As a kid, I always knew that the holidays were approaching when my dad would drive us to the Polish neighborhood in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. We would walk along Nassau Avenue, stocking up on delicious delicacies from my dad’s homeland. Once our shopping bags were filled with kilebasa and pierogi, we would go to the last but most important stop, Star Polish Bakery, for our makowiec cake.
Makowiec, called “mak” for short, is a rolled cake, with a thick layer of sweet poppy seeds rolled into sweet yeasted bread. The top is browned in the oven and glazed with lemon-zest icing. Mak is the most popular Polish cake, and absolutely essential for any holiday gathering. I don’t think I’ve ever celebrated Christmas or Easter without a few poppy seeds stuck in my teeth!
Star Polish Bakery makes their mak exactly the way I like it: with lots of poppy seeds and a thin swirl of dough. The deli is unassuming and very casual. You’ll see Polish newspapers, cold cuts, canned goods, and of course lots of other delicious pastries for sale as well. If you are considering purchasing a couple of Polish cakes, I recommend also getting the cernik (cheesecake), or paczki (jam-filled doughnuts usually eaten before Lent).
Greenpoint is a Polish neighborhood, so all of the shops here are staffed by Polish immigrants or their kids. Everyone speaks English, but you’ll get extra points if you greet the shopkeepers with “Dzien dobry,” or thanking them with “dziekuje!”