Learn to bake tender, delicious homemade Cinnamon Babka with this illustrated step-by-step tutorial. This recipe is tested, reviewed, and ready for your kitchen! Even if you’re not a born baker, you can make a crave-worthy babka by following the steps in this post.
While Chocolate Babka might be more familiar to most people, Cinnamon Babka is an equally tasty treat. To create this Cinnamon Babka, I stuck with the same dough as my Chocolate Babka (why mess with success?) and added a cinnamon brown sugar filling with a streusel topping. I know chocolate is often the go-to babka, but I may like this cinnamon version even more. After all, Jerry Seinfeld himself said “cinnamon takes a backseat to no babka” and who am I to argue?
Babka is similar in texture to challah, but slightly more cake-like. Yeast-risen dough is the basis for this Eastern European sweet bread. The name comes from the Slavic babcia, which is closely related to the Yiddish bubbe – both meaning grandmother. The word babka translates to “grandmother’s cake,” inspired by the shape of an old woman’s skirt. Grandmothers typically baked babka in fluted skirt-shaped baking pans.
Jewish babka first appeared during the early 1800s. Polish housewives prepared extra egg challah dough to be filled with cinnamon or jam, which was rolled up and baked alongside the Shabbat challah. It was served to hungry children during busy Shabbat preparations or reserved as a special treat. Streusel toppings came along during the mid 1900s.
Chocolate Babka is more common today, but Cinnamon Babka is more similar to the early Polish versions made in the 1800’s. I personally love Cinnamon Babka, it’s a real treat when paired with a warm cup of coffee on a chilly winter afternoon.
Recipe Update: Back in 2015 I launched this Cinnamon Babka recipe, as well as my method for making Chocolate Babka. Since then many readers have tested both babkas with great results. Throughout the years I have adjusted a few steps to help make this Cinnamon Babka recipe even better. I have incorporated those adjustments in this updated post, along with a few tips and lovely photos from my friend Kelly Jaggers. Enjoy!
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Food Photography and Styling by Kelly Jaggers
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar, plus 1 tsp for activating yeast
- 2/3 cup whole milk, warmed to 110 degrees F, plus 1 additional tbsp for egg wash
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil (I use canola or grapeseed)
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 egg yolks (reserve 1 egg white for egg wash and 1 egg white for cinnamon filling)
- 2 1/2 - 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour (flour amount detailed in instructions below)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
Cinnamon Filling Ingredients
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 3 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1 egg white
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
- 1/4 tsp salt
- To prepare the dough: Start by dissolving the yeast in the warm milk along with 1 tsp sugar. If you do not have a thermometer, the milk should be warm to the touch but not hot. Whisk the yeast and 1 tsp sugar into the milk to dissolve. Over the next few minutes, the milk/yeast mixture should become foamy as the yeast begins to grow. If it doesn't, this likely means that your yeast has expired or the milk was too hot, causing it to die. Get some fresh yeast and try again, otherwise your babka won't rise... and that would be a major bummer.
- While the yeast proofs, cream together the butter and sugar in a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment.
- Once the butter and sugar are well combined, add the oil and vanilla extract and mix well at low speed. Add egg yolks 1 at a time and increase the mixer to high. Beat for an additional 2 minutes.
- Turn the mixer back to low speed and add 2 1/2 cups flour and 1 tsp salt, then add the foamy yeast mixture. Be sure to give the yeast mixture a final whisk before adding it in, especially if it is very foamy.
- Mix until just combined, then replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Continue to mix, adding 1 tbsp of flour at a time, just until a soft dough forms. The amount of flour you need will vary based on humidity levels; best to add flour slowly and check texture as you go.
- You want a dough that is soft a pliable, not stiff. The dough should be tacky, but not wet or sticky, and shouldn't cling to the skin. Do not walk away during this part, you also want to keep an eye on the dough to make sure that you do not over mix it. It should be easy to form into a smooth ball.
- Once a soft dough forms that can easily be removed from the hook by hand, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead several times, or until you have a smooth ball of dough. Do not over-knead.
- Place the ball of dough into a greased mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. I prefer to let the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight, but if you prefer you can let it rise at room temperature for 1-2 hours, or until it has just about doubled in size.
- To prepare the cinnamon filling: Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl until smooth. Set aside.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature, about 1 hour. Once the dough reaches room temperature, roll it on a lightly floured surface until you have a 14x18 inch rectangle.
- Evenly spread the cinnamon filling over the dough, leaving an even 1 inch border around the edge.
- Starting with the long side, roll the dough into a tight log.
- Roll the log back and forth several times, gently spreading it out until the length of the log is about 20 inches.
- Twist the dough into a figure 8 and pinch the ends together. Sometimes using a bit of water will help the ends to stick.
- Line your loaf pan with parchment paper, then lightly spray the parchment with nonstick cooking oil spray. Transfer the dough to the lined loaf pan. Cover the pan with a tea towel, or loosely with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 1 hour, or until the babka completely fills the pan. It will get pretty big!
- While the dough is rising, prepare the streusel by combining the ingredients in a mixing bowl until well combined and crumbly.
- Once the dough has risen, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Using a very thin skewer, poke a few holes into the babka. This allows steam to be released during baking so that you aren't left with very large gaps between the dough and the filling.
- Brush the babka with an egg wash made from 1 egg white and 1 tbsp of whole milk.
- Sprinkle the streusel over the top of the babka. It will collect more in the crevices, but this is fine. Babka should have a rustic look.
- Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, then turn the pan 180 degrees and cook for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 185 degrees F in the thickest center part of the babka. The babka will be golden brown and should have a hollow sound when tapped.
- Allow the babka to cool before slicing. This is truly the hardest part of the whole process, but trust me - cutting into it while it’s still hot will leave you with quite a mess. The filling needs time to set up a bit. Even after cooling it will crumble a bit when you slice it. That's part of the charm. Serve with coffee or tea and enjoy your babka bliss!
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