December Bake-Along: Chocolate Babka

This chocolate babka is rich and decadent, loaded with a buttery chocolate filling and topped with delicious streusel. Perfect for celebrations and extra-special breakfasts! If you only know babka through Seinfeld references or have been intimidated to try making them at home, now is the perfect opportunity to church out a couple for the upcoming holiday season.

A loaf of chocolate babka with two slices laying in front.

Welcome to the December Bake-Along! This month we’re going to tackle an incredibly decadent, totally-worthy-of-the-holidays, chocolate-laced sweet bread.

I first shared the original version of this recipe nearly 10 years ago (!) and have revived it, updated it, polished it up, have tons of step-by-step photos and a video to help you through this amazing recipe. In the interim, I’ve tried many other chocolate babka recipes and I’ve found that they all came up short compared to this one, so let’s dig in!

All of those years ago, I couldn’t get the chocolate babka out of my head after seeing it in my Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook countless times. I hesitated time and again, then finally tackled it and was absolutely in love! However, the recipe made three loaves and I, like so many other people, only owned two loaf pans. The logistics of making all three wasn’t easy, and I wanted to scale it down to make it a more feasible recipe for most people’s kitchens.

An overhead photo of a loaf of chocolate babka out of the oven.

First Things First, What is Babka?

For years, my knowledge of babka came solely from an iconic Seinfeld episode during which Jerry and Elaine were attempting to buy a babka to bring to a dinner party. They wanted the chocolate babka, but someone else bought the last one, so they were stuck buying a cinnamon babka, a “lesser babka”, so they said. (Incidentally, I’ve made a cinnamon babka and, while different and not as rich, is certainly not lesser! And while we’re at it, I’ve also done an apricot cream cheese babka, which is fantastic.)

Babka (sometimes also called “krantz cake”) is a traditional Jewish sweet bread with fillings that can include things such as:

  • Chocolate
  • Cinnamon
  • Nuts
  • Apples
  • Cream cheese
  • Dried fruit
  • Nutella

It is swirled and twisted, sometimes topped with sugar syrup and sometimes topped with streusel, and absolutely melts in your mouth. I omit the sugar syrup and run with the streusel instead!

An overhead photo of a loaf of chocolate babka with two slices cut off.

Chocolate Babka Components

There is zero shortage of chocolate, eggs, butter, and sugar in this recipe. Let’s embrace the deliciousness and celebration-worthiness and enjoy it this month!

  • Sweet Dough – The recipe starts with a fabulous dough that includes sugar, eggs, and butter for the ultimate in richness.
  • Chocolate Filling – Finely chopped chocolate is mixed with cinnamon, sugar, and then butter is cut in to make a chocolate crumble of sorts that melts beautifully into swirls in the finished bread.
  • Streusel Topping – Not every recipe I’ve tried includes this, but I find it to be a must! It’s a simple combination of powdered sugar, flour, and butter and adds a buttery crunch to the top that I adore.

Shaping the Babka

This was one of the biggest hiccups folks had with the original recipe; I’ve streamlined the instructions to help make it more clear and have included tons of photos below and a video to help you along. Once you see it done, I think you’ll have the confidence to know it’s not that hard at all. All of those twists and turns help tuck tons of chocolate into each and every bite!

Let’s take a look >>

#1: Roll the dough out into a square and top with the chocolate filling.

A collage showing dough rolled into a square and covered with chocolate.

#2: Roll the dough up into a log, twist it lengthwise a number of times, and sprinkle some reserved chocolate filling on top.

Photo collage showing dough rolled up into log and sprinkled with chocolate filling.

#3: Fold the dough in half into a horseshoe shape, then twist the right side over the left to make a figure eight, give it two good twists, and nestle it into the loaf pan.

Collage of photos shaping babka into figure 8 and placing in pan.

#4: Finally, sprinkle the streusel on top and get ready to bake!

A loaf of babka with streusel sprinkled in top, before being baked.

