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Babka from Bea's Bakery in California

Babka (pronounced “Bobka” and sometimes spelled as such) is a delicious Polish yeast bread, often filled with almonds, raisins, chocolate or cinnamon. This sweet bread originated in Eastern Europe and was introduced to the United States by early immigrants, and has become a popular feature in many American bakeries.

My awareness of babka started years ago while watching an episode of Seinfeld (does anyone remember the episode where Jerry & Elaine are waiting at the bakery to buy a babka, only to learn “they purchased a hair with a cake around it!”) OK, so I’m easily amused, but before that, I had never heard of babka and wondered what the fuss was about.

While at my favorite bakery over the weekend, I overheard someone asking about the babka and I had a flashback to that Seinfeld episode, so I opted to try their chocolate chip babka. I was not disappointed. This babka was prepared as a bundt style cake, but it can also be made in a traditional loaf fashion. The inside was a flaky type of bread, similar to a croissant, and was swirled with a hint of cinnamon mixed with small semi-sweet chocolate chips (no hair to be found, thank goodness). The cake was then topped with a light chocolate icing. It was absolutely delicious and can be eaten for breakfast or as a dessert.

Slice of Babka with chocolate chip filling

I have included a recipe from Martha Stewart Living for Chocolate Babka, but after reviewing the elaborate directions I may still prefer to spend $5 and buy the one Bea’s Bakery has already perfected for me.

Chocolate Babka
Makes 3 loaves
Recipe by Tara Bench from Martha Stewart Living

When shaping the babka, twist dough evenly throughout the length of the roll, a full 5 to 6 turns. The babka can be prepared up to step 8 and frozen for up to a month before baking. When ready to bake, remove from the freezer, let stand at room temperature for about 5 hours. Bake according to recipe instructions.

1 ½ cups warm milk (110 °F)
2 packages (1/4 oz. each) active dry yeast
1 ¾ cup sugar
3 large eggs room temperature
2 large egg yolks room temperature
6 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1 tsp. Salt
3 ½ sticks (1 1/3 cups unsalted butter) cut into 1 inch pieces, room temperature plus more for bowl
2 ¼ lb. semi sweet chocolate very finely chopped
2 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Streusel topping (see below)


Step 1
Pour warm milk into small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar over the milk. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a medium bowl whisk together ¾ cup sugar, 2 eggs and the egg yolks. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture and whisk to combine.

Step 2
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Add the egg mixture and beat on low speed until almost all of the flour is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Change to the dough hook. Add 2 sticks butter and beat until the flour and butter are completely incorporated in a smooth, soft dough, that’s slightly sticky when squeezed, is formed. About 10 minutes.

Step 3
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few turns until smooth. Butter a large bowl, place dough in bowl and turn to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about one hour.

Step 4
Place chocolate, 1 cup of sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl and stir to combine. Using two knifes or a pastry blender, cut in 1 ½ sticks butter until well combined, set aside.

Step 5
Have ready three 9 x 5 x 2¾ inch loaf pans, generously buttered and lined with parchment paper. Beat the remaining eggs with one tablespoon cream, set aside. Punch back the dough and transfer to a clean surface. Let rest 5 minutes. Cut into three equal pieces, keep two pieces covered with plastic while working with the other piece. On a generously floured surface, roll dough out into a 16 inch square, 1/8 inch thick.

Step 6
Crumble 1/3 of the chocolate filling over the dough. Leaving a ¼ inch border. Brush edges with egg wash. Roll dough up tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch edges together to seal. Twist 5 or 6 turns. Brush top of roll with egg wash. Carefully crumble two tablespoons filling over the left half of the roll, being careful not to let the mixture slide off. Fold right half of the roll onto the coated left half. Fold ends under and pinch to seal. Twist roll two turns and fit into prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining two pieces of dough and remaining filling. (Freeze at this point if desired)

Step 7
Heat oven 350°F. Brush the top of each loaf with egg wash. Crumble 1/3 of streusel topping over each loaf. Loosely cover each pan with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place, 20-30 minutes.

Step 8
Bake loaves, rotating half way through until golden, about 55 minutes. Lower temperature to 325°F and bake until babkas are deep golden, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer onto wire racks until cool. Remove from pans and serve.

Babkas freeze well for up to 3 weeks.

Streusel Topping
Recipe by Tara Bench from Martha Stewart Living

1 2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

In a large bowl combine sugar, flour and butter. Using a fork stir until fluffy, combined with clumps ranging in size from crumbs to 1 inch.

