As climate change has become an important issue worldwide, we have grown accustomed to terms such as ‘zero waste cooking’ or ‘food waste recycling’ – and a certain Polish cake has been embodying these concepts for almost 100 years.
Bajaderka, also known as kartofelek (‘little potato’), is a true ‘second-hand’ cake. Made of cake and biscuit scarps and complimented by cocoa powder, rum, chocolate and nuts or desiccated coconut, this round-shaped cake is what many Poles would call ‘the taste of their childhood’. Its humble beginnings can be traced back to a certain 1920s’ cukiernia (‘pastry shop’) in Warsaw.
At the time, bakers would often sell bags of dried crumbs, crust and other unused bits of cake very cheaply. The introduction of bajaderka meant, therefore, that its inventor Jan Gajewski could have his cake and eat it too – not only was he getting rid of unwanted cake scraps, but he was making a profit and soon enough his pastry shop became one of the most popular spots in the city. Nowadays, his creation can be found in majority of pastry shops all over the country.
As original as it is, the ‘zero waste’ Polish cake is far from being one of a kind – it has cousins in Austria (punschtorte), Louisiana (known as ‘Russian cake’ or ‘Creole trifle’) and Croatia. The latter is probably bajaderka’s closest relative as this layered nougat with nuts is simply called bajadera. However, the taste of bajaderka is truly unique – no wonder then that a Warsaw pastry shop has recently developed its vegan version.
Bajadera. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bajadera, Accessed November 11, 2019.
Bajaderka: Back to the future. WarsawBite. https://warsawbite.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/bajaderka-back-to-the-future-3/, Published September 19, 2012. Accessed November 8, 2019.
Braker F. English Pudding and Punschtortes. Sally’s Place. https://sallybernstein.com/food/columns/braker/english_pudding.htm, Accessed November 8, 2019.
The Elusive History of New Orleans Russian Cake. Slow Food USA. https://slowfoodusa.org/the-elusive-history-of-new-orleans-russian-cake/ Published February 18, 2015. Accessed November 8, 2019.
Lokal Dela Krem – Vegan Pastry Shop. Warsaw Foodie. https://warsawfoodie.pl/en/2017/05/lokal-dela-krem/ Published May 18, 2017. Accesed November 8, 2019.
Written by Alicja Tokarska, translation trainee at the Polish Translation Unit of European Parliament. She holds a degree in Spanish and Comparative Literature (University of Glasgow) and is currently finishing her MSc in Translation Studies (University of Glasgow). In her free time, she likes to travel, learn new languages and cook.