|Region or state||The United States, Israel|
|Created by||Jewish communities of Central and Eastern Europe|
|Variations||Chocolate babka, cinnamon babka, apple babka, sweet cheese babka, cinnamon raisin babka|
It is filled with a variety of sweet fillings such as chocolate, cinnamon sugar, apples, sweet cheese, Nutella, or raisins, and is topped with a sugar syrup in order to preserve freshness and make the cake more moist. It is often topped with a streusel topping, especially by Jewish people in the Northeastern United States. It has been called New York City’s most iconic dessert.
Babka is associated with the Eastern European Jewish tradition. Traditionally babka is made from a doubled and twisted length of yeast dough and is typically baked in a high loaf pan. Instead of a fruit filling, the dough contains cinnamon and/or chocolate. The babka is usually topped with streusel or poppy seeds. Immigrants brought this dish, also known as Krantz cake, to New York where its popularity flourished.
Beginning in the 2010’s the popularity of babka increased dramatically across the United States, most especially in New York, where a popular Israeli bakery from Tel Aviv owned by acclaimed Israeli Baker Uri Scheft, Breads Bakery, opened a location and began to sell their Israeli-style babka filled with traditional fillings such as cinnamon, as well as nontraditional fillings such as Nutella, apple, cheesecake, as well as a savory version with za'atar and feta cheese. They became well know for their chocolate babka. This has been called the best babka in New York City.
The new found popularity of babka across the United States among both Jewish and non-Jewish people, has resulted in many non-traditional variations filled with such fillings as buffalo chicken, rainbow, everything bagel, and cookie butter, among others.
Serbian style of babka is called "Bakina pletenica", "Pletenica pogača". In Serbian babka is called baka, which means grandmother. It is believed that it was named after grandmothers because they are known for making lots of goodies and desserts. And it is especially popular in Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, Srem district. It comes in chocolate and cinnamon varieties, usually with dried grapes and honey. It's baked in loaf pans. Very popular around Christmas and New Year.
Israeli style babka is made with a laminated dough, enriched with butter, which is then folded and rolled it multiple times to create many distinct layers, similar to that used for Israeli style rugelach, and also croissant dough. Israeli style babka is available with a wider array of fillings and shapes. It is most often shaped into a loaf pan, but it is also sometimes made into individual babkas, a pie-shaped babka, formed into a ring shape, or braided and baked free form.
A similar cake called a kokosh is also popular in Jewish bakeries. Kokosh also comes in chocolate and cinnamon varieties, but it is lower and longer than babka, is not twisted, and not topped with streusel. Cakes of these styles are typically, but not universally, considered couronnes baked in loaf pans, rather than babkas. Kokosh has become popular in North American cities with large Jewish populations, including Montreal, New York, Chicago, Miami, and Toronto.
Soviet-Bloc Jews also refer to babka as a kind of fried spaghetti cake, made with eggs, salt, pepper, and thinly sliced onion. Other cultures may refer to this as noodle kugel or Lokshen.
Babka was referenced in the American television series Seinfeld episode The Dinner Party. The characters Jerry and Elaine stop at Royal Bakery to purchase a chocolate babka while Kramer and George go to buy wine. Jerry and Elaine forget to take a number at the counter. As a result, David and Barbara Benedict, a couple on their way to the same dinner party, get ahead of them in line and purchase the last chocolate babka. Jerry and Elaine resort to purchasing a cinnamon babka, which Elaine considers a "lesser babka." They find that the babka has a hair on it, and are forced to wait in line again to exchange it.
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