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Homemade Cinnamon Babka

This recipe for cinnamon babka is delicious, hearty, and perfect for breakfast, brunch, or dessert. It’s a sweet, rich bread with a brown sugar-cinnamon filling that you’ll love!

Man picking up a slice of cinnamon bread.

While cinnamon babka has always been popular, lately it seems like this rich, sweet treat is everywhere. Whether you see it on the menu at your favorite bakery or being sold by street vendors, there’s no denying that cinnamon babka’s popularity is on the rise.

So, what exactly is cinnamon babka? Originating in Eastern European and Jewish communities, Babka is a yeasted cake that is often filled with chocolate or cinnamon sugar. The dough is rich and slightly sticky, which helps to create the characteristic dense and moist texture.

Making babka does take time and the results are worth it. Let’s take a look at how to make babka.

Ingredients

To make babka from scratch, you need the following:

Dough Ingredients

  • 4 cups bread flour 
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 packet of instant yeast or active dried yeast
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

For the filling

  • 3 tablespoons softened butter
  • ½ packed cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

For the topping

  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons water

How To Make Cinnamon Babka

Whisk together flour, ½ cup granulated sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set aside.

Melt ½ cup butter (1 stick) in 1 cup of warm milk until it has melted. Allow the mixture to cool to approximately 110ºF to 120ºF and then add it to the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl along with the vanilla extract and egg.

Attach the mixing bowl to a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Turn the speed to low and mix for 7 minutes. The dough will turn from sticky to soft and should not feel sticky at the end of the mixing period.

Sweet bread dough in a glass bowl.

Grease another bowl with a little oil then put the smooth ball of dough into it turning it in the oil in the bowl so it doesn’t dry out. Add plastic wrap to the bowl and rest until the dough has doubled in size. This will take 1-2 hours depending on how warm your kitchen is. 

When the dough has doubled in size, dust a work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 16” x 9”. Brush the top of the dough with softened butter.

Brushing butter over rolled out bread dough.

Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon thoroughly then sprinkle it over the top of the dough, pressing the sugar filling into the dough.

Spreading cinnamon sugar mixture over the surface of rolled dough.
Spreading brown sugar-cinnamon mixture

Roll the dough lengthwise into a tight log shape (jelly roll style). Using a sharp knife, cut through the middle of the rolled-up dough so you have two sections. Twist the two sections together into a 2 strand braid.

Twisted cinnamon bread before it is baked.

Line a 2-pound loaf pan (8 x 4 x 3 inches approx) with parchment paper for easy removal. (I often skip this and simply spray my loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.)

Twisted babka dough in a loaf pan.
Twisted dough in pan “proofing”

Carefully place the twisted dough into the prepared loaf pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set it aside for 30-40 minutes. After 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 350ºF.

After 40 minutes, the dough in the loaf pan will have risen. Place the pan on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 45 minutes. At the 30-minute mark, cover the babka with aluminum foil to prevent it from burning.

Cinnamon bread in a loaf pan cooling on a wire rack.
Baked cinnamon babka

Take the loaf pan out of the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Remove it from the pan and transfer it to a wire rack while you make the topping.

For the drizzle, combine powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon of water in a mixing bowl. If it’s not thin enough, add another tablespoon of water until it reaches a pourable consistency.

Pouring icing over a loaf of cinnamon babka.

Drizzle the topping over the warm cinnamon loaf. Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing.