Recipe Success Tips

A run-down of all the things you need to know about ingredients, equipment, alternative mixing, storing and freezing:

  • Freezing Instructions – Unbaked: The babka can be frozen in the pan for up to 1 month before baking. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and then in foil. When ready to bake, remove from freezer; let stand at room temperature for about five hours before baking as directed.
  • Freezing Instructions – Baked: Once baked and completely cooled, the babka can be wrapped in plastic wrap, then foil, and placed in a zipper freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature before serving. You could also slice the loaf and freeze the slices individually.
  • Milk: I use whole milk because I like the higher fat content for baking recipes, but you can get away with 2% here, as well.
  • Yeast: Instant yeast is sometimes also referred to as bread machine yeast or rapid rise yeast. If you use active dry yeast, please be aware that your rise times will be longer.
  • Thermometer: If you want to use a thermometer to check the temperature of the milk or the finished bread (which is not necessary, but incredibly helpful), I swear by my Thermapen MK4 instant-read digital thermometer.
  • Chocolate: I recommend using baking bars that you chop finely for this recipe, as opposed to chocolate chips, which will hold their shape and not melt down as much as chopped chocolate. I like Ghiradelli and Guittard brands. You can substitute bittersweet chocolate if you’d like, but I would not use milk chocolate, as it would be too sweet here.
  • Cinnamon: It might be strange to see this much cinnamon mixed in with chocolate, but it is not pronounced and it totally elevates the flavor of the filling. I highly recommend leaving it in!
  • Loaf Pans: I use Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch loaf pans (the 1-pound pans for this particular recipe).
  • To Make By Hand: If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can still make babka! Mix the dough together as directed, using a wooden spoon, then knead by hand on a floured surface until the dough is smooth and slightly tackly, then proceed with the rest of the recipe.
  • The Original Recipe: If you are interested in the original recipe that yielded 3 loaves, you can find those measurements here.

Slices of chocolate babka laying out on a serving board.

JOIN THE BEB BAKE-ALONG!

To tackle the chocolate babka and bake along with me this month, simply do the following:

  • Make the chocolate babka!
  • Snap a picture and either share it on social media (#BEBbakealong on Instagram or Twitter), upload it to the BEB Facebook group, or email it to me.
  • Check in on Instagram and Facebook throughout the month to see everyone’s babka!

Video Tutorial: Watch How to Make Chocolate Babka

Chocolate Babka

Servings 2 loaves
Prep 45 minutes
Cook 1 hour 10 minutes
Rise time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total 3 hours 25 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: jewish
Author: Michelle

This chocolate babka is rich, decadent and can be made at home in only a few hours.

Ingredients:

For the Dough

  • 1
    cup
    warm milk
    (warmed to 110°F)
  • 1
    tablespoon
    instant yeast
  • ½
    cup
    granulated sugar
  • 1
    egg
    (room temperature)
  • 1
    egg yolk
    (room temperature)
  • 4
    cups
    all-purpose flour
  • ½
    teaspoon
    salt
  • cup
    unsalted butter
    (cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature)

For the Chocolate Filling

  • 24
    ounces
    semisweet chocolate
    (very finely chopped)
  • cup
    granulated sugar
  • tablespoons
    ground cinnamon
  • ½
    cup
    unsalted butter
    (room temperature)

For the Egg Wash

  • 1
    egg
  • 1
    tablespoon
    heavy cream

For Streusel Topping

  • 1
    cup
    powdered sugar
  • ¾
    cup
    all-purpose flour
  • ½
    cup
    unsalted butter
    (room temperature)

Directions:

Make the Dough

  1. In a 4-cup measuring cup or medium bowl, stir together the milk and yeast and let sit for 5 minutes. Then, whisk in the sugar, egg, and egg yolk.

  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, add the flour and salt. Mix on low speed to combine, about 1 minute. Add the yeast mixture and mix until most of the flour has been incorporated, about 1 minute.

  3. Add the butter a few chunks at a time and knead until the dough forms a soft, smooth dough that is just slightly sticky when squeezed together, about 5 to 10 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just a few times until the dough is smooth, then place in a greased bowl, turning to coat the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Make the Chocolate Filling

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the chopped chocolate, sugar, and cinnamon. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender or a fork, cut the butter into the mixture until completely combined.

