I made this cake for my nephew when he came to visit recently as he loves cakes with lemons.
You need to make the sponge for a “Swiss roll” and then fill it with lemon cream.
The sponge cake made using potato flour is very Polish but fresh double cream is not usually found in Polish cookery – soured cream is the norm. Also lemon curd I think of as quite British although I did come across something similar in one of my Polish cooks books. You can make your own lemon curd but I use Sicilian lemon curd from Marks & Spencer as I think this is so lemony.
I made the sponge using the recipe Biszkopt – Sponge Cake using Potato Flour
Or to be easier, use the English Style fat free sponge recipe from
This is not a Polish recipe but my nephew loves cakes with lemons and after trying many versions this is the one I baked for him especially when he came to visit recently. I will be sticking with this recipe from now on.
175g butter or block margarine
175g caster sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
160g self-raising flour
Juice of 1 lemon
110g caster sugar
Grease and line a large (2lb) loaf tin – or use a ready bought liner.
Pre-heat the oven to GM 4 – 180oC
Cream the butter and sugar till soft and fluffy
Add the lemon zest and mix again.
Add the eggs, 1 by 1, and mix well.
Add the juice of 1 lemon and mix well.
Fold in the flour with a metal spoon.
Put the mixture into the loaf tin and gently level the top.
Bake for around 50 – 60 minutes – check after 40 minutes and cover the top with greaseproof paper if needed to prevent the top burning.
Leave to cool slightly in the tin and then remove and place on a cake rack and allow to cool a little more.
Prepare the drizzle by mixing the sugar and lemon juice until it dissolves.
Remove the greaseproof paper or liner and place the cake onto a plate (a long rectangular one with a lip around the side is the best ) so that the base is flat and excess drizzle does not run off.
Prick the top of the cake with a skewer
Gently spoon all the drizzle over the top of the cake
I have been making this placek (low flat cake) for years but I cannot remember where I got the recipes from.
The cake varies every time I make it as I alter the type or amount of each chocolate used and I also alter the dried fruit and nuts.
It is not quite a Polish recipe as Demerara sugar is used rather than granulated & this is not a typical Polish ingredient.
Sugar is produced from either sugar cane (a perennial grass) or sugar beet (a tap root). When sugar cane is refined you get lots of partially refined products such as: treacle, golden syrup, Demerara sugar & various other brown sugars.
Demerara sugar is so named after a region in Guyana where it was first produced.
When sugar beet is used to make sugar you do not get all these brown sugars.
In Poland the main sugar products on sale are granulated sugar and icing sugar, also you can find vanilla sugar, for baking, which is sold in little sachet which contain one tablespoon of sugar.
120g butter or block margarine
120g Demerara sugar
120g self raising flour
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla essence
100g chopped chocolate (can be a mixture of dark, milk & white)
100g chopped nuts
80g sultanas (or currants or raisins)
I think dried cranberries might work well here but have not tried these as yet.
Pierna is an old Polish word for spices and piernik is a cake made with honey and spices.
Some sources say the name is frompieprz – pepper or piorun – thunderbolt or devil – because of its spiciness.
These cakes have been known in Poland since the 12th century and the spices would have come from Turkey (originally brought back by the crusaders) or India.
The very first recipes were just honey, flour (wheat or rye) and spices.
Honey was the original sweetener, long before sugar, and when you travel in Poland you will find many village ladies selling their own honey, the taste varies greatly depending on where the bees have found their flowers and the honey from a forest region is very dark and full of flavour.
Piernik can vary from being a soft dense cake to a drier but soft biscuit.
The Polish town of Toruń is famous for its piernik and Chopin was very found of this.
Pierniki (plural) coated with chocolate are called Katarzynki – which means Katherine’s cakes – named after Katarzyna the daughter of one of the bakers.
Similar cakes are found throughout Europe including the French paind’éspices, the Dutch peperkoek and the German lebkuchen.
Piernik is often translated as Gingerbread but ginger is only rarely used!
The main spices used are cinnamon , cloves and cardamom with the addition according to different recipes of: aniseed, black pepper, caraway, coriander, nutmeg, dried orange and/or lemon peel and then in later recipes allspice which is from the New World.
Spice Mixture for Piernik
Having looked at many recipes I have made my own basic 3 spice mixture – to which I can add other spices if I want a variation.
I have mixed equal parts of ground cinnamon, cloves & cardamom & saved them in a jar.
In Polish shops in England you can buy ready mixed spices for piernik.
This little packet contains around 2 tablespoons.