Recipe Notes

  • Bread flour works best in this recipe due to its high protein content. Bread flour content is approximately 12-15% protein while all-purpose (AP) Flour has 10-12%. 
  • The milk should not be so hot that you can’t comfortably put your finger into it. Think warm bath water and not scorching! If the milk is too hot it will kill the yeast.
  • You do not have to use a stand mixer to knead the dough. You can do this by hand but it will take longer than the 7 minutes it takes in the mixer. Knead until the dough is no longer sticky. It will be springy and soft when properly kneaded.
  • If the dough is still sticky after the kneading time, you can add flour a tablespoon at a time until it’s no longer sticky. Always test the dough with a clean and dry finger.
  • The rising time will vary depending on the temperature. You can test the dough by gently pressing a clean dry finger into it. If the indentation slowly rises back the dough is ready. If the indentation quickly rises back it’s under-proofed and needs a little more time. If the indentation stays this means the dough has over-proofed. 
  • You can make the dough ahead of time and instead of leaving it to rise at room temperature, you can put it into the refrigerator. The cold temperature will ‘put the dough to sleep’. It will take approximately 12 hours to double in size if you use this method.
  • When it’s time to fill the dough make sure you press the filling in really well and roll it into a tight log. When you cut the dough into two sections you might feel that the filling is escaping and unmanageable. Just braid the dough as neatly as you can and try not to worry about its appearance at this stage.
  • Don’t take the loaf out of the oven before 45 minutes (even if it’s golden brown) because it won’t be properly baked in the center. 
  • Storage: Place in an airtight container and store at room temperature. As with most baked goods, it is best eaten on the day it’s baked. However, it will last for 3-4 days. (Unless it is at my house and then it has a “life span” of just 2.)
  • To enjoy any leftovers, it’s best to heat up slices for 30 seconds in the microwave before eating.

Is babka a bread or cake?

Technically, babka is a bread made with a dough, unlike cake that is made with a batter. The sugar content, whole milk, and addition of an egg make it rich and dense and the sweet cinnamon filling adds to its dessert qualities.

What does “babka” mean?

According to the Jewish Women’s Archive, “Originating in Eastern Europe, the word “babka” in both Polish and Yiddish, is a diminutive of “baba,” meaning old woman or grandmother.”

Slices of cinnamon babka on a wire cooling rack.
Man picking up a slice of cinnamon bread.

Cinnamon Babka

This recipe for cinnamon babka is delicious, hearty, and perfect for breakfast, brunch, or dessert. It's a sweet, rich bread with a brown sugar-cinnamon filling that you'll love!
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Course: Desserts
Cuisine: European
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Proofing Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 10
Calories: 355kcal

Ingredients

Dough Ingredients

  • 4 cups bread flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 packet instant or active dried yeast
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

For the Filling

  • 3 tablespoons butter softened
  • ½ cup brown sugar packed
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

For the topping

  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons water

Instructions

  • Whisk together flour, ½ cup granulated sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Set aside.
  • Melt ½ cup butter (1 stick) in 1 cup of warm milk until it has melted.  Allow the mixture to cool to approximately 110ºF to 120ºF and then add it to the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl along with the vanilla extract and egg.
  • Attach the mixing bowl to a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Turn the speed to low and mix for 7 minutes. The dough will turn from sticky to soft and should not feel sticky at the end of the mixing period.
  • Grease another bowl with a little oil then put the smooth ball of dough into it turning it in the oil in the bowl so it doesn’t dry out. Add plastic wrap to the bowl and rest until the dough has doubled in size. This will take 1-2 hours depending on how warm your kitchen is. 
  • When the dough has doubled in size, dust a work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 16” x 9”.  Brush the top of the dough with softened butter.
  • Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon thoroughly then sprinkle it over the top of the dough, pressing the sugar filling into the dough.  
  • Roll the dough lengthwise into a tight log shape (jelly roll style). Using a sharp knife, cut through the middle of the rolled-up dough so you have two sections. Twist the two sections together into a 2 strand braid.
  • Line a 2 pound loaf pan (8 x 4 x 3 inches approx) with parchment paper for easy removal.  (I often skip this and simply spray my loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.)
  • Carefully place the twisted dough into the prepared loaf pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set it aside for 30-40 minutes. After 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  • After 40 minutes, the dough in the loaf pan will have risen. Place the pan on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes. At the 30 minute mark, cover the babka with aluminum foil to prevent it from burning.
  • Take the loaf pan out of the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Remove it from the pan and transfer to a wire rack while you make the topping.
  • For the drizzle, combine powdered sugar, vanilla and 1 tablespoon of water in a mixing bowl. If it’s not thin enough, add another tablespoon of water until it reaches a pourable consistency.
  • Drizzle the topping over the warm cinnamon loaf.  Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 | Calories: 355kcal | Carbohydrates: 69g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 32mg | Sodium: 57mg | Potassium: 106mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 40g | Vitamin A: 211IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 65mg | Iron: 1mg
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Cross-section view of cinnamon babka.

Be sure to come back and tell us how your cinnamon babka turned out!

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