Babovka is what I’m choosing to call this cake (but you can also call it Kugelhopf or Gugelhopf (or babka or kuglof…and surely there’s some other names out there I’m missing). I’m not sure what’s the easiest to pronounce, so take your pick!
While it’s only idle speculation, I imagine that this is a European ancestor of the Bundt cake–baked in a decorative, fluted mold, hollow at the center, often with a swirled filling. While my particular version is yeasted (and with no “surprises” other than raisins), I’m sure I’ve had more definitively “cake” type versions “in my time.”
Personally, I’m calling this Babovka because that’s what it’s known as in the Czech Republic, where I first encountered it (and fairly ubiquitous–you’re much more likely to run across this than you are a Bundt cake these days). It was always mentioned by my students when it was time for one of those oh-so-cliched foreign language lessons “Traditional foods of your country”). They would consult their English-Czech dictionaries to tell me that in English, it was known as a “Gugelhopf.” (Hmmm…not entirely illuminating).
In any event, somewhat recently I came across recipes for the Alsatian “Kugelhopf” cake, or the German “Gugelhopf” and it got me thinking (and got me making some additions to my Amazon.com wishlist). I ended up getting a 10 cup capacity mold for Christmas (the size is actually not all that standardized, surprisingly enough for something that is sort of an unusual product) as it seemed to be on the larger end, and I figured were I to make recipe calling for an 8 cup mold it would just not fill all the way. (Alternately, I’d have to deal with overflowing batter).
I looked at a few recipes. Nick Malgieri’s Babka called for 12 egg yolks, that was the end of that one (anyway, we’ll be seeing enough of him around here soon enough). I thought about Dorie Greenspan’s version and another one listed on epicurious, but finally ended up choosing a yeasted version that I loosely based on a recipe in Rick Rodgers Kaffeehaus. Being a cookbook that focusses on Central European coffeehouse treats, it has its fair share of Kugelhopf recipes. I also love it for sentimental reasons–photos and descriptions of the great coffeehouses of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague, and of course with instructions on how to recreate the delicious cakes and pastries so unique to that area.
The original recipe is a bit odd–namely, you are instructed to separate the eggs, make the dough, and then stir in (not fold!) whipped egg whites which are meant to deflate into the batter. I have absolutely no idea what the purpose of this is (though I have seen this technique in various Ukrainian Easter Bread (Paska) recipes and have been similarly puzzled). I can’t say if this is necessary, but if anyone knows I’d be very curious to find out!
In the end, I’d have to say this was more bread than cake. But a sweet bread, along the lines of a Pannetone or Pandoro–so no complaints here.
Yeasted Almond and Raisin Babovka (based on, but adapted from, Kaffeehaus).
- 3 3/4t active dry yeast
- 1c milk at 110-115F
- 1/2t sugar
- 1c AP flour (unbleached)
- 12T butter at room temperature
- 1/2c sugar
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 1/2t vanilla extract
- 1t almond extract
- 1/2t salt
- 2 1/2-3c AP flour (unbleached)
- 1c raisins
- 1/4c sliced almonds
- confectioner’s sugar, for serving
Make the sponge: add the yeast, sugar, and flour to the warm milk and let rise for a half hour.
Pour the sponge into a stand mixer and beat in the butter. Then add one by one the four yolks and beat until incorporated. Add the extracts and salt. Add the flour to form a soft tacky dough. You may not need all the flour–wait before adding more to allow it to incorporate (it may take a minute or so). Beat for five minutes to obtain a soft dough.
Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Add to the dough (the whites will deflate), leaving you with a soft batter. Stir in the raisins.
Butter your mold and press in the almond slivers. Pour in the batter and allow to rise until the pan is nearly full. Bake for 30 minutes, then cover with foil and bake another 3o minutes (to prevent over-browning). The cake should register at 205F.
Allow to cool and serve with powdered sugar.