The two ladies serving me in the bakery are watching me with interest and curiosity as I move around the small cafe. First I take a few photos of the cake display, think iced doughnuts, fresh cream cakes, warm bread and breakfast pastries and you won’t go far wrong. Then I move onto taking a few shots of the cake on my plate and finally my coffee. It’s a paper plate and paper cup and I’m trying to get the best shot I can of my cake without the plate bending and dropping my precious find on the floor! Not the easiest task and so I persist! This isn’t really the place to linger as most of the customers who are Polish, just come in, order and grab a takeaway coffee as they hurry to work. I’m here on a trip so have some spare time to dine in and enjoy my Kremówka and coffee.
In search of Kremówka
So what’s brought me here? It’s my third morning in Krakow, I’m here on a press trip to explore traditional and modern Polish cusine, and it’s the first chance I get to leave the group for a short while and do some exploration on my own. Having sampled most of the ‘continental’ items on the breakfast buffet of our hotel already, I decided to head out to find coffee and, if I’m lucky a special cake that I’ve had on my ‘Poland Eat list’ for a while.
Do you make ‘to Eat lists’ when you travel? I do! Months before a trip to a foreign country, or even another Emirate, I start doing research on things to do, places to visit and most importantly, things to eat! As I’m passionate about Specialty Coffee my initial searches for the trip to Poland, focused on this then my scope widened to cover ‘must eat foods’ and ‘must eat desserts’. Imagine my surprise to find out that high up there on the list of ‘must eat desserts’ was Kremówka which it turns out, is similar to Mille Feuille, one of my all-time favourite desserts!
Kremówka Papieska – Papal Cream Cake or Napoleonaka
This is a dessert that seems to have plenty of names and every time I research a slight variation comes up on the information so bear with me! Kremówka (pronounced kreh-MOOV-kah) is a Polish type of cream/custard pie made of two layers of puff pastry, filled with whipped cream, creamy buttercream, vanilla pastry cream or sometimes egg white cream, and is usually sprinkled with sugar. It’s similar to Mille Feuille, a firm favourite of mine.
Papal Cream Cake
Kremówka is also referred to as Papal Cake or Papal Cream Cake following Pope John Paul II visit to Wadowice (his hometown) in 1999 when he mentioned his love for the pastry he and his school friends bought from the local bakery. Hence its also referred to as Kremówka papieska, the Papal Cream Cake. Apparently, he loved it so much that he ate eighteen Kremówka for a bet after his matura exam (end of Secondary School) and despite eating eighteen, apparently he didn’t win the bet!
Kremówka is also referred to as Napoleonka because of it’s similarities to the French Mille Feuille also referred to as Napoleon.
Pastry ~ Cream ~ Custard
Confused yet? I am…. Well, no matter what you call it (I’m going to keep on calling it Kremówka), at the heart of this delicious treat is pastry, cream and/or custard with a sprinkling of sugar on top, or in my case some more cream and a chocolate disk!
You can find Kremówka in bakeries around Poland, and they are a real treat to eat and great value too! The few that I had cost about 4 polish zloty which is 4 Dirhams or about £1. During my trip, I spotted two main types, a simple creme patisserie version sprinkled with icing sugar and the one I tasted (twice just for consistency purposes of course!) a ‘posher version’ with cream on the top labelled as Kremówka Wiedeneska which translates as Viennese Cream Cake, perhaps in reverence to Jewish cake maker Karol Hagenhuber, who came to Poland from Vienna and had a confectionary shop in Wadowice Town Square (which is where Pope John Paul II had Kremókow).
Kremówka – love at first bite!
So now we know all about Kremókwa, let’s return to my breakfast treat!
It’s eight am on a warm summers morning and the hotel receptionist has given me directions to the local bakery, although she’s somewhat puzzled as to why I want to go out and eat so early in the morning when breakfast is included in my hotel stay. My time is limited to finding somewhere to eat that’s close to the hotel so whilst I’ve done research on the best places to eat Kremówka in Krakow, I have to compromise and find somewhere that I can walk to in the limited time I have before we head out of Krawkow to explore the mountains. Just a short walk from my hotel is a place called Aviteks which was recommended by the hotel receptionist because it’s close and open. So it’s here I find myself enjoying ‘breakfast for one’ and I’m eating the infamous Krewmówka also referred to as Papal Cake or Napoleonaka.
The Kremówka was everything I expected and more! Ignoring the paper plate situation which I wasn’t keen on, I moved onto the Kremokwa it’self. My Kremówka was made up of five different layers each one bringing something special to the mix. Starting at the bottom there was a layer of rich crispy buttery puff pastry. Next was a generous layer of thick custard and then a layer of sweetened cream which was probably creme patisserie. The final layer was a crispy sheet of puff pastry. Typically you could stop here at four layers, dust with icing sugar and call it a day, but I’ve ‘gone posh’ and having been tempted at the counter have chosen the Kremówka Wiedeneska which has an added layer (and probably two million more calories, but who cares I’m on holiday!). I digress, the final layer of my multilayered treat is a topping of piped creme patisserie along with a rich dark chocolate disk bearing the name of the bakery – Aviteks.
