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Breakfast / Brunch

Cinnamon-Cocoa Babka

If you like cinnamon swirl bread, this babka is the best of the best. Both beautiful and delicious, this recipe makes enough for gifting, but you may keep them all for yourself.

Babka is a traditional Eastern European sweet yeast bread made from a butter and egg-enriched dough, giving it a brioche-like texture. The rich, somewhat tender, dough is filled, rolled, twisted, and baked yielding a gorgeously swirled loaf. Chocolate or cinnamon are the typical fillings, but this one combines the two for a babka that can’t be beat.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind for success. First, because the dough is somewhat tender, when rolling it out, work quickly. A well-floured, cool surface works best. Second, you don’t want to tear the dough when spreading the filling. Therefore, make sure the filling is pourable, but you don’t want it to be hot or you could soften the dough too much. Last, when rolling the dough, try to roll it as tightly as possible. This makes for a loaf without big crevices. But any way you slice it, you’ll go bonkers for babka.

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For the dough, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer.

Whisk together milk, sour cream, 2 eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and 1 tsp. salt in a separate bowl.

Slowly pour milk mixture into flour mixture with the mixer on low speed using a dough hook; continue mixing until combined. Increase mixer speed to medium.

Add softened butter to dough in mixer 1 Tbsp. at a time, kneading well after each addition; knead 10 minutes more. Cover dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1½–2 hours. Punch dough down to release air.

Divide dough into three equal portions, weighing for accuracy, then place each in its own bowl coated with nonstick spray; cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough overnight or up to 2 days.

For the filling, combine melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, reserved 2 egg whites, and 1 tsp. salt.

Coat the insides of three 8½×4½- inch loaf pans with nonstick spray. Line each pan with parchment paper so it hangs over the edges to create handles and coat again.

Roll one portion chilled dough on a well-floured surface into a 12×20-inch rectangle. Spread ⅔ cup filling, reserving 1–2 Tbsp., onto dough. (Loosen mixture in microwave, if necessary, for easier spreading; it should be pourable.) Roll up dough tightly starting on a long side. Spread reserved 1–2 Tbsp. filling along seam side of roll.

Fold the rolled dough into thirds, twist, and place into a prepared pan. Repeat rolling, spreading, and twisting with remaining dough and filling. Cover loaves; allow to rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size, 1½–2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Brush loaves with egg wash, then transfer to oven.

Bake babkas until golden brown and a thermometer inserted into centers registers 190°, 40–45 minutes, covering tops with foil if loaves overbrown. Cool babkas completely in pans on a rack.


For easier spreading, evenly drizzle the filling over the dough, then spread with an offset spatula.


To get as tight a roll as possible, gently pull back on the dough as you roll it up from the long side.


Cover the seam of the rolled log with 1–2 Tbsp. reserved filling, then fold the log into thirds.


For the best swirls in the finished babka, twist the tri-folded dough before placing in the prepared pan.

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