Polish cuisine shares a lot with food from surrounding countries like Germany, Austria, and Hungary, and the influences of these and other cultures from central and Eastern Europe shine especially in Poland's sweet confections. They're similar to other treats consumed in the region but are proudly tailored to local taste.
The items on this list of favorite Polish dessert recipes are well-loved throughout the country. We present them to you as a taste of this culturally and culinarily diverse country.
Watch Now: How to Make Kołaczki
01 of 09
Because these light-as-air fried bowtie pastries, known as chruściki, are labor-intensive to make, they are typically only served on special occasions. The recipe calls for small rectangles of a heavy egg and cream flour dough to be shaped like bowties by tying the dough onto itself and then deep-frying them until golden brown. Some sprinkle them with powdered sugar while others choose honey drizzle.
No matter the final touch you want to give them, these little treats are delicious and flaky. You'll want to make a lot because eating just one is impossible. You need approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to make these pastries.
02 of 09
Polish foldovers, or kołaczki, are another favorite Polish dessert that takes time to make, so they usually make an appearance on special occasions, especially at Christmas time.
This Polish kołaczki recipe is made with a cream cheese dough that bakes up buttery and flaky. Kołaczki can be round, square, or diamond-shaped, and the dough can be flaky or yeast-risen. Fillings are typically comprised of apricot, strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, prune, almond, poppy seed, sweet cheese, or even pineapple. Chose the flavoring you like the most, but do try this dough because it melts in your mouth. You need a total of 45 minutes to make the dough, shape it and fill the cookies, and 1 hour to chill the dough.
03 of 09
Pączki, also known as Polish doughnuts or Bismarcks, are always served on Fat Tuesday as a splurge food before the fast days of Lent begin. But these decadent fried cakes also appear on special occasions throughout the year.
Pączki are made out of a yeast dough that is fried and can be filled with fruit preserves or compotes, sweet cheese, or left hollow and simply rolled in sugar. The dough needs between 1 to 2.5 hours to rise for the first time, so plan ahead. A well-rested dough means fluffier cakes, and you have to prove this dough a total of 3 times. Once your discs are ready for the fryer, let them turn golden brown before turning.
04 of 09
Apple tart, or szarlotka, is the Polish version of American apple pie, except the crust is sweeter. Szarlotka, apple cake, and sernik (cheesecake) are the most frequently served sweets in Polish homes.
Make a buttery and sweet crust with eggs, heavy cream, flour, and butter and chill for 2 hours. The filling is made out of cooked apples in lemon juice, which are then combined with more sugar and spices. The pie crust needs to be blind-baked, the filling chilled before assembly and a beautiful dough lattice then tops this beautiful dessert. Once all is in place, bake for 30 minutes.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Originally made with a pastry crust, in modern Poland, the cheesecake crust can be made out of cookie crumbs, Graham cracker crumbs, or be skipped in favor of making it without any crust. The recipes for sernik are varied and each family has a favorite, but they all have in common a thick, eggy custard made out of ricotta cheese.
Our recipe is the base from which all others vary. It's creamy, unctuous and just plain delicious. Although it can be eaten without any toppings, many choose to add a fruit preserve or fresh fruit on top. Mix it up with chocolate shavings and strawberries, or apricot jam and sliced almonds. Ready in 1 hour and 20 minutes, this classic Polish treat serves 8 generous slices or 12 medium-sized.
06 of 09
This cake can be made with or without raisins and is only slightly sweet. A crumbly sugar-butter topping adds texture and makes it the perfect treat for a midday snack with a strong cup of coffee. Thick slices can be the perfect French toast base or add jelly or fruit compote on the side for a tea treat.
This dough needs a lot of mixing to incorporate air so be prepared to use all of your energy in the process. Although considered a cake, this dough uses yeast and needs to prove until doubled in size. Once divided into two bread loaf tins it has to rise again until it slightly mounds over the top. Bake for approximately 50 minutes.
07 of 09
This Polish cream cake was renamed papal cream cake or kremówka papieska when it was learned Pope John Paul II loved it since his childhood days. Flaky puff pastry is filled with an eggy and sugary custard and then left to chill in the refrigerator until set. Although there aren't many steps to this recipe, the key is to follow the instructions for how to bake the puff pastry to achieve the perfect flaky golden brown consistency, very much desired for this dessert.
Prep and cook in 30 minutes, but leave at least 1 hour for the custard to set and chill between the puff pastry layers. If possible, refrigerate overnight. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
08 of 09
This recipe is a peasant version of the more refined kremówka, which is made with puff pastry. Karpatka is made with pâte à choux, the same type of dough used to make cream puffs and éclairs. It takes its geographic name because when dusted with confectioner's sugar, it looks like the craggy, snow-capped Carpathian Mountains.
The pâte à choux, a cooked dough of eggs, butter, flour, and sugar, bakes without being evenly spread out so it resembles a mountain chain. A creamy filling goes in the middle and then powdered sugar decorates the cake, as "snow." Prep and bake in 2 hours.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
Polish mazurkas, or mazureks, are flat pastries. They come in all shapes and sizes, with tons of fillings, but what they have in common is short height. They can be made of yeast dough, a shortbread-like dough, puff pastry, or layered wafers. We chose a recipe for a royal mazurek with dollops of jam between a beautiful latticework of dough.
Make a dough with flour, eggs, butter, hard-boiled egg yolks, and sugar. Chill and then roll out 2/3 of the dough to cover a rectangular pan. With the remaining 1/3, make the lattice to place on top of the first layer of dough. Once in the oven the lattice puffs up and creates open spaces that you will then fill with two flavors of fruit preserve. Prep and bake in 50 minutes.