A reader asked if I had a good recipe for Pope’s Cake, something that was new to me. I hope this, Kremówka Papieska or Papal Cream Cake, will fit the bill. A little research told me that kremówka (cream cookie), pastry cream sandwiched between two layers of puff pastry, very similar to the French Napoleaon, became famous when Pope John Paul II reminisced about the pastry from a bakery in his hometown of Wadowice.
All of my research and my own experience leads to me make a couple of recommendations regarding the top and bottom crust of the pastry. Poke the puff pastry many times with a fork before it goes in the oven, to let out steam as it’s baking, and hopefully keeping it somewhat flatter.
In addition, you might after “forking” the crust, cover with parchment and a cooling rack, a little something to hold it down. You want the light crisp layers, but you don’t want a lot of airy space in between the layers. Or maybe consider making a rough puff pastry, which should give you a flaky crust but with a little less volume, but let’s face it, what could be easier than using frozen puff pastry?
The first batch I baked, I did nothing to, other than roll it a tiny bit, The height, out of the box, was just right for my baking sheets, so I rolled it to be about 1.5 – 2 inches wider. I put it in the oven an didn’t check it for 15 minutes. By that time, it was already puffed up at least 4 inches high, a ridiculous amount for a top and bottom crust. . . insert quick trip to the grocery store. . . the second time I baked puffed pastry, I decided to bake only one sheet, cutting it in half for the top and bottom crusts. Using half a sheet was ideal because it gave me the desired thickness of pastry cream.
I poked the sheets with a fork every inch or so, I put parchment paper and an upside-down cooling rack on top of the poked pastry, removing the “toppers” for the last two minutes to baking to be sure the pastry could dry out. This time, my frozen puff pastry only got to be about an inch thick, a marked improvement, but still a little thick for my purposes. I split it in half crosswise, giving me top and bottom crusts of about 1/2 an inch in thickness. Perfect! Finally!
I’ll tell you that I lost my nerve and didn’t cook the pastry cream quite long enough. When chilled, it wasn’t setting up firm enough to use as a filling in this recipe. So in order to save it, I first added some gelatin by softening a bit of unflavored gelatin in water and then heating until it dissolved, and cooling to room temp. This is the process I use to stabilize whipped cream.
I chilled again for a few hours, but it was still too runny. Next, I put it back on the heat and stirred in a heaping tablespoon of cornstarch into about 1/4 cup of water and I whisked this slurry into the custard, cooking it until it was steaming and just beginning to bubble. It cooled over night, and it was finally enough. Whether it was the addition time or the corn starch that made the difference, I can’t say, but I was very relieved.
I hope your Kremówka Papieska or Papal Cream Cake turns out perfectly!
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Kremówka Papieska or Papal Cream Cake
A rich vanilla pastry cream sandwiched between crisp puff pastry, a favorite with Saint John Paul II
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry
- 2 cups milk
- 1 vanilla bean or 3 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 egg yolks
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup corn starch
- 1 cup butter
- powdered sugar for decorating
- Preheat oven to 425 F, divide frozen puff pastry into two equal pieces, poke at 1 inch intervals with a fork, place on a parchment lined baking sheet, top with parchment, and an upside down cooling rack, bake for 15 minutes, remove top parchment and cooling rack, bake at least 2 minutes more or until golden brown, cool
- Pour milk into saucepan, slice vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds and add to milk (or vanilla extract) heat almost to boil
- In a bowl beat egg yolks and sugar until light yellow and fluffy, add corn starch and mix until well combined, very slowly (a spoonful at a time in the beginning) add hot milk, stirring constantly
- Return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring until very thick, some say it should coat the back of a spoon and running your finger through it should leave a clear path, cool to room temp covered with plastic wrap, pushed down on top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming
- When completely cool, whisk in softened butter
- Depending on the height of the puff pastry, either use one piece as the bottom crust or spilt one and use the bottom half, spread with pastry cream, cover with the second, top half and press gently, use a spatula to smooth out the sides, refrigerate overnight
- The next day cut into rectangles with a light sawing motion, not with pressure
- Before serving, generously dust with powdered sugar.
An accountant by trade and a food blogger since 2009, Lois Britton fell in love with Polish cuisine during the years she lived in Poznań, Poland. As the creator of PolishHousewife.com, she loves connecting readers with traditional Polish recipes. Lois has a graduate certificate in Food Writing and Photography from the University of South Florida. She is the author of The Polish Housewife Cookbook, available on Amazon and on her website.
I saw this on Instagram, I fell in love! I can’t wait to try this… And I would definitely make my own rough puff pastry.
I suspected you would make your own pastry.
Is there a brand name for the puff pastry? I’ve never seen it in a store. (I live in USA) Thanks in advance. Carol
Pepperidge Farms, Carol, you’ll want the sheets not the cups.
Penny S. Sumner
It is the frozen dessert section of your grocery store, I use Pepperidge Farm brand.
I used the puff pastry cups and filled them with the custard. Topped it with a drizzle of chocolate. Beautiful and delicious.
Trader Joe’s sells frozen puff pastry made from butter during this time of year. There is a French brand of puff pastry available in some premium market, but Trader Joe’s brand is the price performer.
Are you making this in a 9 x 13 glass pyrex pan? If not then what size and how many pieces do you get or how many does it feed, thankyou kindly.