Make the Egg Wash

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and heavy cream.

Assemble the Babka

  1. Grease two 9x5-inch loaf pans with butter, then line with parchment paper; set aside. Gently punch down the dough, then turn out to a clean work surface and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

  2. Divide the dough in half and keep the half you are not working with covered with plastic wrap.

  3. On a well-floured surface, roll the dough into a 16-inch square. Crumble half of the filling over the surface of the dough, reserving 2 tablespoons of the filling, and leaving a ½-inch border around the edges of the dough.

  4. Brush the egg wash around the border of the dough. Starting at one side, roll the dough up tightly into a log, pinching the ends together to seal. Holding one end of the dough in each hand, twist the dough lengthwise five or six times.

  5. Brush the top of the log with the egg wash, then carefully sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of filling over the top of the log, pressing it into the egg wash. If any falls off the sides, pick it up and press it into the top.

  6. Fold the dough in half into a horseshoe shape, then cross the right half over the left half. Pinch the ends together to seal and form a figure eight. Holding one end of the dough in each hand, twist the dough two more times, then nestle it into the prepared loaf pan.

  7. Repeat steps #9 through #12 with the second half of dough.

  8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in lower third of oven.

Make the Streusel Topping

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and flour. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with larger chunks throughout.

  2. Brush the top of each loaf with the egg wash and sprinkle each loaf evenly with half of the streusel topping. Cover the loaves loosely with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free spot until the dough has expanded and puffed a bit, about 30 minutes.

Bake the Babkas

  1. Bake the loaves, rotating halfway through, until a light golden brown, about 55 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and continue baking until deep golden brown and a digital instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaves registers 190 degrees F, about 15 to 30 more minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks to cool completely. The loaves should be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and can be stored at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Recipe Notes:

  • Freezing Instructions - Unbaked: The babka can be frozen in the pan for up to 1 month before baking. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and then in foil. When ready to bake, remove from freezer; let stand at room temperature for about five hours before baking as directed.
  • Freezing Instructions - Baked: Once baked and completely cooled, the babka can be wrapped in plastic wrap, then foil, and placed in a zipper freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature before serving. You could also slice the loaf and freeze the slices individually.
  • Milk: I use whole milk because I like the higher fat content for baking recipes, but you can get away with 2% here, as well.
  • Yeast: Instant yeast is sometimes also referred to as bread machine yeast or rapid rise yeast. If you use active dry yeast, please be aware that your rise times will be longer.
  • Thermometer: If you want to use a thermometer to check the temperature of the milk or the finished bread (which is not necessary, but incredibly helpful), I swear by my Thermapen MK4 instant-read digital thermometer.
  • Chocolate: I recommend using baking bars that you chop finely for this recipe, as opposed to chocolate chips, which will hold their shape and not melt down as much as chopped chocolate. I like Ghiradelli and Guittard brands. You can substitute bittersweet chocolate if you'd like, but I would not use milk chocolate, as it would be too sweet here.
  • Cinnamon: It might be strange to see this much cinnamon mixed in with chocolate, but it is not pronounced and it totally elevates the flavor of the filling. I highly recommend leaving it in!
  • Loaf Pans: I use Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch loaf pans (the 1-pound pans for this particular recipe).
  • To Make By Hand: If you don't have a stand mixer, you can still make babka! Mix the dough together as directed, using a wooden spoon, then knead by hand on a floured surface until the dough is smooth and slightly tackly, then proceed with the rest of the recipe.
  • The Original Recipe: If you are interested in the original recipe that yielded 3 loaves, you can find those measurements here.

Nutrition:

Calories: 592kcal
Fat: 35g
Saturated fat: 21g
Cholesterol: 75mg
Sodium: 119mg
Potassium: 288mg
Carbohydrates: 62g
Fiber: 4g
Sugar: 30g
Protein: 7g
Vitamin A: 670%
Calcium: 57%
Iron: 4.1%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.

Update Notes: This recipe was originally published in January 2010. It was updated in December 2019 with a recipe formulated for two loaves instead of three, new photos, a recipe video, and extra success tips.

[photos by Ari of Well Seasoned]