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Easy Cinnamon Babka

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Easy Cinnamon Babka is an Eastern European sweet cake bread. It is simple to make and dairy free (without milk or butter), and delicious!

Dairy Free Cinnamon babka in a loaf pan on a white wood table with a clear glass of milk nearby

Easy Cinnamon Babka is a delicious sweet bread that is more like a cake (in Israel it is called a yeast cake) that originated in Jewish communities in Eastern Europe sometime in the early 1800s.

Babka is prepared with a yeast-leavened dough that is rolled out and spread with a filling such as chocolate, cinnamon, or other spread, rolled up and twisted. Then in is placed in a loaf pan to bake.

In a lot of descriptions and recipes, the design is called braiding, but it is not normally braided, but rather twisted – one half of the dough around the other.

While the instructions are long and may seem daunting, the recipe itself is rather easy. Mix the ingredients for the dough, let rise, roll out, spread the cinnamon, slice lengthwise down the middle, twist, place in the pan, and bake.

That’s all there is to it! The longest part of the recipe is waiting for the dough to rise, so go shopping!

Love yeast cakes? Try: Easy Cinnamon Rolls, Easy Chocolate Sweet Rolls, or Easy Chocolate Babka !

Dough before rising
Dough approximately double

If I can bake, anyone can

I am the type who hates paying more for something than I feel it’s worth and and loathe paying a lot for something I can bake at home.

So, paying a lot of money for a cake similar to one I can bake on my own just doesn’t work for me.

My problem was that I couldn’t really make a layer cake. I could make one in a 9″ x 13″ pan, but not one that could be used for a birthday or celebration.

For years, I tried, failed, and gave up. Then again, tried, failed and gave up.

It normally wasn’t the taste that was the problem, it was other things such as density or lopsidedness.

One day, I decided that no matter what, I would learn to make a decent looking cake (I wasn’t even aiming for good-looking, just decent).

One day, my daughter Elissa came into the kitchen during one of my “I will learn to do this” phases and stopped.

“You are NOT really measuring oil in the palm of your hand!”

I wasn’t sure what the problem was. I couldn’t be bothered to stop what I was doing to get the measuring spoons and I certainly know what a tablespoon of oil should look like…

“You can’t bake the way you cook,” she informed me (I often cook by “it looks right” or “it tastes right”, not by directions – which I often find people make unnecessarily complicated).

Finally, I decided OK, I am going to follow directions. I will measure properly and that will be it. So, I did.

The cake came out tasting really good, but it was really heavy.

I complained to Elissa.

“I followed the directions and even measured and look at it!”

We decided that she would try the recipe to see what was wrong (she is great at following exact measurements and was tired of my complaining).

I read the instructions to her (off a very highly reviewed recipe) and was very gratified when it came out heavy for her too. Ha!

She insisted we go over the instructions again and she also wanted to see the original recipe. I gladly showed her.

“You doubled the recipe,” she accused me. “Why?”

“Because I wanted a higher cake.”

“That is NOT considered following directions. The recipe is for two pans and you put double in each pan, so it couldn’t rise.”

Oh. I took back my “ha” and never did that again.

After a while, I finally gave in. Now, I follow directions, measure properly, and use the proper tools.

Not surprising, everything I bake comes out as it should (of course…as long as I don’t forget to remove from the oven…!).

Baking Pantry Essentials

I never know when someone in my family is going to want a dessert at home, to bring to a friend’s house or need for an event, so I like to make sure I can bake anything with very short notice.  To that end, I keep a variety of supplies and ingredients in the house that will allow me to do just that. 

I can’t tell you how many times I was glad to have whatever I needed within reach for the last minute visitor or for when one of my kids went to a friend or had a school event without much prior notice.

I have slowly collected things over the years as I needed them (or if I found a good sale) and like to keep more than one of the smaller items, in case I don’t want to wash dishes in the middle of baking.

My basic “equipment” includes:

  • a stand mixer, which I use mostly for dough and, sometimes whipping
  • a hand mixer (for things that aren’t dough and I don’t want to mix manually)
  • a small scale
  • different sizes and shapes of baking pans, including loaf pans
  • mixing bowls (or just large bowls – I have plastic, glass, and metal)
  • cookie sheets 
  • pie dishes
  • dry measuring cups
  • liquid measuring cups
  • whisks
  • rubber spatulas (really good for when you don’t want to leave anything in the bowl)
  • rolling pins
  • a baking mat for rolling out dough
  • baking strips
  • a good supply of baking (or parchment) paper (also round for layer cakes)

I can certainly get by without a lot of the above, but it makes baking so much simpler when I just have whatever I need at my fingertips.

