Babka is a sweet cake made from enriched dough. The name itself also means grandmother, probably because of the shape of the cake, tall and with frills that look like a bottom of a skirt. And irrespectively which babka we are talking about, the cake or the grandmother, I love them both.
My grandma was the kindest old lady you could ever meet. Very modest and with the biggest heart brimming with love for her family. When I was little, we would spend every day together. She had a beautifully stocked garden with a long path leading up to the top. That path was my favourite part of the garden because every May it was edged with tiny white bells and luscious green leaves of lilly of the valley. Grandma would bring bunches of these and place them in jam jars in my bedroom. There would be bunches of sweet little violas we would collect on our way back from play-school in the summer, acorns and chestnuts made into people and animals in the autumn and tulips, daffodils, narcissus and primroses in the spring. They all remain as my favourite flowers and have a very special place in my heart.
And then there would be baking with Grandma. Not fancy baking of dainty little things but baking of big, sweet yeasted cakes made with enriched dough. Dough made in enormous enamelled bowls and covered with towels. Made by arms with upturned sleeves and hands etched with deep lines of having lived through II World War and the loss of ten children. With that unmistakable smell of warm butter, milk and sugar being consumed by hungry yeast. I would be watching the transformation from a little ball kneaded by Grandma’s hands to a soft, pillowy cushion studded with raisins once the dough has had its first rise. And then the process would be repeated before big bountiful loaves were baked. The anticipation, the waiting until the cakes were deemed cool enough to be eaten with a glass of milk was almost unbearable for a six year old! And that very first bite, so delicious, yum.
And so this is the cake I have baked today once we have returned from our walk. I have used my Grandma’s recipe which was passed onto my Mum but brought it into the present with a few tweaks. It is the same soft dough enriched with melted butter, laced with lemon extract and studded with raisins and candied peel. Only instead of baking in a loaf tin, I have used two of my bundt pans instead. These are by far my favourite baking pans, their quality is superb as Nordic Ware never disappoints. The cakes always come out clean and their beautiful shapes ensure even the plainest of cakes look stunning.
If you do not have bundt pan, the cake will work equally good in a loaf pan instead – only it can’t be called babka for the earlier mentioned reasons. Whichever pan you decide to make this in, I guarantee you will enjoy the end results. The given quantities make two bundts so if you want to bake just one loaf, I suggest you half the ingredients. Here is the recipe.
- 500 grams of plain flour
- 100 grams of caster sugar
- 21 grams of instant yeast
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 whole egg
- 250 ml of warm milk
- 125 grams of melted and cooled salted butter
- 2 tsp of lemon extract
- 180 grams of raisins and candied peel mixed together
Prepare your pans (butter the pan and sprinkle with flour shaking out the excess).
Place the flour, sugar and yeast in a bowl and give them a mix. Add the egg yolks, egg, milk, butter and lemon extract and bring all the ingredients together. Knead the dough for 10 minutes using stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. You will notice the change as the dough becomes more elastic and shiny.
Now add the raisins and candied peel and knead the dough for further 5 minutes to ensure even distribution of the dry fruit. You will end up with a small ball of sticky dough.
Leave the dough in the bowl, cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and place it somewhere warm and draft free. This will allow the dough to rise until doubled in volume.
You can see how smooth it is now, this is after 1 hour of rising time in a warm kitchen. The rising time might take longer but you are looking for a doubled volume rather than a specific amount of time.
Knead the dough once more for 5 minutes or so and place the knocked back dough in your prepared pans for a second prove. If you are using bundts, the dough should only fill 1/3 of the pan at this stage. Cover the pans and put aside again until fully risen. Once the dough has filled the pans completely, it is ready to be baked. The second prove will take anything between 30 to 60 minutes.
Heat the oven to 170°C and place the pans in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the dough comes out clean. Allow to rest for 10 minutes in the pan before removing onto a cooling rack.
I have decorated one of the bundts with my icing recipe mentioned here whilst the other was was simply dusted with icing sugar.
However you choose to dress your cake, I wish you lots of patience for the cooling down period. The cake is very light and has to be completely cool before cutting. Oh and don’t forget the glass of milk to go with the first slice. Enjoy x