You can use the mixed spice mixture which is sold by Marks & Spencer which contains: dried orange peel, cassia (a variety of cinnamon), ginger, nutmeg, pimento (allspice) and caraway.
Piernik in Poland is associated with the Christmas season and would be made for Christmas Eve and for Christmas Day, it would also be made for Święty Mikołaj – December 6th – St Nicholas Day. This a day for present giving in Poland to children and I would always get a piernik shaped and decorated to look like the bishop that was St Nicholas.
I have been looking through my many recipe books and there are just dozens of different recipes & I have been trying some of these out.
Many of the recipes have the addition of chopped nuts and/or mixed peel – I have not added these to my tests as I just wanted to try out the “basic” recipe.
Some of the recipes were for large quantities & I have cut them down in size. Many do not give baking tin sizes or oven temperatures – so I have done a bit of trial and error with some of the ones I have done.
In many of the recipes the dough or batter once mixed up is left for up to 3 weeks before baking. This indeed is a slow fermentation!
Even if the piernik is mixed and baked on the same day, most of them benefit from being wrapped and left for several days before serving.
The recipes in this post are ones you mix and bake on the same or the next day.
My mother made miodownik – honey spice cake (which could be classed as a piernik). Hers is a more moist cake using vegetable oil, which is certainly a more modern ingredient.
This first recipe is adapted from a recently bought little cookbook.
The honey used in the book was given as fir tree honey – this would be a dark honey and would make the cake very dark.
(I remember getting some of this when one of my cousins came from Poland – it was nearly black!)
The honey you use will make a difference to the colour and flavour of the cake. I have used a basic clear type honey.
As only honey is used in this recipe, I think this one is nearer the old recipes.
450g plain flour
350g runny honey
125g butter or block margarine
Grated rind of a 1 lemon
1 egg – beaten
100ml of milk
1 + 1/2 teaspoons of spices
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
Pre-heat the oven to GM4 – 180°C.
Grease and line a large loaf tin – mine is longer than the regular 2lb tin.
Gently melt the butter in a small saucepan.
Mix together the spices, bicarbonate of soda and salt & add these to the flour in a large bowl.
Add the egg, the milk and the lemon rind and mix together.
Add the honey and the milk and mix together till you have a uniform smooth consistency.
Put the mixture into the tin and smooth the top.
Bake for around 50 minutes – checking a little earlier & cover with greaseproof paper it it looks like burning on the top if you need more time.
Leave to cool in the tin.
Wrap in foil to store.
The piernik can be dusted with icing sugar, topped with icing or with chocolate icing – of course these are relatively modern additions to the medieval piernik!
Addition of pepper
I made the piernik as above with the addition of 1/2 a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper with the spices.
I did not think it added much to the flavour – I was expecting it to be a little peppery!
This little honey recipe book has around 2 dozen recipes for piernik to choose from! (miód is Polish for honey)
400g plain flour
1 tablespoonful of butter
120g of granulated sugar
250g runny honey
125ml of milk
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of spices
Warm the honey slightly.
Put the flour in a large bowl and rub in the butter.
Add the sugar, bicarbonate of soda and the spices.
Mix in the eggs.
Add the honey
Add the milk & mix to give a very thick batter.
Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave it in a cool place for a couple of hours.
Grease & line a 32cm by 22cm baking tin.
Pre-heat the oven to GM 5 -190°C.
Put the cake mixture into the tin and spread it out.
Bake for around 30 minutes (check earlier and cover if it looks like burning.)
Leave in the tin to cool.
Wrap in foil and leave for a couple of days .
Tea plate is Sonnet by Royal Doulton, 1971 to 1998.
This piernik can be dusted with icing sugar, topped with icing or with chocolate icing.
It can also be cut into 2 slabs which are then sandwiched together with powidła which is a lovely spread – often translated as jam but is not really a jam.
It is made from fresh ripe plums which are heated and stirred for hours until the water is driven off and you get a thick paste. The traditional version does not have any extra sugar added.
I bought some in my local Polish shop, I have seen it for sale before in glass jars, this product is in a plastic tub
Pierniczki – Small Honey Cakes
Pierniczki are a small cake or biscuit version of piernik.
For Święty Mikołaj – December 6th – St Nicholas Day I often buy packets of these glazed with clear or white icing or chocolate (You can get them in lots of shops nowadays including Lidl & Aldi) but sometimes I make them myself as they are very easy & delicious.
280g plain flour
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
180g of granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of spice
100g of runny honey
Icing sugar to dust
Pre heat the oven to GM 5 – 190oC
Grease several baking sheets.
