Put your oven to good use on a chilly day by making babka, a Jewish treat that’s a hybrid of sweet roll, swirl bread, and coffee cake.
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loaves of babka with a variety of fillings
Kim Cornelison
| Credit: Kim Cornelison

What is Babka?

Babka is a sweet, dense cake or yeast bread with its origins in Eastern European Jewish communities, most notably Poland and Ukraine. Babka recipes vary, but most involve a dough that's filled, rolled, twisted, and then baked in a loaf pan, sometimes with streusel or glaze.

Babka can also be baked in a Bundt pan, forming a wreath-like shape that's especially attractive as an edible holiday centerpiece.

Our versions here are made with a lengthwise cut before twisting, which makes babka's craveable layers visible from every angle. Don't worry: It looks fancy (and it IS a little messy), but it's seriously easy to do. We'll start with a basic babka recipe, and then give you four flavor variations to try. Note: The Basic Babka recipe makes enough to bake in three 5x9-inch loaf pans. (Buy it: Lodge Cast Iron Loaf Pan; $25 Target)

babka pieces cut
Credit: Kim Cornelison

How to Make Babka

Get the recipe for Basic Babka and follow recipe direction for filling and rolling up the dough. Once you do that, here's how to braid your babka:

After filling and rolling up the dough into logs, you'll cut each log lengthwise to form two strands.

cutting babka
Credit: Kim Cornelison

Twist two strands together with cut sides out, making two or three wide, horizontal twists. Fit into prepared 5x9-inch loaf pans, patting back any loose filling and tucking ends under, if needed. Don't worry if it looks messy — it will all work out fine.

making babka
Credit: Kim Cornelison

If you prefer yours glazed, mix together 1 cup powdered sugar and 4 teaspoons milk in a small bowl. Drizzle over babka loaves after they have cooled 1 hour. Let stand until glaze is set, about 20 minutes.

babka cut on counter
Credit: Kim Cornelison

4 Babka Fillings to try

1. Cinnamon-Chocolate Babka

Omit Walnut Filling. Melt 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips with ½ cup butter in a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Stir in 1 cup finely crushed graham crackers and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Spread and pat filling over rolled dough squares while filling is still warm, then proceed as directed.

chocolate cinnamon babka

2. Cinnamon-Raisin Babka

Substitute 2 cups dark raisins and 2 cups golden raisins for the walnuts in the Walnut Filling. Proceed as directed.

cinnamon raisin babka
Credit: Kim Cornelison

3. Peanut Butter & Jelly Babka

Omit Walnut Filling. Spread ½ cup creamy peanut butter (don't use "natural" peanut butter; the oil will separate) over each dough square. Spoon ½ cup strawberry jam, grape jelly, or raspberry preserves over top of each square; gently spread over peanut butter. Proceed as directed.

peanut butter and jelly babka
Credit: Kim Cornelison

4. Apricot-Cream Cheese Babka

Omit Walnut Filling. Beat 2 (8-ounce) packages softened cream cheese with 12/3 cups powdered sugar and 2 eggs in a large bowl. Spread one-third of mixture over each rolled dough square. Spoon 1/2 cup apricot preserves over yop of each square; gently spread over cream cheese mixture. Proceed as directed, increasing baking time to 50 to 55 minutes.

cream cheese apricot babka
Credit: Kim Cornelison

How to Serve Babka

Slice and serve it with coffee or milk. Toast babka slices under the broiler and top with ice cream for dessert. Use babka slices in place of bread to make French toast.


This article originally appeared in the February/March 2018 issue of Allrecipes Magazine.