cinnamon walnut babka - the lesser babka

Do you remember when Juliana and I both made Ottolenghi's Chocolate Krantz Cake? I had some leftover babka dough so I made the cinnamon walnut variation, which was delicious. Elaine from Seinfeld might have declared the cinnamon babka the lesser babka but I don't agree as this one was really delicious. I only took a few photos at the time, which I didn't get round to posting. Last weekend I was going to make a sour cherry cheesecake babka but I wasn't sure how to roll and cut it so I decided it was all too hard and instead made another cinnamon walnut babka. This one I managed to photograph before taking in to work.

I've worked on the original babka dough recipe a bit as I wasn't happy with the first batch I made. I've added a bit more yeast and altered the technique a little. I've written the recipe the way I now make it, which I think is a much easier process. btw, you don't have to pre-activate the yeast. It's just something I do whenever I make sweet bread dough.

For the original instructions you can refer back to the original krantz cake recipeThe filling I adapted from this chocolate cinnamon snail recipe and it works really well. 

Here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Cinnamon Walnut Babka - adapted from the Chocolate Krantz Cake recipe from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Makes 1 babka - this is a bit of a process so you will need to start the recipe the day before you bake the babka.

Yeast sponge
2 tsp dry yeast (15 g fresh yeast)
1 tsp plain flour
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tbs warm water

In a small bowl, mix the dry ingredients together before adding the water. Stir until it forms a smooth paste. Cover the bowl and leave for 15-20 minutes until the yeast starts to froth and bubble. If it doesn't, leave for anther 15 minutes. If nothing happens then the yeast is dead and you'll need to start over with fresh yeast.

75 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
¼ cup (50g) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 cups (300g) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
pinch salt
1-2 tbs milk
Sunflower oil, for greasing

In the bowl of a stand mixer use a regular beater to cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the egg, the yeast sponge and half the flour and mix to a soft batter. Change the flat beater to the dough hook and add the remaining flour and sufficient milk to form a soft dough. Mix on medium speed for about 10 minutes until the dough is completely smooth, elastic, and shiny. Place the dough in a large bowl brushed with sunflower oil, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in the fridge for at least half a day, preferably overnight. The dough will not rise much while in the fridge so don't worry. The next day, take the dough from the fridge and leave it at room temperature for about 30 minutes while you prepare the filling.

Walnut cinnamon filling
80 g unsalted butter at room temperature, cubed
100 g light brown sugar
4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp maple or golden syrup
1 tbs almond meal
50 g coarsely chopped toasted walnuts

Make the filling by mixing the softened butter with the brown sugar, cinnamon, the syrup and almond meal to form a spreadable paste. Set to one side.

Grease a 23 by 10 cm (9 by 4 in) loaf pan with some sunflower oil and line the bottom of each pan with baking paper. Roll the dough into a rectangle measuring 38 by 28 cm (15 by 11 in) out on a lightly floured surface. Trim the sides to make them even, then position the dough so that a long side is closest to you. Use an offset spatula to spread the cinnamon mixture over the rectangle, leaving a 2 cm/¾ inch border all around. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the cinnamon paste.

Brush a little bit of water along the long end farthest away from you. Use both hands to roll up the rectangle like a roulade, starting from the long side that is closest to you and ending at the other long end. Press to seal the dampened end onto the roulade and then use both hands to even out the roll into a perfect thick cigar. Rest the cigar on its seam.

Trim about 2 cm/¾ inch off both ends of the roulade with a serrated knife. Now use the knife to gently cut the roll into half lengthwise, starting at the top and finishing at the seam. You are essentially dividing the log into two long even halves, with the layers of dough and filling visible along the length of both halves. With the cut sides facing up, gently press together one end of each half, and then lift the right half over the left half. Repeat this process, but this time lift the left half over the right, to create a simple, two-pronged plait. Gently squeeze together the other ends so that you are left with the two halves, intertwined, showing the filling on top. Mine was so long I made a double plait. Carefully lift the cake into the loaf pan. Cover the pan with a wet tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1½ -2 hours. The cake will rise by 10 to 20 percent.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F. Remove the tea towel, place the cake on the middle rack of the oven, and bake for about 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. If not, return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes. My babka took 45 minutes to cook through. While the babka is in the oven, make the syrup.

⅓ cup (75g) caster sugar
⅓ cup water
1 cinnamon stick

Combine the water, sugar and cinnamon stick in a saucepan. Place the pan over a medium heat and bring to a boil. As soon as the sugar dissolves, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes then remove the pan from the heat and leave the syrup to cool down. As soon as the babka comes out of the oven, pour all the syrup over the top of the babka reserving the cinnamon stick. Leave the babka to cool in the tin for about 30 minutes before removing from the pan. 

The babka is delicious eaten while still warm from the oven. Otherwise, the babka will keep for up to two days at room temperature, wrapped in foil, and up to a couple of weeks when frozen. If it's a little past it's use by date, try toasting the babka for an OMG moment as toasted babka is AMAZING!

Meanwhile another weekend has been and gone and my 'to-do' list seems as long as ever. Where does the time fly?

See you all again next weekend with some more baking from my kitchen.



  1. I made this recipe today. My dough took longer to rise out of fridge ( almost 6hrs) but then again I decided to make this on a very cold day. The end result was delicious- will definitely make this again!

    1. Glad the recipe worked for you, eventually. In cold weather I'm impatient so I prove the dough in a bowl, well wrapped in a bath towel that I sit on my heater turned down to low. So far no disasters!


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