I once walked 10 miles just to get a fresh slice of babka at Lehamim Bakery in NYC. That’s how much I love babka! If you haven’t had babka yet, then you’re missing out on one of life’s little pleasures! As I was working on my Free Challah Guide eCookbook, I had a light bulb moment when I realized that I could combine my vegan Challah recipe with my babka recipe to create a vegan chocolate babka. The cake turned out soft, fluffy, sweet, chocolate-y, and the best part—even non-vegans LOVED it.
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.
Vegan Chocolate Babka Ingredients Overview:
*The full recipe is in the recipe card below!
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.
Canola Oil: For depth, richness, and moisture.
Sugar: For the sweetness of course. But sugar also feeds the yeast, increases its activity, and tenderizes the dough.
Vegan Butter: For the filling. I used Country Crock dairy-free plant-based butter stick with olive oil, and it worked great.
Salt: To balance the flavors; don’t skip!
How to Make Vegan Chocolate Babka?
Step 1: Make the dough: Place sifted flour, yeast, and sugar in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix on low speed until combined. Add the oil and water, and mix on medium speed until the dough comes together (2-3 minutes). Add salt. Add a few drops of 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.
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.
Step 3: Prepare the filling: Whisk together sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl until well combined.
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 vegan butter on the dough in an even layer all the way to the edges. Sprinkle with the filling mixture. Tightly roll up the dough like a jelly roll and place it on its seam. Repeat with the 2nd half of the dough.
Twist the logs together and transfer the twisted dough to the prepared loaf pan and cover it with a clean towel.
Step 5: Second rise: Allow the shaped (and covered) loaf to rest for 45 minutes to one hour, 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 maple syrup with water and brush the babka loaf. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until babka is golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and generously brush with the remaining syrup. Let it cool completely before slicing (that is the most challenging part).
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.
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.
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.
Yes. Make sure to measure your ingredients correctly.
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Vegan Chocolate Babka
For the dough:
- 3 1/2 cups (500 grams) all-purpose flour plus a little more for dusting
- 1 tablespoon (10 grams) active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) canola oil plus a little more for greasing
- 1/3 cup (70 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 1/4-1 1/2 cups (300-360 ml) lukewarm water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the filing:
- 1/2 stick (55 grams) vegan butter at room temperature very soft but not completely melted
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons (40 grams) cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- a pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) real maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon water
Make the dough:
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, put flour and yeast (or in a large mixing bowl if kneading by hand) and mix/stir for one minute.
- Add oil and sugar, and mix for about one minute.
- Slowly add water and mix to form the dough.*Because each flour is different, stored differently, and has different absorption capacities, the amount of liquid will almost always change. Even if you always use the same flour, it may be that on different days, the flour will absorb more liquid than before. So, start with one cup of water and gradually add more until the dough is soft but not sticky.
- Add the salt and knead for 8-12 minutes (It helps the gluten form and for the dough to be elastic with better structure).
- Grease the dough with a little bit of oil, cover with a kitchen towel or loosely with saran wrap and let the dough rise until doubled (place the bowl somewhere warm).
Make the filling:
- In a small bowl, mix sugar, cocoa powder, salt and cinnamon.
- Grease the loaf pan with oil and line with parchment paper.
- Separate the dough into two equal pieces.
- Roll one piece of dough into a rectangle as wide as the length of your loaf pan and about 3/4 inch thick. Spread with your hands the vegan butter on the dough in an even layer all the way to the edges. Generously sprinkle the filling all over the butter.
- Tightly roll up the dough like a jelly roll and place it on its seam. Repeat with the 2nd half of the dough.
- Twist the logs together and transfer the twisted dough to the prepared loaf pan and cover it with a clean towel.
- Allow the shaped (and covered) loaf to rest for 45 minutes to one hour (depending on how warm your room is) until almost doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C
- Whisk maple syrup with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the babka loaf. Bake for 25-40 minutes or until babka is golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and brush with the remaining syrup. Let it cool completely before slicing.