In a bowl mix all the dry ingredients together.
Beat the eggs lightly and mix these and the honey into the dry ingredients.
Place tablespoons well apart on the greased sheets and bake for about 10 minutes.
They do spread quite a bit.
Leave to cool for a few minutes on the tray and then put the on a wire rack to cool and the dust with icing sugar.
Pierniczki – Small Honey Cakes (filled)
The dough for these is made the evening before.
120g runny honey
60g granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of spice
40g of butter
250g of plain flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1 large egg
Powidła, apricot or sour cherry jam
Lightly beaten egg white for a glaze
Heat the honey in a saucepan over a moderate heat and add the sugar and spices, stirring all the time for about 3 to 4 minutes so that the sugar is dissolved but do not let the honey boil.
Remove from the heat and allow it to cool.
In a separate pan melt the butter and then set that aside to cool.
In a large bowl add the baking powder to the flour.
Pour in the honey mixture, melted butter and the egg and mix with a a wooden spoon to form a soft dough.
Transfer to a small bowl and cover with a cloth and refrigerate overnight.
The next day -take out for 15 minutes before using.
Grease several baking sheets.
Pre-heat the oven to GM 4 – 180°C
You need a 6cm round cutter.
Cut the dough into halves or thirds.
Roll out the dough till it is thin and cut out circles.
Place a largish teaspoon of the powidła or jam on the middle of the circle (going for height).
The more jam the better but it can be hard to seal the circles – takes a bit of practice!
Place another circle on top and press the edges together firmly.
You can brush the tops with beaten egg white.
Place on the baking sheet – leaving some space between circles.
Bake for 15 minutes – checking earlier as they burn easily.
Leave to cool slightly on the tin before placing them on a wire rack.
Dust them with icing sugar.
Served on tea plates – Counterpoint by Royal Doulton 1973 – 1987.
Easy unfilled option
I think once you have tried the jam filled ones, these will be the only ones you want!
However if you want a harder biscuit to decorate with icing then just place single circles on the baking trays and bake for 8 – 10 minutes – you really need to keep an eye on these as they burn very easily.
These come out as a quite hard biscuit.
These can be decorated with icing or chocolate icing.
This cake recipe is one I came across recently and I like it because it uses tea – a drink well loved in Poland.
It is similar to a keks which is usually made in a loaf tin but I like to make this one in a round tin.
The recipe uses 8 tea bags and I think Earl Grey, Lady Grey & Empress Grey tea bags are really good. (If you do not have tea bags then use 8 teaspoons of loose tea, but have it in a muslin bag as you do not want the tea leaves in the cake.)
I have used dried fruits consisting just of currants, raisins, sultanas & peel.
You could make it more Polish by using a bakalie mixture which also has chopped dates, figs & prunes, however I would not add nuts – or if you want to use them – add them after the overnight soaking.
500g mixed dried fruit
8 tea bags (Earl Grey, Lady Grey or Empress Grey)
300ml boiling water
500g self-raising flour
325g butter or block margarine
1 teaspoon mixed spice
pinch of salt
Place the teabags in a large bowl and add the boiling water and stir to make a very strong tea.
Add the dried fruit and stir well.
Leave the fruit to soak overnight.
Pre-heat your oven to GM 3 , 150°C.
Grease and line a 23cm loose bottom or a spring-form tin.
Place the flour and butter or margarine into a large bowl and use your finger tips to rub in the fat until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
In a bowl mix the sugar, salt & mixed spice thoroughly.
Add the sugar mixture to the flour & butter mixture and stir well.
Add the eggs and the soaked fruit and all the remaining liquid and stir well.
Pour the mixture into the baking tin and level the top.
Bake in the oven for 1 hour 40 minutes.
Check after an hour and place a piece of foil or greaseproof paper on the top if it is beginning to burn.
Check to see if the cake is done with a cake tester or skewer.
Note – This cake is large and you run the risk of having it underdone in the middle – make sure it is cooked in the middle when testing.
Leave to cool in the tin.
Served on tea plates – Greenway Hostess – design by John Russell, 1960 – 1979.
Smaller Sized Cake
This cake is large so I thought I would have a go at making a smaller version.
There are 5 eggs in the original recipe so I decided to do a 3 egg version.
To make it more Polish, I used a bakalie mixture which had chopped dates, figs, peel & prunes as well as the currants, raisins & sultanas.
