Mama Living Abroad

Chocolate Babka Just Like Bubbie Used To Make

Babka sliced
Babka sliced

Chocolate Babka is one of the things I really can’t resist. There’s nothing like a slice of homemade, chocolate-swirled babka. This cake-bread is as beautiful as it is delicious. My grandma (Bubbie in Yiddish) used to bake babkas on Fridays and special occasions. She always served the cake with a warm cup of black tea sweetened with a lot of sugar; what a treat!


My first attempt at homemade babka was when I bought my first Kitchenaid mixer 15 years ago. It turned out better than I expected, and my family loved it. Since then, I have baked hundreds of babka loaves; it is one of those things I never get tired of. This Chocolate Babka Recipe may look complicated, but it’s easy to get the hang of it!

Making babka takes less than an hour of actual work! The rest of the time is the proofing and baking. That can range between 4-12 hours! I highly recommend reading all of my tips and tricks for the best results!

Please note that although it’s possible to leave the dough at room temperature for the first rise, it’s highly recommended to place it in the fridge for at least 6-8 hours so it sets properly and is easy to work with.

What is Babka?

Babka is a traditional Eastern European Jewish sweet loaf. It is a yeasted cake-bread that is typically filled with chocolate or cinnamon (but the possibilities are endless). The ingredients are straightforward: flour, yeast, sugar, eggs, milk, butter, and salt. After it’s baked, it’s brushed with a sugar syrup that gives it that glossy sheen.

Chocolate Babka Ingredients Overview:

Flour: I use all-purpose flour, but you could use bread flour or a combination of bread and all-purpose. Remember that bread flour has a higher protein content; you might need to add more liquid to form the dough. I strongly recommend sifting the flour; it will result in a more delicate dough with a more significant volume.

Yeast (active dry yeast): Active dry yeast needs to be bloomed in liquid before being used to make dough. However, it is not necessary to bloom newly purchased yeast. Instead, it can be added directly to the dry ingredients.

Sugar: For the sweetness of course. But sugar also feeds the yeast, increases its activity, and tenderizes the dough.

Eggs: Large eggs at room temperature.

Milk: The high-fat content of whole milk will make your cake more soft and tender. No skim milk in this recipe, please. 

Butter: Unsalted and cut into small pieces. 

Salt: To balance the flavors; don’t skip!

How to Make Chocolate Babka?

Step 1: Make the dough: Put the small pieces of butter in a microwave-safe bowl, and cover the butter with a paper towel. Microwave the butter until it’s smooth and melted. Add the cold milk and stir well. 

Place sifted flour, yeast, and sugar in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix on low speed until combined. Add the eggs and milk mixture, and mix on medium speed until the dough comes together (2-3 minutes). Add salt. Add a few drops of milk or water if the dough is very dry. Occasionally scrap the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to ensure all ingredients are incorporated. Continue mixing for about 10 minutes on medium speed until the dough is completely smooth, elastic, shiny, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. It may look soft and might be sticky – that’s ok. 

Step 2: Let the dough rise: Lightly dust your work surface and hands. Then, use your hands to push and pull the dough against the work surface in a circular motion to create a nice round of dough. Place the dough into a greased bowl and grease the top. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a relatively warm environment for 2-4 hours or until nearly double in size. This dough is rich with fat, so it takes longer than other doughs to rise. 

IMPORTANT! Although it’s possible to leave the dough at room temperature for the first rise, it’s highly recommended to place it in the fridge for 6-8 hours so it sets properly and is easy to work with. Place the dough into a greased bowl and grease the top. Cover with plastic wrap, and poke a few holes in it with a sharp knife or a toothpick so the yeast can “breathe.” 

If you take the fridge route, the dough may not look like it has risen much, and that’s OK! Also, if the dough is hard to handle, leave it at room temperature to soften for 30-60 minutes before rolling and shaping.

Step 3: Prepare the filling: Whisk together softened butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and cinnamon in a bowl until well combined. It should be a thick, spreadable consistency.

Another option is to use store-bought chocolate spread like Nutella. 

Step 4: Shaping: Remove the dough from the bowl and put it on a lightly floured surface. Using a sharp knife or dough scraper, cut the dough in half. Work with only half of the dough at a time. Place a clean towel over the dough you aren’t working with so it won’t dry out. 

Roll one piece of dough into a rectangle as wide as the length of your loaf pan and about 3/4 inch thick. Spread the chocolate filling on the dough in an even layer all the way to the edges. Tightly roll up the dough like a jelly roll and place it on its seam. Repeat with the 2nd half of the dough. 

*Optional* I’ve found that freezing the logs for 20-30 minutes makes the slicing much easier.

Use a sharp knife or a dough scraper to slice the log in half lengthwise so you have two long pieces, and set them with the chocolate layer exposed. Twist the logs together, keeping the cut sides facing up. Transfer the twisted dough to the prepared loaf pan and cover it with a clean towel.  Repeat with the 2nd half of the dough. 

Step 5: Second rise: Allow both shaped (and covered) loaves to rest for 1-2 hours, depending on how warm your room is, until almost doubled in size. 

Step 6: Baking: Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.

Whisk 2 tablespoons of milk with the egg and brush the babka loaves. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until babka is golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and generously brush with syrup. Let it cool completely before slicing (that is the most challenging part). 

