This cake is traditionally baked in the Christian regions of Eastern Europe for Easter and is one of the typical Easter foods being blessed on Holy Saturday.
The blessing of the Easter food or the “Swieconka” is a tradition dear to the heart of every Pole. Being deeply religious, he is grateful to God for all His gifts and, as a token of this gratitude, has the food of his table sanctified with the hope that spring, the season of the Resurrection, will also be blessed by God’s goodness and mercy.
The usual fare on the Easter table includes ham and kielbasa, cakes of all kinds – particularly babka; eggs – some shelled and some decorated. There is usually a Paschal Lamb or “Baranek” made of butter, some cheese, horseradish, salt, vinegar and oil.
The food is brought to the church in a basket covered with a white, embroidered cloth and blessed by the priest. After the blessing, the food is usually set aside until Easter morning when the family gathers around the table for a festive breakfast.
What I didn’t know up to now is, that many Jews from Eastern Europe have brought the recipe for babka to North American cities. My family and I live on the East Coast of the US, in the New York area, amid a large Jewish community. In the days before Passover, the local bakeries and Jewish delicatessen shops offered this cake in two variations: with chocolate filling or (like in my recipe) with raisins.
I actually planned to publish my recipe before Easter, but unfortunately I didn’t make it on time. I hope you enjoyed my little story anyway.
Please make sure that all ingredients have room temperature. It is best to take the yeast, eggs and milk out of the refrigerator about 1 hour before baking.
Polish Easter Babka
- 100 ml warm milk
- 50 g fresh yeast
- 370 g of plain, all-purpose flour, plus a little bit more for dusting
- 100 g sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 3 eggs
- 150 g soft butter, plus a little more to grease the baking pan
- 1/2 cup raisins or cranberries. As a measuring cup, I used a large water glass.
- 1/2 cup candied orange peel
For the glaze
- 200 g powdered sugar
- lemon juice
- 1/3 cup candied orange peel
- Grease the Kugelhopf pan with butter and dust it with flour.
- In a small pot heat up the milk until lukewarm. Crumble the fresh yeast into a large bowl, add a tbsp of sugar and mix it with half of the lukewarm milk until the yeast is completely dissolved. Cover the bowl with a cloth and let it rest at a warm place for 10 – 15 min.
- Add the remaining milk, sugar and a pinch of salt, sieve through the flour. Mix either with a wooden mixing spoon or with an electric mixer with kneading hooks at a medium speed. Add the eggs one by one and continue mixing until an elastic and smooth dough is produced.
- Add the soft butter to the dough and continue mixing until the dough is smooth.
- Combine the candied orange peel and raisins (or cranberries) with the dough. Cover with a cloth and allow to rest for 1 hour at a warm place until the dough doubled its volume.
- Punch down the dough so the air can escape. Fill it into the baking pan. Cover with a cloth and let it rest for another 40 min.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C / 356°F. Bake the cake on the lower rail for 35 min until golden braun. Remove from the oven, leave to cool for 10 – 15 min, then take out of the baking pan and put o a cake rake, and allow to cool completely.
- For the glaze, mix icing sugar with lemon juice, add orange peel and combine well with the glaze. Spread the glaze on the cake.