Festive glazed poppy beigli cake with raisins, walnuts close-up on a table. Horizontal top view

Polish Donuts
Paczkis are donuts that are typical sweet treats you will find at a Polish store in Chicago. These are round spongy yeast cakes stuffed with any number of fillings, like rose or strawberry preserves, liqueur, sweet curd cheese, or chocolate. A Paczki is deep-fried in oil to get its dark golden color and then topped with powdered sugar, icing sugar, or chocolate. This delightful Polish food in Chicago may also be sprinkled with zesty orange peel. Paczki is a traditional Polish dessert, so there is a widely held tradition of eating them on the last Thursday of the carnival, which is known as “Fat Thursday.” Around 100 million paczkis are consumed by the celebrating Polish population on this single day alone.

Cheesecake is among the most popular desserts in Poland, so it’s very easy to find at a Polish food mart in Chicago. It features a sweet curd cheese as its primary ingredient, but this cheesecake, known as sernik, can come in several different compositions, flavors, and methods of preparation. The most commonly recognized is a sernik made over a layer of crumbly cake and baked in the oven, although some do not require baking. Usually, you can find these desserts at your Polish grocery store in Chicago topped with raisins, fruits, a sweet crumble, or even chocolate sauce. A more original variety of this Polish dessert is a scrumptious sernik of sponge cake and cream cheese that is covered with fruit and jelly. Look for this sernik among your Polish groceries in Chicago and serve it cold.

Poppy-seed cake, or poppy seed loaf, is a wonderfully traditional Polish dessert that is a staple in the Polish food market in Chicago. It is a yeast cake stuffed with ground poppy with raisins, almonds, or walnuts being the most typical varieties. This baked cake is finished with an icing decoration and most often, orange peel.
Historically, this poppy-seed cake was one of the traditional desserts prepared for Easter and Christmas celebrations. Christian lore notes the poppy, which contains thousands of seeds in one bulb. As a symbol of the harvest and fertility. So Polish and other Slavic celebrants believed that eating this special Makowiec poppy-seed cake over the holidays would bring luck. It certainly couldn’t hurt to try picking one up from the Polish market near you in Chicago.

Gingerbread is a globally recognized aromatic cake with an extremely intense and characteristic flavor. It can be quite hard to the touch and is dark brown in color. This Polish cake includes wheat and rye flour, milk, eggs, caramelized sugar, and the sweet touch of honey. Cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, anise, and lavender are usually added for flavoring. In Poland, gingerbread, or piernik, comes as a big lump of cake or as a package of small cookies that are usually covered with chocolate and filled with fruit preserves, nuts, or marzipan. But you don’t have to go all the way to Poland to find it. You can pick it up at your local Polish food market in Chicago to enjoy wonderful gingerbread at home.