slice of cake on a plate next to a cake

Pleśniak – emergency cake that will make you look like a pro

June 11, 2020

This cake has an unfairly horrible name. If you translate it directly from Polish it will be something along “a mouldy thing”. It used to be quite popular 30-40 years ago. As it is really a quick one it was a solid choice for a birthday party, name‘s day party, any other party. Then it sort of disappeared and nowadays you can see it here and there. Simple cake that, I believe, should not disappear among all the fancy cakes or profiteroles. What’s your “go to” cake recipe?

If you think calling a cake “mouldy thing” is weird – there is much more descriptions that are equally unappetising – nibbler, to take the first one. To defend its honour I have to mention that in some of the households it was/is used to be called “champagne cake”. So all is not lost for it. I don‘t remember times when it was present at birthday parties – as a kid who grew up in the 90. I only remember sponge cake with fruits and jello. But I do remember my mom asking grandma to make “pleśniak” and I remember frowning as it sounded absolutely horrible. Little did I know.

Four layers of sweetness with a sour-y surprise

What’s the charm? You probably have all the ingredients at home. The cake consists of five layers. Bottom one is a shortcrust pastry, rolled flat. On top of that you smear what we know in Poland as powidła. Austrians know it as Powidl and an English world? Plum jam or plum preserve probably, but it is made of very specific kind of plums called węgierki (the small ones). Other options are black or red currant preserve. Just make sure it is not sweet, you want something that will create a contrast to more layers that are yet to come.

On top of the jam layer you can also lay actual fruit – either fresh or frozen. I would advise to also stick to those sour-y ones rather than sweet ones: cherries, rhubarb, currants or some sort of berries. Then go through an effort of baking the bottom a bit before layering the jam and fruit so it doesn’t become one soggy mess.

Next layer is same shortcrust pastry but mixed with a bit of cocoa and some bitter almonds aroma. It can also be vanilla extract if you happen to have some and want to be a bit more classy. On top of all that there is a layer of stiff whipped egg whites with sugar. This is probably where the name comes from as there is this white foam sort of peeking from underneath another layer of shortcrust pastry.

Original recipe comes from Eliza’s blog White Plate. I changed proportions and replaced vanilla with bitter almonds. Also, I didn’t use fruit 🙂


To ensure success for a foamy layer whip the egg whites first with a bit of salt. Best use glass or steel bowl as it is easiest to make sure there is no fat on it. When the egg whites are quite stiff start adding sugar. Spoon after spoon. Best is to use small sugar, but not powdered one and then whip it good till it is stiff and shiny. You can add a little bit of potato starch at the end to guarantee more stiffness.

Hand cutting cake

Liked it? Maybe you want to get a whole meal and try out this potatoes and lentils salad?

hand kneading the dough

cake in a form

slice of cake in front of a cup and cake

hand with a fork eating a slice of cake