This Easter’s must-have treat was babka, a traditional Eastern European cake, which has become a hit in New York, and is now gaining rapid favour in London.
Babka is a spongy, brioche-like yeast cake. It is traditionally baked for Easter Sunday in Poland, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Albania, and for the major holidays (Christmas, Easter, New Year, Pentecost) in Romania. Traditionally it does not have any filling, and is glazed with a vanilla- or chocolate-flavoured icing and decorated with almonds or candied fruit, sometimes with added rum.
In west London at Honey and Co, you can find krantz cake, a babka filled with dark chocolate and hazelnuts, or white chocolate and tahini. At north London’s The Good Egg, pastry chef Oded Mizrahi has said he cannot make babka fast enough - his date and pecan version is a best-seller. Also up in that neck of the woods, you can find a sourdough babka at Margot Bakery.
Waitrose Magazine has said babka is one of its most popular recipes, and Mary Berry even makes one on her latest television show, Easter Feast.
There are two distinct versions of babka. One is a Polish Christian tradition, baked for Easter in a round, bundt-style shape, with an iced topping. It resembles a grandmother’s skirt, which is why it is called babka, a diminutive of babushka, which is Polish for grandmother.
The second is Jewish babka, which is an enriched dough carefully rolled around a filling of dried fruit and nuts, or cinnamon & chocolate, then halved and twisted around itself into a plait, before being baked in a loaf tin. This is the one that’s taking bakeries by storm.