If babka is the hip Jewish treat du jour, then kokosh cake is its slightly homelier cousin of yesteryear. But don’t let that description turn you off, because what kokosh cake lacks in razzle-dazzle, it makes up for in the most important of ways: rich, gooey, seemingly endless layers of chocolate.
Named after the Hungarian word for cocoa, kakaó, a kokosh cake is flatter and longer than a babka and made with a yeast dough that’s barely left to rise. The dough is rolled thin, spread with a chocolate filling, and then rolled up.
According to Jewish food historian Gil Marks, kokosh cake, like Polish babka, wasn’t originally made with chocolate; both chocolate and cocoa were expensive ingredients in shtetl times. Instead, kokosh cake evolved from a simpler version made with poppy seeds, known as makosh (the Hungarian word for poppy seeds is màk), before becoming the primarily chocolate pastry we know it as today.
Modern versions of kokosh are often topped with streusel, an addition I’ll personally never say no to. My kokosh cake also contains two secret ingredients: egg whites in the filling, which ensure its gooey interior, and a touch of espresso powder, which heightens the flavor of the chocolate.
Babka, there’s a hot new cake in town — and it’s coming for your crown.
For the dough:
1 packet active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
4 Tbsp sugar, divided
3 eggs + 1 egg, whisked, for egg wash
16 Tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange extract (optional)
½ tsp salt
4½ cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
½ cup salted butter, room temperature
1 cup cocoa powder
2¼ cups sugar
½ tsp sea salt
3 egg whites
½ cup corn syrup
For the streusel:
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ stick butter, room-temperature
½ tsp sea salt
- Combine 2 Tbsp sugar, yeast and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Set the mix aside for 10 minutes to proof, or until it turns bubbly.
- Add the 3 eggs, oil and the remaining 2 Tbsp sugar to the bowl. Mix until fully combined.
- Switch to the dough hook, add the rest of the dough ingredients and knead on medium speed for 10 minutes, until a smooth, cohesive dough forms and begins to pull away from the sides of the mixer.
- Shape the dough into a ball and set it to rise in an oiled bowl, covered, for no more than 30 minutes. You can add a light dusting of flour to the dough for easier handling.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Line a 13×9 inch baking pan with parchment paper and clip down the sides.
- Split the ball of dough into two equal sized balls. Roll one ball at a time into large, thin rectangles. (Roughly ¼ inch thick)
- Combine all ingredients for the filling until smooth.
- Using an offset spatula, spread filling over half the entire rectangle. Avoid adding filling to the edges of the dough and save any extra filling for later. Slowly roll the dough on the short side of the rectangle until you have a log. Repeat for the second ball of dough.
- Place both logs side by side into the 13×9 baking pan.Brush both logs of dough with egg wash. If you’d like a gooey, more chocolatey cake, you can fill in the gaps around the logs with the extra chocolate filling.
- Combine the ingredients for the streusel with your hands until the mixture resembles large, sandy crumbs. Sprinkle it over the egg-washed cake.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes until the dough is golden brown. Allow to cool before slicing.