In addition to the equipment, there are the baking ingredients that I try to keep in the house at all times: 

  • flour
  • white granulated sugar
  • brown sugar (light/dark – I usually keep dark)
  • confectioners sugar(powdered sugar)
  • salt
  • baking powder
  • baking soda 
  • cocoa powder
  • ground cinnamon
  • ground nutmeg
  • ground ginger
  • ground cloves
  • baking chocolate
  • chocolate chips
  • instant dry yeast
  • vanilla and/or vanilla sugar
  • cooking oil/cooking spray
  • margarine or butter
  • eggs
  • honey
  • instant coffee
  • various extracts (real or imitation)

I also make sure that I have the following on hand to be able to make a variety of fillings, frostings, and toppings:

  • whipping cream
  • powdered pudding mix
  • powdered sugar
  • a good chocolate spread

Then, there is the following to make last-minute quick desserts:

  • packaged pie dough or ready-made pie crusts
  • puff pastry dough

Lastly, it’s not a bad idea to keep fun toppings, such as chopped walnuts, raisins, and the oh-so-important container of sprinkles.

A little about yeast

Ever hear of matzo, the large cracker that Jews eat on Passover?

The explanation for that flat “bread” is that the dough didn’t yet leaven and therefor is didn’t have time to rise (into bread) before the Israelites had to leave their homes and Egypt to go to the desert.

Back in those days, the flour mixture was left out and the microbes of yeast in the air would leaven it over time and it would rise. So, the mixture that the Israelites made had to be baked as it, before being leavened.

Here is some more interesting information about yeast:

Yield: 8 slices

Easy Diary Free Cinnamon Babka

Dairy Free Cinnamon babka in a loaf pan on a white wood table with a clear glass of milk nearby

Delicious cinnamon babka cake, with oil and dairy free

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Additional Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 55 minutes



  • 4 cups all-purpose flour *
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water


  • 1 cup brown sugar or granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips (optional)


  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar


    1. Combine flour, sugar, oil, 2 of the eggs, yeast, vanilla, and salt from the Dough ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer or mixing bowl.
    2. Using your the bread hook of your mixer or your hands, knead slowly adding water, a little at a time, until the dough becomes like a slightly sticky Play-Doh.
    3. If you add too much water and the dough is too stickly, slowly add more flour, only a little at a time, until it reaches the right consistency. *
    4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, a towel, or something similar and let sit to rise until it approximately doubles in size. The amount of time this will take will depend on how warm the room is.
    5. Next, on a clean and lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a rectangular shape (doesn't have to be perfect) and a thickness of approximately 1/8 of an inch.
    6. In a separate mixing bowl, combine cocoa, sugar, oil, and cinnamon from the Filling ingredients. Spread evenly over the dough. If you are going to add chopped walnuts or chocolate chips, spread those out evenly over the dough on top of the filling.
    7. Starting at one of the shorter ends, roll the dough tightly into a log.
    8. Cut the log in a straight line down the middle, but do not let them fall apart.
    9. Carefully twist each end firmly around the other, making sure the open part showing the filling is visible (it should look somewhat like a chocolate candy cane without the hook).
    10. Carefully place the dough in a well-greased or parchment-lined standard loaf pan, pushing the ends together toward the middle so it fits. (It doesn't matter if it is a bit messy).
    11. Let sit to rise until it has approximately doubled in size (again, the time this takes depends on the warmth of the room.
    12. Brush the beaten egg over the top of the babka (this may smear the filling, but that's ok).
    13. Place in an oven that has been preheat the oven to 350°F.
    14. Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until the top has become a beautiful brown color.
    15. Melt the 1/4 cup of sugar in the 1/4 cup of water from the Glaze ingredients in a pot on medium heat to create simple syrup. (You can leave the syrup off if you like).
    16. Generously spoon the syrup over the babka.


* Have a little more flour at the ready in case the dough comes out too sticky.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 687Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 25gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 302mgCarbohydrates: 96gFiber: 3gSugar: 46gProtein: 10g

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