Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Poland: Ciasto Pijak (Drunkards Cake)

Flag ~ Poland ~ Pologne ~ Polska

What surprised me as I became more involved in the researching of recipes for this blog, is how this blog is not just about cake. Of course, cake is the canvas, but more than that the recipes showcase a culture and its history. Eastern European countries are an excellent example of this, in that their foods are closely linked to their heritage – many recipes are either a result of using what was available during the communist occupations, or conversely a resurgence of traditional cultural dishes.

After gaining independence in 1989, Poland (like many others) started a slow food revival, moving away from the many state-owned restaurants to a reaffirming of their cultural heritage. Fast food declined in popularity and far more interest has been given to reviving traditional meals, this recipe being one of them.

I discovered this recipe whilst doing some research into Polish desserts and cakes, and it immediately caught my attention due to the stripes and layering within the cake. I love cakes that look good though the base cake, not just the decoration put on top, and layers are a particularly good way to achieve this. This cake consists of layers of chocolate and poppyseed sponge, sandwiched with cherry compote, topped with pastry cream and ladyfingers soaked in rum (giving the cake its name). The final layer is a melted chocolate and nut topping which acts as a firm shell, resulting in a fantastic contrast of textures within the cake, from the soft sponge and cream to the final crisp and crunchy chocolate shell.

drunkards cake 1

The layers of cake, custard and jam

Drunkards cake 2

With the rum-soaked ladyfingers

drunkards cake 3

With the chocolate and nut shell.

The original recipe was adapted from here. There are several other recipes available, though many of these are in Polish, which led to some interesting translations from Google, which was why I decided to stick to this one! This cake is a bit of a mission as though it is quite simple to make there are a lot of different components, however it is worth it!

Ciasto Pijak (Drunkards Cake)


Chocolate Sponge Cake:

  • 3 large room temperature eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cake flour + 1 tablespoon cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • Pinch salt

Poppyseed Sponge Cake:

  • 3 large room-temperature eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup poppyseeds
  • 1/2 cup dried, sweetened flaked coconut

Crème Patisserie

  • 425ml milk
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 level tbsp plain flour
  • 1 level tbsp cornflower
  • 10g butter

Other ingredients:

  • 2 cups cherry preserves
  • 1 cup dark rum
  • 1 pack ladyfingers
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat the oven to 350°F and greasing a 13″ by 9″ tin. Set aside. To make the chocolate sponge, place the eggs and sugar in a heat proof bowl and beat over a pan of simmering water for 1 minute, until the sugar has dissolved. Using a handheld whisk, beat on a high setting for about three minutes until the mixture has tripled in volume. Sift the cocoa powder, flour and salt into the bowl, folding gently to just incorporate – you don’t want to stir too much at this point. Spread the batter in the tin and bake for about 12 minutes until cooked. Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and leaving to cool completely.

Next prepare the poppyseed sponge in the same method as the chocolate sponge, beating the eggs and sugar together before sifting in the dry ingredients. Bake for 12 minutes (or until done – do check as all ovens are different!) before cooling and removing from the tin.

Next on the long list of components (it’s worth it I promise you!) is the vanilla pastry cream. Put the milk and vanilla pod in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Take it off the heat and pour it into a bowl, allowing the vanilla pod to infuse the milk. Mix together the sugar and egg yolks until the mixture is pale and thick. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and discard. Slowly add the milk to the mixture, whisking constantly. Add the flour and cornflower, continuing to whisk the mixture. Return to the pan and bring to the boil, before reducing the heat and simmering the mixture for three minutes, stirring continuously. Remove the mixture from the heat immediately and place into a bowl, covering with a sheet of greased baking parchment to prevent a skin from forming. Leave to cool completely.

Now we are ready to assemble! (Finally, you say.) Start with the chocolate sponge, place it on the serving dish and spread with the cherry compote/preserves. Top with the poppyseed cake before spreading with the pastry cream and placing the cake in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour.

Dip each ladyfinger in rum before placing them neatly in a single layer on top of the cake. Return to the fridge and chill for another hour. Melt the chocolate and oil together and spread over the top of the cooled cake before sprinkling with the chopped walnuts. Put back in the fridge overnight, and serve cold, cut into small squares.

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