Cheese Babka

If you haven’t tried babka, it’s a lightly sweetened, yeasted cake/bread with a swirl of something delicious inside. The most typical flavours are chocolate or cinnamon, but you can really do any flavours you like. In this version, the swirl is lightly sweetened cream cheese scented with fresh lemon zest, a stunningly delicious flavour combination.

For the chocolate and cinnamon versions, I usually brush the baked babka with a sugar syrup, but for this one, I’ve added a crumble-topping and it adds the perfect touch to the babka. I used to think the chocolate version was my favourite, but this version may have taken the top spot. . .

Cheees Babka

Lightly sweetened yeast cake/bread swirled with lemon-scented cream cheese and topped with cumble.



  • 1 tsp. traditional yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 60 grams / 2 oz. granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
  • 315 grams / 11 1/4 oz. all-purpose flour (2 1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 60 grams / 2 oz. softened butter (1/4 cup)
  • Filling

  • 250 grams / 8 1/2 oz softened cream cheese
  • zest from one lemon, finely grated
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • Crumble

  • 28 grams / 1 oz. softened butter (2 Tbsp.)
  • 60 grams / 2 oz. granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
  • 35 gram / 1 1/4 oz. flour (1/4 cup)


  1. For the dough: Add the yeast to the warm water in a measuring cup. Add 1 tsp. of the sugar, stir and let it sit until the yeast starts to foam, about 5 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, the rest of the sugar and the salt and use the dough hook to mix together. Add the yeast/water mixture, the eggs, vanilla and softened butter. Mix with a dough hook on low until just combined. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead for about 10 minutes, or until a smooth and elastic ball of dough forms. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl that’s been sprayed with oil, cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it rest until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours (depending on the temperature in your kitchen – it will rise faster in a warmer room).
  3. For the filling: While the dough rests, combine the cream cheese, lemon zest, egg yolk, flour and sugar in a bowl. You can use a stand mixer, but if the cream cheese is room temperature, you can mix this together in a bowl with a spoon. Set aside.
  4. Form the babka: (See images below.) When the dough has doubled in size, lightly flour your clean counter and turn the dough out onto your worksurface. Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour, then roll out into a large rectangle, approximately 10″ x 15″. Use a spoon or spatula to spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the dough, leaving approximately 1/4″ of the edges naked.
  5. Roll the dough into a log, then use a sharp knife to carefully cut the roll in half, lengthwise. Twist the two halves together, keeping the sliced sides of the pieces facing up. Place the babka in a parchment-lined loaf-pan, pushing the loaf together from both ends, plumping up the loaf and fitting it to the pan. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set aside to rise for 30 minutes or until it’s puffed up.
  6. While the babka rises, preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C and prepare the crumb topping. Place the soft butter, sugar and flour in a small bowl and use your fingertips or a fork to work everything together until it resembles sand.
  7. When it’s ready to bake, remove the plastic wrap, and sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the babka. Bake for 30 minutes, turn and bake another 30 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when you insert it into the middle of the loaf.
  8. Let cool completely before slicing. This is best eaten the day it’s baked, but it keeps well for a couple of days on the counter, covered with plastic wrap.


    • I haven’t, but I’ve frozen the chocolate version (same dough). It’s always best fresh of course, but it still tasted great thawed.

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