Bea’s Bakery
18450 Clark Street
Tarzana, CA
(818) 344-0100


Robyn says on June 2nd, 2005 at 9:31 pm:

Holy crap, that looks good. Once I ate an entire loaf of plain babka in one day, but it wasn’t that great because it was…plain. Seriously, there were 5 raisins dispersed throughout the loaf, which was larger than my head. But chocolate babka, I could go for that.

Jessica says on June 2nd, 2005 at 9:40 pm:

I love babka too! Too bad it has so much butter. I should try Bea’s the next time I visit my family in CA.

Lori says on June 2nd, 2005 at 10:44 pm:

I lovelovelove babka! I’ve never tried a commercially baked one (i.e. one that you buy in a bakery) because they don’t sell them here in the Philippines, where I live. So I’ve made my own a few times, and I lovelovelove it. :) I usually make a chocolate swirl one and add some cinnamon-walnut streusel on top. Divine for breakfast.

Kelli says on June 3rd, 2005 at 12:51 am:

I love how most dessert items (like babka) can double as breakfast items. No wonder it’s my favorite meal of the day!

m says on June 5th, 2005 at 11:23 am:

Remember that show Perfect Strangers that came on in the 80s? And Bronson Pinchot (Balki) sang “the baby bobkas song”

When you’re rolling out the dough
Just make sure you roll it slow
If you make the dough to thick
The baby bobkas make you sick


Andrew says on June 5th, 2005 at 11:33 am:

I am a definite “Perfect Strangers” fan – staying home sick from elementary school, watching Balki around noon with my Marian Microwave burritos. Thanks for the memories. They should come out with the DVD set…I’d buy it.

Ximena says on June 6th, 2005 at 3:08 am:

I loved that seinfeld episode! always wondered what a babka looked like. thanks

LAURIE says on June 10th, 2005 at 1:03 am:

I never had or even heard of the aforementioned “babka” before. But if someone were to volunteer to make it for me I would be very willing, even eager, to give it a try & get back to you with my critique!

Liza says on June 14th, 2005 at 12:10 pm:

I’ve had a really yummy chocolate babka from Dean and DeLuca. It was a couple of years ago, but they might still have it!

Me says on January 7th, 2006 at 2:20 pm:

My wife is demanding a bubka!

Amy says on January 20th, 2006 at 5:00 pm:

my sister Nicole made these over Christmas and presented me with one. OH myyyyyyyyyyyy. It was great. With a cup of Earl Grey tea. Now that is what I call a mommy time out!

Marlene says on February 8th, 2006 at 12:07 pm:

The best babka I ever tasted was from Delicious Bakery in Northridge. Both the chocolate and the apple are FANTASTIC. Wish I could get their recipe.

Gerald says on February 25th, 2006 at 6:00 pm:

The best babka I have ever had was made by a kosher bakery on Hope St in Provdence RI. Unfortunatly the owner retired a few years ago and I have yet to find any as good and I have tried many, including Dean and DeLuca which I had when visiting my son at Georgetown. It was good but not great.

Ginevra Blake says on May 21st, 2006 at 10:32 pm:

Bea’s Bakery has the finest Babkas in the world. Be sure to try the cinnamon one, too! Bea (the wonderful owner years ago…now her fine son runs the bakery) really knew how to make the most exquisite bakery products in the world.

Mirka Frolec says on June 24th, 2007 at 1:31 pm:

this recipe is quite good and is used not only in Poland. Have a look: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gugelhupf
You can see two babkas there named Gugelhupf and Babovka, they were prepared in another European countries.
When baking yeast dough babovka I also use walnut or poppy seed filling. For walnut filling you need 2 cups of walnuts,1 and 1/5 cup of powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of grated yellow rind of lemon or orange,vanilla essence, a pinch of cinamon, 1 and 1/4 cup of water.
Let the water boil, then add sugar and ground walnuts and rind and cinamon and vanilla esence.
For poppy seed filling you need 1 and 1/2 cup of ground poppy seed, 1 cup of powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of grated yellow rind of lemon or orange,vanilla essence, about 1 cup of milk or water.
Let the milk boil, then add sugar, rind and vanila essence and ground poppy seed.
In Summer I prefer water to milk. Both fillings is possible to thicken using crumbs of white bread.
Try these babovkas with cafe au lait…
Enjoy baking.

Lewis Greene says on August 25th, 2007 at 3:52 pm:

Around 7th to 9th St. in NYC around Women Garment Workers apt hse there are Bakery’s Called “BABKAS”.Trying Delancy St (delancy Dessert co NYC) http://www.babka.com
I love Cinnamon type with walnuts,almond paste,almond extract, raisens. Same filling as Ruggalach.

sara says on November 18th, 2009 at 4:26 pm:


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An interest, that turned into a blog, that turned into a career. Kelli Bernard is now the owner and baker of Amai Tea & Bake House.

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