even if your just picking something up, you will be offered tea or coffee and cake. If you are visiting a friend or relative, then it’s polite to bring cake. If you’re going out for a coffee then it’s also very likely that you’re going to eat a slice of cake. After a meal, you will always be served … you’ve guessed it – more cake.

It is fair to assume that many cakes originated from (or at the very least were influenced by) Poland’s close contact with its ever-present foe. The popularity of almonds and almond extract in desserts certainly points to the Middle East.

There were many links between these two great forces over the centuries not least when Suleiman the Magnificent married a former slave girl from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the influential Roxelana. However, the Ottoman Empire is not the only place where inspiration would have come from – as many cakes in Poland are reminiscent of those from Parisian patisseries, and it makes me wonder whether the great francophile King Jan III Sobiecki (who also won the Battle of Vienna and found all the leftover Turkish coffee) – imprinted his great love of France (and his lovely French wife) on our cuisine in the form of French confectionaries. What was popular in the king’s court, after all, eventually trickled down to the populace.

The variety of cakes on offer is immense and we have cakes for every time of the year. During Easter we traditionally eat the lady-shaped baba cake and caramel mazurek, at Christmas it’s time for poppy seeds and therefore makowiec rules, whereas in the summer we favour big meringue cakes with plenty of fresh fruit. We have cakes that hail from particular regions of the country and cannot be reproduced easily – the spectacular sękacz is made from such simple ingredients that it’s a marvel that something so utterly delicious could be produced from its basic components. Of course, we also have many, many cakes that are popular the country over and beyond.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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