How to eat a Kremówka
Unless you want to be covered in bits of pastry and cream, there’s a skill to eating this type of dessert which I learned from a French Chef. At a Mille Feuille masterclass with Chef Jeremie of Sofitel, Downtown which you can read about here, I was told that you should flip the pastry over onto its side. This then allows you to slice the pastry through horizontally so that you can taste all of the different layers of the dessert. Perfect! – Alternatively, just go for it! – but you have been warned!
You can find Kremówka at most cafes and bakeries in Krakow. I visited Aviteks as it was close to the hotel. It has mixed reviews in terms of customer service which I can understand. The first morning I received a cool reception from the ladies serving me. The second day I was welcomed with a more friendly greeting and smiles, I think they are a little more reserved than me! But their shyness is perceived as something different! If I had been able to stay longer I’m sure I would have made some new bakery friends (as well as to enjoy more Polish desserts.)
Want to find the best Kremówka in Krakow?
Unfortunately, I didn’t get time to run around and taste too many, particularly as the pastry shops close about 6-6.30 pm and often we were still out and about at that time, so instead, I’ve done some research for you and here’s what’s being said :
Check out: Cukiernia Czarodziej who describe themselves as “a wizard – a Krakow patisserie with magical sweet cakes, desserts, coffee and ice-cream”. who have been awarded a distinction in the sugar confectionary awards with their Kremokwa and are regular award winners. I did a quick search and couldn’t find anyone else tipped as the best apart from these guys – so do check them out if you are visiting (and let me know please)!
Wadowice – where Pope John Paul II tasted Kremówka!
If you have more time, then perhaps take a trip to Galicjanka rated number 1 for desserts in Wadowice – approx 50 kilometres south of Krakow (perhaps that’s for my next trip!).
Our history began in 1922 when Franciszek Kolasa (having the title of Master baker) started to plumb the mysteries of baking in a small rented room in Stryszów. Every morning he delivered bread on horseback to the neraby villages. Unfortunately, after World War II the bakery was nationalized. In 1991 the family decided to resume baking. Franciszek taught how to produce kvass and he revealed traditional recipes.
I haven’t got around to making my own Kremókwa yet, but I will do!
If you want to make Kremówka yourself then here are a few recipes that I will take inspiration from:
Queen of baking, Martha Stewart’s recipe is HERE you can also watch her making it on Netflix if you prefer to watch rather than bake 🙂
The Spruce Eats shares her recipe for Kremówka Papieska and also shares a recipe for Karpatka Polish Carpathian Mountain Cream Cake which she says is a peasant version of Kremokow made with choix pastry instead of puff pastry. Finally, the recipe from European Cuisines for Kremowka Papieska/”Papal” Cream Cake is interesting as they provide further information on the history of the Kremowka and make references to it being made by thrifty bakers with leftover pastry, cream patisserie etc which somehow makes perfect sense and I like the idea of a stunning dessert being made using imagination and leftovers!
Krakow is the second largest city/town in Poland and is near the border of the Czech Republic. It is known for its well-preserved medieval core and Jewish quarter. Its old town – ringed by Planty Park and remnants of the city’s medieval walls – is centred on the stately, expansive Rynek Glówny (market square).
Visit Poland to discover it’s food, cuisine, culture and culinary traditions and you won’t be disappointed. We were enormously impressed with the food and drink culture in Krakow. Whilst we were only in Krakow for a few days we experienced a wide range of activities including shopping for local produce, two different cooking classes, a wine tasting of Polish wine, and three different restaurant dinners each showcasing modern takes on classic polish food. Not to mention, traditional Jewish cuisine in the Jewish quarter, street food, Lodi (Polish ice-cream), Kremókwa, glazed doughnuts and Speciality Coffee plus a whole lot of food and drink passion and there’s much more to be discovered as we barely scratched the surface!
European Capital of Gastronomic Culture
2019 is a big year for Krakow as they have been selected as the first European Capital of Gastronomic Culture and there will be a year-round programme of food and drink events. I’m definitely going back for that!
You can fly from Dubai direct to Krakow with Fly Dubai (6 hours) or to Warsaw (6 hours 15 minutes) with Emirates and take the direct train to Krakow which takes approx 3 hours.
From Europe – plenty of options – direct flight time is approx two and a half hours from Heathrow.
Time Difference: Krakow is 2 hours behind Dubai (GMT + 2)
Approx costs of dining out based on 1 Polish Zloty = 1 Dirham
Kraków’s climate generally features warm, but not hot summers and cool, but not cold winters, and a relatively narrow annual temperature range. The summer can bring very hot days, but there are certainly many places to enjoy the open air both in the city and surrounding countryside, particularly the lakes near Kraków and the mountains to the south where you can find the outdoor activity capital of Poland, Zakopane. Source : Visit Krakow
Coming Soon! – so stay tuned
You can read more posts and see videos covering our trip to Poland shortly on FoodeMag dxb.
Disclaimer: I attended this trip as a guest of Krajowy Osderek Wsparcia Rolnictwa (the National Support Centre for Agriculture in Poland), Poland Tastes Good and the Krakow Municipality with the mission to learn and share about Poland and its food, cuisine, culture and culinary traditions.
All views, opinions and images, unless otherwise stated are my own.
(Instagram links to other sites are for reference purposes and are not my own).