During lunch at Honey & Co in Fitzrovia a few weeks ago, I tried a Chocolate Krantz Cake for the first time. Babka is a beautiful and delicious yeasted bread filled with chocolate sauce, pecans and sugar and rolled in a braid shape.
I didn’t know what the cake was called, as I ordered it by pointing my finger to it on the dessert counter. But I liked it so much, I had to find a recipe and make it myself!
Initially I thought it was babka, a brioche-like cake traditionally made in Eastern Europe for Easter Sunday; it was also similar in taste to the Putizza cake, typical of my mum’s city of Trieste. But what I was looking for was the Chocolate Krantz Cake, with its distinctive twist design.
My friend Sylvia found this recipe in Jerusalem cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, and sent it to me. I am a big fan of Ottolenghi’s recipes such as sweet potato pancakes, shakshuka, chicken with zaatar and sumac and Cretan dakos.
In return for Sylvia’s favour, I made the cake for Easter Monday lunch and invited her and her husband to try it. Sylvia declared that my cake was better than the one at Honey & Co., which was a great compliment to receive.
Emma of Poires au Chocolat blogged about the same recipe last October, but I somehow missed her post at the time. A good tip she gives, is to halve the ingredients to make one loaf only. I followed the Ottolenghi doses and ended up with three loaves (the third one made with the leftover dough, that I cut off from the edges of the first two logs).
I didn’t find this recipe at all complicated; it requires time and patience, but that’s not very different from baking bread.
I think I rolled out the dough too thin (the original recipe doesn’t specify how thick it should be), as that’s the only explanation why I ended up with enough leftover dough to make a third loaf. My “mistake” made the cake moist, as the bread to chocolate ratio was more in favour of the chocolate! :)
I also changed a couple of ingredients: I replaced the lemon zest in the dough with orange zest, as I thought this would pair better with the chocolate; I used about 2/3 plain flour + 1/3 strong bread flour; I also replaced unsalted butter in the chocolate filling with salted butter. This was a necessary adaptation, as I had ran out of unsalted butter, but it worked well anyway.
For the bread
- 530g plain flour
- 100g caster sugar
- 2 sachets (14g) dried yeast
- zest of 1 orange
- 3 free-range eggs
- 120ml water
- 1/3 tsp salt
- 150g unsalted butter, softened
- sunflower oil for greasing
For the chocolate filling
- 50g icing sugar
- 30g cocoa powder
- 130g dark chocolate
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 120g butter, melted
- 100g pecans, roughly chopped
For the sugar glaze
- 260g caster sugar
- 160ml water
In a bowl, add the flour, sugar, yeast and zest and mix together using your hands or a food processor with the dough hook. Add the eggs and water and mix for a few minutes until the dough comes together. Add salt and start adding the butter, a cube at a time, letting it all melt into the dough. Mix for five-ten minutes, until you obtain an elastic, smooth and sticky dough.
Grease a large bowl with sunflower oil, place the ball of dough into it, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge to rise overnight or for at least half a day.
The next day, start by preparing the chocolate filling. Mix the icing sugar, cocoa powder, melted dark chocolate and melted butter. Beat until you get a smooth, spreadable paste.
Grease two 2lb loaf tins and line the bottom with parchment baking paper.
Divide the dough into two parts, work one part on a floured surface, leave the other part covered in the fridge.
Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough onto the surface, then trim the edges with a knife to obtain a 38cm x 28cm rectangle. Spread half of the chocolate filling over the dough, leaving a 2 cm border all around. Sprinkle half of the pecans and one tablespoon of caster sugar.
Brush a little of water over the long edge of the dough on your left. Using both hands, roll up the rectangle like a roulade, starting from the long side on your right, rolling towards the left side. Roll the dough completely into a perfect, thick log, sitting on its seam.
With a knife, trim off 2 cm of both ends. Gently, cut the roll into two, lenghtways, from the top to the bottom. Position the cut sides facing up, gently press the ends together.
Lift the right half over the left half. Repeat with the left half over the right half and press the ends together to seal it. Carefully lift the loaf and place into the tin.
Repeat the process with the remaining dough. Then, cover the loaves with a wet tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1/1.2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 170 °C. After the cakes have risen, remove the tea towels and place them on the middle shelf for 30 minutes.
Make the syrup while the cakes are in the oven. Place the sugar and water into a saucepan over a medium heat. As soon as the sugar dissolves and the syrup starts to boil, remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool.
When the cakes are baked and are out of the oven, brush them with the syrup. You may find that there is too much syrup, but the recipe recommends to use it all up.
Remove the cakes from the tins to cool down completely.