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Babka, or Bobka, also known as baba, is a sweet yeast cake.
A legend tells that it was accidentally invented by the Polish King Stanisław Leszczyński while on exile. The king was very fussy with fruit cakes that were served to him, claiming they were too dry. He poured some rum over one cake he was served and after tasting it, he was so pleased that he ordered his cooks to add some rum to the dough. The name “babka” comes from Ali-Baba, as the King first called it the “Ali-Baba” cake. He called it that because of the high dry fruit and nut content, ingredients associated at that time with Arabian countries such as Turkey (trade with middle eastern countries was at the time conducted mostly via Turkey, which was at the time Ottoman Empire).
Babka is a spongy, brioche-like yeast cake made mainly in Eastern Europe. It is traditionally baked for Easter Sunday in Poland, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Albania, and for the major holidays (Christmas, Easter, New Year, Pentecost) in Romania. Traditionally it does not have any filling, and is glazed with a vanilla- or chocolate-flavored icing and decorated with almonds or candied fruit, sometimes with rum added.
Another version of babka is associated with the Eastern European Jewish tradition. This babka is made from a doubled and twisted length of yeast dough and is typically baked in a high loaf pan. Instead of a fruit filling the dough contains cinnamon or chocolate. The babka is usually topped with streusel. A similar cake called a kokosh is also popular in Jewish bakeries. Kokosh also comes in chocolate and cinnamon varieties, but it is lower and longer than babka, is not twisted, and not topped with streusel.
The Polish and Belarusian noun babka and the Belarusian, Ukrainian, and Russian baba means "grandmother," and as applied to the pastry probably refer to its shape, a tall cylinder, sometimes with corrugations resembling a skirt’s pleats. The name of the pastry entered the English language from Polish, via French, although "babka" is also sometimes used in its original sense ("grandmother"), especially among those of Eastern European descent.
|Look up babka in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Oxford Companion to Food
- Canadian Oxford Dictionary, 2nd ed.