300g bakalie or dried mixed fruit
5 tea bags (Earl Grey, Lady Grey or Empress Grey)
200ml boiling water
300g self-raising flour
200g butter or block margarine
1 teaspoon mixed spice
pinch of salt
As above – using a 20cm tin.
Bake for around 1 hour 20 minutes – checking after 50 minutes and covering if necessary with a piece of greaseproof paper to stop the top burning.
Maybe because of the different dried fruits I thought it came out drier than the large one & I served it sliced with some butter.
However I have found that if you wrap the cake in aluminium foil for a day or two – it improves – becoming more moist.
Served on tea plates – La prune – by Jet for Ter Steege in The Netherlands.
Corylus avellana is the hazelnut, also known as cobnut or filbert nut. In Polish it is orzech laskowy – which translates as nut of the forest and as its name implies hazel trees or bushes grow abundantly in Poland.
Turkey is the largest commercial producer of hazelnuts followed by Italy.
Ferrero SpA – makers of Ferrero Rocher and Nutella use 25% of the global supply of hazelnuts per annum.
Tort is a layer cake (in England the French word gateaux is used) – the layers of cake being sandwiched together with a butter cream (Sweet whipped cream was hardly known in Poland – with soured cream being the norm).
The word tort is originally from the Latin torta – flat cake or round loaf of bread.
A tort can be round or in a block shape – it often has very decorative piping – my decorations tend to be more simple!
A tort is often made for celebrations and is often very large – I have recipes which call for a dozen or more eggs!
The following recipe only uses 6 eggs!
This tort recipe uses hazelnuts which have been roasted and then ground.
I often buy my hazelnuts from a dried fruit & nut stall in Leeds Kirkgate Market. This the largest covered market in Europe and was founded in 1875 and has around 100,000 visitors per week.
On this stall you can buy : whole hazel nuts, roasted hazel nuts and ground roasted hazel nuts.
I use either roasted hazel nuts and grind them myself or roast the hazel nuts myself and then grind them.
Roasting Hazel Nuts
To roast hazelnuts put the shelled nuts on a baking tray and put them in an oven at GM 5 – 190°C for around 10 to 15 minutes – keep checking as it is easy to burn them.
Once they are done, leave them to cool and then rub off the papery skins between your fingers and discard them.
I use an electric grinder which is very useful.
225g caster sugar
225g roasted & ground hazelnuts
2 sponge fingers – crushed
Pre-heat the oven to GM5 – 190°C
Grease and line a 23cm x 32cm baking tray.
Mix together the ground hazelnuts and crushed sponge fingers.
Whisk together the eggs and caster sugar until they are pale and fluffy.
Fold in the nut mixture.
Pour the mixture onto the baking tray and bake for around 20 minutes until it is golden on top.
Take out and leave it to cool on a cooling tray.
Measure the length of the cake and cut it into 3 equal pieces.
A poncz (sweet punch for moistening the cake) is used on each layer.
I used one made from 150ml of weak black tea, 45 ml of rum and 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar.
Rum Butter Cream
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons of rum
300g icing sugar ( approximate amount)
Cream together the butter and egg yolks.
Add the rum and cream again.
Mix in the icing sugar till you have a smooth butter cream
Using a spatulas layer up the cake first with poncz on each layer and then the butter cream.
Cover the top and sides with the butter cream.
Make fancy patterns with spatulas (or you can do fancy piping if you wish).
Little spatulas for decorating with icing.
Tea plates are Silver Rose by Duchess from the 1950s & 1960s.
The cake slice is Water Garden by Portmeirion.
The same quantities and method as above can be used for two 18m diameter cake tins.
Here the poncz was made from 150ml weak black tea and 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar & coffee butter cream was used.
Coffee Butter Cream
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons of very strong coffee
250g of icing sugar (approximate amount)
Making Strong Ground Coffee
Cream the butter and egg yolk.
Add the coffee and cream again.
Mix in the icing sugar until you have a thick butter cream.
Use the poncz to moisten the cake & layer up and coat with the icing.
Very useful cake lifter – from Lakeland Plastics – for moving the cake
Another cake lifter
Tea set is by Spencer Stevenson Co Ltd, who manufactured in England between 1948 and 1960. The design name is not known.
Green Teapot is Café Culture by Maxwell Williams.
Other Cake Sizes
3 eggs with 110g of roasted hazel nuts & 110g of caster sugar for 1 – 18cm diameter cake tin.
4 eggs with 150g of roasted hazelnuts & 150g of caster sugar for 1 – 22cm diameter cake tin.