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A photo of a Chocolate Babka from Breads Bakery in New York City.
Alternative namesKrantz
Region or stateThe United States, Israel
Created byJewish communities of Central and Eastern Europe
VariationsChocolate babka, cinnamon babka, apple babka, sweet cheese babka, cinnamon raisin babka

Babka is a sweet braided bread or cake of Ashkenazi Jewish origin popular in the United States, Serbia and Israel (among other countries with a significant Jewish population).

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.[1]


A traditional American-style Chocolate babka, made with a dough similar to challah, and topped with streusel

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.

2010s popularity

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[2] 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.[3] This has been called the best babka in New York City.[4]

Other versions such as at Russ and Daughters in New York and Wise Sons in San Francisco, helped the babka become a trendy baked good and popular on Instagram as well.

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.

Babka has also been featured on restaurant menus and in such dishes as french toast, babka ice cream, and babka ice cream sandwiches, among others.

Babka has recently become available at grocery stores across the country, with Trader Joe’s offering their own chocolate version made in Brooklyn.[5]


American style

American style babka is traditionally made with a dough similar to challah dough, and is often topped with streusel, poppy seeds or a crumb topping.

Serbian style

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

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 savory noodle kugel version

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.

In popular culture

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[6]. 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.[7]

See also


  1. ^ "This Nutella-Stuffed Bread Is New York City's Most Iconic Dessert". Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  2. ^ "Breads Bakery". Time Out NYC. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  3. ^ "Breads Bakery's Famous Chocolate Babka". The Jewish Week|Food & Wine. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  4. ^ "The Best Babka in NYC". Serious Eats. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  5. ^ "Chocolate Brooklyn Babka". What’s Good at Trader Joe’s. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  6. ^ "10 Iconic NYC Foods of Seinfeld". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  7. ^ "Video of "The Dinner Party" episode of Seinfeld". Youtube. Retrieved 3 October 2019.