Recipe: Vegan Chocolate Babka

This sweet braided bread is popular in Jewish communities and throughout Eastern Europe. We've updated the recipe and created a veganised version of this much-loved chocolate and walnut cake. It's so delicious you'll need to bake several.

Babkas are my nostalgic treat. This sweet brioche-like cake reminds me of my childhood and my grandmother, who would make these with poppy seeds, or walnut and chocolate.

There are many variations on the babka, differing from region to region and family to family. You can add apples, raisins and even rahat (rahat ul-holkumrose Turkish delight), or Nutella. Having no poppyseeds or rahat in my pantry, and not being a fan of Nutella, I whipped up a couple of the ol' walnut and cocoa babkas instead.

Although the recipe usually calls for eggs, milk and butter, I've replaced these with vegan ingredients instead. I wanted to see if I could veganise a traditional recipe successfully, without compromising on taste of texture. Well, it can be done.

I also used wholewheat instead of all-purpose flour, largely because I had run out of white flour, but also because it felt a bit healthier—wholewheat is a good source of protein, fibre, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. I'm happy to say that even with all these adjustments this babka recipe did not disappoint one bit. Add a little milk at a time to the dough as you're mixing in the bowl, as the wholewheat can be drier.

There's a complicated way and an easy way of making a babka. The complicated way is more time consuming and requires laminating and layering of the dough, resulting in a flakey croissant-like texture. The recipe below is the easy, fool-proof version, although it's no less time consuming, so set aside a block of time to make it.

For this recipe, proof and chill the dough for about 24 hours before starting on the babka filling and twisting.

I used an easy coil method— two halves of a dough rope twisted around one other—but you can also just bake the babka in a single log roll, or if you’re feeling adventurous braid three coils like a challah. The twisting can get messy, but the end result is so delicious it’s well worth it.