Hi Tammy, I think I didn’t assemble this in a pan, but on a cutting board or platter. The custard is that thick.
wow…how many does it feed and how big did you cut the pieces, thanks
I don’t think I put it in a pan, maybe just assembled on a cutting board. It probably was about 9×13 in size. I cut it into 8 large pieces, but you could certainly make more smaller pieces.
would you please explain to me the preparation for the baking pan I am very confused as what to do with the upside down baking rack ???
Hi Angie, I put the baking rack unside down on top the puff pastry to kind of hold it down. You don’t want it to become too high as it bakes.
Ok dahh.. now I get it !!!!! I will be making it this weekend…Happy New year to you !!!!
It’s strange, not something bakers usually do! Happy new year to you too!
If my experience using puff pastry holds true, refrigerating this overnight will cause the pastry to soften and get a bit soggy. Is this what will happen?
The pastry was softer after being refrigerated, Joan, but as I recall, it didn’t strike me as soggy.
I’m curious. I’ve never heard of this dessert before, could you kinda tell me what it is?
Hi Jessica, I guess this could be described as a Polish Napoleon. It’s a thick custard sandwiched between layers of puff pastry.
Sounds intriguing! I have knew about this, nor even tried it! Can’t wait for some Pope’s Cake!
Knowing how you get around, Jonny, I have no doubt you’ll sample it as his favorite bakery.
We served this at my wedding in 1970. Fabulous!
An excellent choice; it looks so festive! 🙂
I do not poke the pastry, I don’t cut it in half. I bake it as is, and when it is done, after it cools off, it is all puffed up, I slice it through the middle length wise, like an oyster, so that I get half for the bottom, and half for the top full size.
To the cream, after it cools off, I add one box of extra creamy cool whip, mix well. It helps to set it and enhances the taste and texture.
I tried Kremowka while in Krakow last year. This is my favorite dessert. The silky vanilla cream is something I cannot avoid mentioning anytime there is a conversation about baked goods or Poland. I am going to make this tomorrow!! I will be traveling to northern Poland next month – I hope I can find a bakery that serves Kremowka.
When you visit Poland would you see if you can find a recipe straight from a bakery there, please??!!
Can’t wait to try this! Custard and puff pastry what’s not to like. Btw forking dough AKA “docking the pastry”
Is thère a recipe for poppyseed bread ?
You should know, Diana, that I usually use a can of Solo poppy seed filling rather than make my own as this recipe suggests.
I followed this recipe exactly and the cream/custard filling is thick, but when spread on the pastry and topped with the the other half of the pastry, you cannot even see the filling. It does not look like the picture at all. And adding a whole cup of butter to the custard mixture made it thinner. What did I do wrong? I had this dessert when I visited Poland last summer and loved it!!!
Oh, Jenny, I’m so sorry to hear this didn’t turn out the way you expected. As I recall, after trimming the sides, I think my half sheet of pastry must have been about 4 x 12 inches. The photo looks like I might have 8 pieces on the platter, probably 2 x 3.
I made this yesterday and everybody loved it. I followed your recipe exactly except I used the vanilla extract instead of the whole vanilla bean because the only store I could find whole vanilla beans wanted almost $30 for a jar of 3 beans. I used one whole pastry sheet for the top and one for the bottom which doubled the overall size so then I made two separate batches of custard and combined them after they cooled. The custard is delicious! It is an impressive looking dessert for how little work went into it. It was very easy to make! I lightly rolled the pastry out before baking it and when mine was completely finished it measured about 11″x11″. I cut it into 16 pieces and mine were not as quite as thick as yours but almost as thick as yours in your photo. I’ll definitely make this again!
I haven’t made this yet but I intend to soon. I had kremowka in Krakow. It was delicious and memorable. After that trip, I told my parents about kremowka. They said it sounded very similar to something called krempita, which we always got from a Yugoslavian restaurant called The Golden Shell, on Chicago’s southside back in the 70s. It’s no longer there, but I do remember having it. My grandparents are Croatian and Polish. Love this food so much!
I’m not surprised you had something similar in a Yugoslavian restaurant. So many recipes cross borders. Thanks for your note!
I just made it and it is in my fridge I will finish it tomorrow morning
Danna R O'Donnell
I made this for this evening dessert. It was increadable! A new favorite for us. We severd with fresh summer fruit comport the richness for the cream against the sweet and tang of the fruit was unreal.OUr family of 9 inhaled this. I barely managed to hide a couple pieces for morning coffee.
I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Danna. The fruit compote sounds like a great addition!
I just made this Christmas eve. The cream tastes very buttery. Did I do something wrong? Or is it because I did not have fresh vanilla bean?
Hi Kelly, not being in the kitchen and tasting with you, I really can’t say. I hope the buttery taste did not dampen the Christmas celebration.
Paula L Niksa
I cut the butter down significantly – 2-4 tablespoons – worked perfectly.
Paula L Niksa
This is awesome….exactly what I experienced in Wadowice when we visited. I had tried several recipes for this previously, but this one nails it! There are 2 things I would comment on – first, once the cream is made, you do need to refrigerate for an hour or so to really let it set….letting it cool is not enough. (Can you tell my first one failed!! 🙂 ) Second, you can do with a lot less butter….I googled how to make a pastry cream because my first one came out a bit lumpy – I had neglected to keep an aye on it and stir from the start) and most only use 2-4 tablespoons of butter…..I tried it that way the second time and it was indeed enough. This is a delicious recipe -thanks for chasing it down!!!
I made this for my parish priest who is from Poland.
When he took his first bite…. A tear ran down his cheek…. I said …I guess I got the right recipe…he finished his first piece without saying a word. Then said
“ it’s just like I was eating it in Poland”
Thanks for letting me know, Linda. You made my day!