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According to Jewish food historian Gil Marks, kokosh cake, like Polish babka, wasn’t originally made with chocolate; both chocolate and cocoa were expensive ingredients in shtetl times.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 ¾ cups flour
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 ¼ tsp instant dry yeast
- ¼ cup warm water
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 egg, whisked, for egg wash
For the filling:
- 2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- ¼ tsp espresso powder
- 2 egg whites
For the streusel:
- 1/2 cup white flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- 1/2 stick room-temperature butter
- Combine the 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 eggs and oil to the bowl. Mix until fully combined. Add the flour and salt and mix to combine. Switch to the dough hook and knead for eight 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.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Flour a large piece of parchment paper then roll the dough out on it, forming a large rectangle. The dough should be thin enough that it’s almost see-through in places; just don’t let it tear.
- Combine all ingredients for the filling until smooth. Using an offset spatula, spread filling over half the dough. Fold the unfilled half over the filled half. You will now have a long, folded-over rectangle. Using your spatula, spread more filling over the bottom half of this rectangle.
- Fold the unfilled half of the rectangle over the filled half. You will now have a package resembling a square. Use a rolling pin to roll and flatten it out slightly.
- Spread the remaining filling over the top of the square. Roll it up to create a short, flattish log. Using the baking paper, transfer to a baking paper-lined loaf pan or cookie sheet.
- Brush with egg wash. 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 30-35 minutes until the dough is golden brown and the crumbs are lightly colored. Allow to cool before slicing.