Step 7: Sugar syrup: While the babka bakes, you’ll need to make syrup to brush it over with. This step is optional, but the sugar syrup makes the cake shiny and beautiful and keeps it fresh for longer. The syrup is made by boiling equal amounts of sugar and water until it becomes a syrup. The syrup should be cooled to ROOM TEMPERATURE before brushing it on the HOT babka.

How Do I Know When Babka is Done?

When it’s ready, the babka will be a deep golden brown on top. A toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf should come out without any wet dough sticking to it (melted chocolate is okay). If you have an instant-read thermometer, it should read between 190°F to 200°F in the center of the loaf. Let the babka cool to room temperature before slicing.

How To Store Babka?

Store the cooled babka wrapped in plastic wrap or in an airtight container on the counter for up to two days. This cake will start drying out after 24 hours, but the good news is that it freezes well.

How To Freeze Babka? 

Once the babka is completely cooled, wrap it in a few layers of plastic wrap, then in foil. Store it in the freezer for up to a month. Thaw the wrapped babka at room temperature. Before serving, warm the babka in a 325°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until warmed through.

More Jewish Recipes You’ll Love 

Round Spiral Challah

Mandel Bread with Dried Fruit

Star of David Pretzels

Crispy Potato Latkes

All opinions are always 100% honest and my own. Links are affiliate links. If you click a link and buy something, I receive a commission for the sale. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and you are free to use the link or not as you choose. If you do use my links, I appreciate your support!

chocolate babka in a pan

Chocolate Babka Just Like Bubbie Used to Make

There’s nothing like a slice of homemade, chocolate-swirled babka. This cake-bread is as beautiful as it is delicious.
Kosher, Dairy
Tried my recipe?Mention @mamalivingabroad or tag #mamalivingabroad!
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Jewish
Keyword: Jewish holiday foods, Jewish Traditional Food
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Resting Time: 5 hours
Servings: 2 loaf-sized babkas

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 1 stick (110 grams) unsalted butter cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) whole (full-fat) milk
  • 3 1/2 cups (500 grams) sifted all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting and kneading
  • 1/3 cup (70 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (10 grams) active dry yeast
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • butter or natural oil for greasing the dough and pan

For the chocolate filling:

    **Second option is to use a store-bought chocolate spread like Nutella**

    • 1 stick (110 grams) unsalted butter that is very soft but not completely melted 
    • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
    • 4 tablespoons (40 grams) cocoa powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

    For brushing

    • 1 egg
    • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) milk or water

    For the sugar syrup:

    • 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
    • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar

    Instructions

    Make the dough:

    • Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the milk and stir well.
    • Place flour, yeast, and sugar in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix on low speed until combined.
    • Add the eggs and milk mixture, and mix on medium speed until the dough comes together (2-3 minutes). Add salt. If the dough hasn’t come together, add a few drops of water or milk. Occasionally scrap the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to ensure all ingredients are incorporated. Continue mixing for about 10 minutes on medium speed until the dough is completely smooth, elastic, and shiny, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

    The first rise:

    • With floured hands, transfer dough to a large bowl and grease the top with oil. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and leave in the fridge for at least half a day or overnight (if placed a long time in the fridge the dough can become hard – that’s normal; leave it at room temperature to soften for 30-60 minutes or until it’s easy to work with). Alternatively, place at room temperature for 2-4 hours or until almost doubled in size.

    Make the filling:

    • In a bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and cinnamon until well combined. It should be a thick, spreadable consistency.

    Assemble loaves: 

    • Remove the dough from the bowl and put it on a lightly floured surface. Using a sharp knife or dough scraper, cut the dough in half. Work with only half of the dough at a time. Place a clean towel over the dough you aren’t working with so it won’t dry out.
    • Roll one piece of dough into a rectangle as wide as the length of your loaf pan and about 3/4 inch thick. Spread the chocolate filling on the dough in an even layer all the way to the edges. Tightly roll up the dough like a jelly roll and place it on its seam. Repeat with the 2nd half of the dough.
    • *Optional* I've found that freezing the logs for 20-30 minutes makes the slicing much easier.
    • Prep the pans: Grease two loaf pans with oil and line with parchment paper, leaving a couple of inches of overhang on the long sides.
    • Use a sharp knife or a dough scraper to slice the log in half lengthwise so you have two long pieces, and set them with the chocolate layer exposed. Twist the logs together, keeping the cut sides facing up. Transfer the twisted dough to the prepared loaf pan and cover it with a clean towel. Repeat with the 2nd half of the dough.

    Second rise:

    • Allow both shaped (and covered) loaves to rest for 1-2 hours (depending on how warm your room is) until almost doubled in size. 

    Bake:

    • Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.
    • Whisk 2 tablespoons of milk with the egg and brush the babka loaves. Bake for 25-40 minutes or until babka is golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and generously brush with syrup. Let it cool completely before slicing.

    While the babka bakes, you’ll need to make the sugar syrup:

    • While the babka bakes, you’ll need to make syrup to brush it over with. Bring sugar and water to a simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. As soon as the babka leaves the oven, brush the syrup all over it. It will seem like too much, but will taste just right — glossy and moist. Let cool about halfway in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way before slicing.

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    Hi, I’m Rachel.

    Welcome to my little corner of the internet! I’m happy you’re here. I am the food blogger behind “Mama Living Abroad.” In this space, I am sharing flavorful recipes that I love to make and have my family and friends approve.

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