Cheese Babka Two Ways – Cinnamon Streusel and Fruit Mini Babkas

cheese babka two ways

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I’ve been a little lax in posting my Great British Bake Off Bakealong challenge recipes; I do enjoy this challenge hosted by Laura at Little House, Big Alaska.  I am hoping to get caught up over the next couple of weeks so stay tuned. Today I bring you yeasted cakes week. Babka was my choice as I remember my grandmother’s cheese babka and it was so delicious. I used the base recipe from The Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets and then I went completely rogue for little mini babkas that were out of this world.

DON’T FREAK WHEN YOU START READING THIS RECIPE. It’s long. It’s got a lot of ingredients and a lot of steps. Remember, I am giving you info to make EIGHT babkas. It lets you put dough in the freezer to pull out for later. This will let you have enough dough available for baking babkas to keep you in pastry for two to three weeks depending on if you eat them at a normal rate or the rate I eat them. :)

Babka Two Ways

Note: This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you buy from my link I might make a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay. See the full affiliate disclosure here.

Cheese Babka Two Ways

Makes approx 8, 8 oz portions of babka dough

For the Babka Dough Sponge

  • 4 packets (4 TBS) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (95° – 115°F)
  • 3/4 cup milk at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups bread flour

For the Babka Dough

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 TBS powdered milk
  • 3 1/3 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • zest of one orange
  • 2 TBS orange juice
  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the Cream Cheese Filling

  • 8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 TBS sugar
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 3 TBS unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Butter Streusel Topping

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Cinnamon Sugar

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 TBS ground cinnamon

Assorted toppings for the mini babkas (for each 12)

  • 1/4 cup chopped strawberries
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 1 oz chopped semi sweet chocolate
  • 4 tsp cinnamon sugar

powdered sugar for dusting

Make the Babka Dough:

sponge for babka dough

  • Make a sponge: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attached. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Add the milk and flour being careful to mix carefully so that the flour doesn’t fly out of the bowl. Mix on low speed for about 10  minutes. Remove the paddle, cover and let sit until doubled in volume, about 35 minutes.
  • Oil a large bowl
  • Put the bowl back on the stand and add the paddle. Stir the sponge down. Add the eggs and yolks in three additions, mixing on low.

add ingredients to babka sponge

  • The dough will be very wet. Add the sugar, powdered milk, orange zest, salt, orange juice, marmalade, vanilla, nutmeg, flour, and sour cream. Mix with pulses so the flour doesn’t fly out of the bowl.
  • Remove the paddle and add the dough hook. Knead for 10 – 12 minutes. The dough will be sticky. Add the butter in small pieces a little at a time until it is all absorbed.
  • If it seems too wet add up to one half cup more flour.
  • Knead for 10 – 12 minutes until the dough is silky with a bit of a shine. It should be sticky.
  • Remove the dough to the prepared bowl, cover and let rise until puffy, about 45 minutes.

steps for punching down and cutting babka dough into eigths

  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and punch down.
  • Cut into eight pieces each weighing about 8 oz
  • Roll each piece into a log place on a floured baking sheet.
  • Let rise in the refrigerator for at least two hours or overnight
  • Wrap the pieces you are not using to make the babka loaf and place in the freezer
  • To make the babka loaf keep one 8 oz portion out. (directions will follow for the mini babkas)

To Make a Cheese Babka

Make the Cream Cheese Filling:

  • In a bowl mix the cream cheese with 2 TBS of sugar ( you can use a stand mixer or a hand mixer)
  • Add the ricotta cheese and the remaining sugar and mix (do not cream)
  • Add the butter, flour, salt, vanilla and egg yolk and mix until blended.

Make the Butter Streusel

  • Using a food processor with a steel blade or a stand mixer with the paddle attached mix together the brown sugar, white sugar, 2 cups of flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Mix only until combined. Do not cream.
  • Add the additional flour if the mixture seems to wet. You want it to clump together to make the kind of crumbs you find on crumb cake and not be too dry.

Make the Babka:

  • Line an 8 or 9″ loaf pan with parchment paper then spray with cooking spray.
  • Take one 8 oz portion of babka dough and let rise in an oiled bowl until puffy about 20 minutes.

roll out and fill babka loaf

  • Remove the dough to a floured surface and punch down. Roll the dough out to a 10 x 7″ rectangle
  • Spread 1 cup of the cream cheese filling on top of the dough leaving a 1/2″ border
  • Sprinkle the cheese filling with 1/2 cup of cinnamon sugar
  • Brush the border with a little water and roll the dough up jelly roll style.

cheese babka in pan

  • Twist the dough to fit in the loaf pan. Brush with melted butter and top with 1 cup of the butter streusel.
  • Let rise for 45 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350° and set rack in the middle of the oven
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 35 – 45 minutes until lightly browned.
  • Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and remove from pan.
  • Dust with powdered sugar before serving

To Make Mini Fruit and Cheese Babka

  • You will use one 8 oz portion of babka dough to make 12 mini babkas.

roll and cut out dough for mini babkas

  • After the dough rises roll it out in a circle until it is about 1/4″ thick
  • Using a 2″ round biscuit cutter cut out as many rounds as you can. Reroll the scraps and cut more rounds until you have 12
  • Spray 12 paper cupcake liners with cooking spray.
  • Take each round and roll it out a little more and put it on the cupcake liner and then carefully put the liner in a cupcake tin. Make sure the dough stays on the side so you can fill the center with cheese filling and fruit.
  • Repeat with the remaining 11 rounds.

fill mini babkas with cheese filling and fruit

  • Fill each dough filled cupcake liner with a heaping TBS of cream cheese filling. Top with pieces of fruit; strawberries, blueberries, cinnamon sugar (1/2 tsp) or chopped chocolate (1/2 tsp)
  • Top with butter streusel  – enough to cover.
  • Let rise until puffy, about 3o minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 15 – 20 minutes until lightly browned.

mini fruit and cheese babkas cooling on wire rack

  • Remove from the cupcake tin and cool on a wire rack.
  • Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

mini cheese and cinnamon babkas

*Variation – instead of cutting out rounds, roll up the dough as in the original babka recipe and cut into 12 pieces. Line a 12 hole cupcake pan with liners and spray with cooking spray. Place one piece in each and top with butter streusel to cover. Bake as directed in the fruit and cheese babka recipe.

How Were the Cheese Babkas Two Ways?

This is a rich, delicious dough. I made the traditional cheese babka first – the rolled loaf. After it cooled I cut it and the hubby and I each enjoyed a piece.

classic cheese babka

The babka was very good. The cheese filling and cinnamon sugar almost melted into to the rich, moist pastry. The flavor was amazing; a little like a cheese danish and a little like cinnamon toast. The loaf did not last long.

mini babkas on tray with M&Ms coffee mug

The mini babkas were even better. The addition of fruit made them taste even more like little danishes. I will admit that I preferred the mini babkas to the more traditional loaf. But I would not say no to either one. I still have 4 1/2 portions in the freezer so I have lots of babka yet to enjoy. And I will.

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