Apr 18, 2014

Mrs. Irena's Easter Babka cooked in water

So, this year, I'm making it. It's been in my mom's recipe notebook for 40 years now and there is no Easter without it. The sad thing was, that my parents were moving last year and my mom threw the special babka form away... I don't know, maybe it was leaking or something.

One day, I was looking for some pretty kitchen gadgets to buy and there I saw it, almost an exact cake form. My mom thought they don't sell those anymore. But my little town, although it might not have much to offer shopping-wise, it has a couple of past-era supply stores with an old soul.

My mom send me the recipe a week ago. Today, I was with her on the phone numerous times. Because this babka is something different. It is not baked in the oven. It's cooked in water.

I was concerned about a couple of things...because once you lock the batter in the form and submerge it in boiling water...you really don't know what's gonna come out. No toothpick test here. Well, it came out OK.

This Babka is so flavorful, so buttery, so moist, so pretty...so special...that I just had to write this post.

Recipe adapted from Mrs. Irena (an old friend of mom's)
time: 30 min preparation + 80 min cooking + 15 min cooling

2 full cups (500 ml) flour, I used: 2 full cups (240 g) whole spelt flour
1 cup (125 g) potato flour (starch)
2 teaspoons (8 g) baking powder
1 cup butter (240 g), room temperature
1 cup (200 g) sugar
6 medium eggs, yolks separated from whites, room temperature
1 vanilla bean, cut open, seeds removed
1 shot (50 ml) amaretto liqueur

butter and bread crumbs for the form
special form for cooking cakes in water (like a baking form but with better seals and a lid)

Prepare a large pot filled with water about half way. The pot has to be large and tall enough to fit your form. Bring to boil. Take the pot off the heat but keep it hot. Butter the baking form and cover it with bread crumbs.

In a medium bowl, sift together flours and baking powder.

Using your standing mixer equipped with a paddle attachment, beat butter for about 2 minutes, on medium speed. Add sugar and vanilla beans, beat for another 2 minutes. Add yolks, one at the time, scarping the sides of the bowl to ensure even blending. Pour in amaretto. Mix for a minute.

Meanwhile, in another bowl, beat whites till glossy and not grainy.

With the mixer's speed on low, sift in flour mix. Mix it just till combined (10 seconds). Incorporate 1/3 of beaten whites. Turn the mixer off. Using a rubber spatula, fold in slowly and gently the rest of beaten whites.

Transfer the batter into the prepared form (it should by 3/4 full). Close it and set it in the pot with boiling water, immersed 3/4 of the way. Place a weight on top (a plate, f.ex.) on top of the form to keep it in place, cover the pot with a lid (slightly ajar) and cook on low/medium heat (some bubbles but not crazy-many) for 80 minutes.

Remove the form out of the water. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Open it. Flip it upside down on a plate or a cooling rack for further cooling.

When the cake cools (to room temperature), decorate it with your favorite glaze and serve!

  • like on many occasion, I replaced all the white flour with whole spelt; the babka wasn't pretty yellow...but that's the only difference;
  • instead of vodka and almond extract, I added amaretto...as flavorful as the original;
  • for the glaze, I just used a bar of dark chocolate with some butter and milk to make it liquidy, all melted on top of hot water;
  • we were not suppose to be eating any cakes today...but what can I say...I had to try it and the others joined with joy.


  1. This babka looks wonderfully amazing… I am glad you found the cake form.. what a great way to celebrate easter...

  2. I've never tried making babka, but yours looks perfect, Ela!

  3. I have one of those molds, my mom passed it off on my because she never used it anymore. Had I known, I could have sent it your way. I always take home strays I don't need. He he. I'm sure that will be great to celebrate Easter with. Hope you have a happy one.

  4. Oh Ela, how special! Wishing you a blessed Easter :)

  5. Gorgeous babka, Ela!
    Have a lovely Easter!

  6. Ela this is so pretty and looks delicious! I'm glad you found the form so you could duplicate it. Have a wonderful Easter!

  7. How wonderful that you were able to find the right mold to make this beautiful babka, Ela! Your small vintage shop must be a real treasure. Happy Easter to you!

  8. What a special cake, love that this is part of your tradition. Yikes! I be a little worried lowering a cake into boiling water too, so interesting!

  9. I love this tradition and your mother must be so pleased you've taken on making the babka for Easter. I'm sure Mrs. Irena would be pleased as punch that you've shared this with us.

  10. Your babka reminds me of the cakes my mother used to bake in pressure cooker or in a bundt like pot, where at the bottom it had a tray filled with damp sand, which when heated on gas stove, provided slow and uniform heating like an oven.

  11. Oh my gosh, I love this! It is so interesting that it's cooked in water. It sounds delicious...I love the chocolate glaze, the sprinkles, the almond flavoring. Hope you had a great Easter!

  12. That's wonderful that you found a babka form to make this - it looks fantastic! I've never tried making babka before and think yours turned out perfectly :)

  13. Your babka came out superb. So glad you found the form to make this family recipe. Love the glossy icing

  14. look absolutely beautiful Ela!!

  15. Wow super cool! I never knew you can cook a cake in water like this! Looks so great!!