I got the inspiration for this recipe from a coffee cake that I had as a child. We had best holiday coffee cake ever every single Christmas of my childhood, until I moved out of my parent’s house. I’ve asked both of my parents where it came from, and what it was, and no one really knows!
Yet that coffee cake was a part of my Christmas holiday every single year that I lived at home. Even when we moved from Chicago to Michigan, my grandma (who is no longer with us, otherwise I’d ask her, and she’d know) would bring it from Chicago to Michigan so that our tradition didn’t have to change.
There was debate as to whether it came from a Jewish or Danish bakery, as there are many in the Chicago area. But neither of my parents seem to know. And as my parents are divorced, I’m getting different answers from both of them, go figure. And with my grandma not here, there is no one to confirm as I’m the oldest child. So, if I don’t know there’s no way my brother knows!
So, I’ve been looking and searching the internet for coffee cake recipes that look like what I had. I didn’t even know what to search though, so it’s been really difficult as your typical coffee cake or anything with coffee cake in the search phrase brings up a traditional cake with a crumb topping.
But, when I made my Blueberry Babka Coffee Cake last month, that I literally made on a whim, I knew I was on the right track. I woke up one morning, and just went into the kitchen and I just had to make it. Something just gave me the idea, and the dough turned out perfectly and I knew if I added cinnamon, pecans, and a little different glaze that I would have the exact coffee cake of my childhood – the best holiday coffee cake ever! That may or may not even be a coffee cake, but I’m sticking with it.
It was like my grandma was speaking to me from the grave and giving me the answer I needed! Yet, she wasn’t a sweet baker, but a bread baker. And the answer lied there – in a yeast dough that really isn’t that sweet ! And, finally, I have the best holiday coffee cake ever right here.
This yeast dough coffee cake is more like a babka, which is why I’m calling it a Cinnamon Pecan Babka Coffee Cake. This light and fluffy dough is swirled together with cinnamon, dark brown sugar, and pecans. I then drizzle it with a thick glaze, so it gives it a signature drizzle on top (just like the one I had as a kid), and it makes you want to eat every single bite that has glaze on top.
This is the best cinnamon pecan coffee cake recipe, trust me! You can easily make this Cinnamon Pecan Babka Coffee Cake the night before so it’s ready to go on Christmas morning. I recommend storing this in a Cake Dome so it stays moist if you make it ahead of time.
Is babka cake or bread?
Technically babka is a bread. It’s made with yeast, therefore putting it in the bread category. It is an enriched bread (which means it usually has sugar, butter, and eggs) and it is sweet compared to traditional bread. It was first created in the Jewish community when bakers would have leftover scraps of Challah, they’d fill it with jam and roll it up to make babka. Though babka is filled with sweet things like chocolate, cinnamon, or jam it can tend to fall more in the dessert category than in the bread category.
Can I make this ahead of time?
Yes, you can definitely make this Cinnamon Pecan Babka Coffee Cake ahead of time. If you make it the day before, just be sure to store it in a cake dome so it stays moist. After all, it is bread and bread should stay moist so it doesn’t dry out! If you don’t have a cake dome, then let the glaze set and then wrap the entire circle in plastic wrap. This is how it used to come from the bakery we got it from when I was a kid.
What if I don’t have Chinese Five Spice?
I highly recommend you high tail it to the store then and pick some up! Chinese five spice is pretty common and you should have no problem finding it at your local grocery store. But, if you just refuse to do that, you could substitute cinnamon, allspice, or cloves. All of those spices would be good – they’re just not as good!
What if I don’t have dark brown sugar?
Make some! Use my recipe for Homemade Dark Brown Sugar and make it. When a recipe calls for a specific type of brown sugar, it plays into that flavor. While you could make this with light brown sugar, it just won’t be as good. It needs the flavor of the dark brown sugar! If you don’t want to make it, then run to the store and pick some up!
How to make the best cinnamon pecan coffee cake recipe – otherwise known as my Cinnamon Pecan Babka Coffee Cake.
First step is making the yeast dough. This is really easy to do by combining yeast, warm water, and sugar. You want to let the yeast bubble, which takes about 5 minutes. If it’s not bubbly, then the yeast is bad and your dough won’t rise. So, there’s no point to continue on with the recipe. Time to head to the store to grab some fresh yeast.
While the yeast is sitting, you’re going to melt the butter, milk and honey together. You can do this in the microwave or on the stovetop. I prefer on the stove. Allow the butter to cool so it’s not super hot, as it can kill the yeast if it’s too hot! It should be melted, but not so hot.
Once the yeast is ready to go, you add in the flour, cane sugar, salt, Chinese five spice, butter, milk, and honey. You mix this in your stand mixer with the dough hook until it’s smooth – about 3 to 5 minutes. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can do this by hand as well, but it will take longer to knead it.
The dough is placed in a greased bowl and covered. You can cover it with a kitchen towel, but if you live in a very dry place (like I do) I prefer plastic wrap, so it doesn’t dry out. Put it in a warm place, this could be by the oven or on top of your pellet stove or mantle! It needs to rise and double in size.
This can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours. Never look at the time when letting yeast dough rise, always look at the dough itself to see what it’s done. Your climate can have different effects on the dough such as making it rise faster or take longer, so you always want to make sure the dough has doubled before moving on to the next step.
The fun part is flouring your surface and dumping out that dough to roll it out. You will roll it out into a large rectangle and then smear it with the butter for the filling. After that it gets topped with the brown sugar and pecans and rolled up, just like you would cinnamon rolls.
Place the dough seam side down and use a sharp knife and cut it down the middle to expose the insides. Some pecans may fall out, or a little sugar, no worries there! Then twist the two pieces together so you have a twisted rope. Then, you’re going to roll that rope so it looks like a big lollipop!
Place that giant circle of dough onto a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake it until golden brown!
Once it’s cooled, it’s time to drizzle the shit out of it with glaze. And you’re ready to indulge! If you’re not eating it now, be sure to store it in an airtight container like a cake dome!
Ingredients I used to make this recipe for Cinnamon Pecan Baka Coffee Cake
Costco Kirkland Organic Cane Sugar
Costco Kirkland Organic Raw Honey
Why use organic ingredients in this recipe? You all know I’m a huge organic advocate, and I bet you may be thinking sometimes, Why would I even bother to use organic ingredients in something that is so sweet and indulgent? But, that is the exact reason why you should use organic ingredients! Sweet things need to have flavor in order to be good, otherwise they are just sweet and they don’t taste like much else. Organic ingredients are more pure than conventional ones, therefore they actually have more flavor than the non organic options. Say it with me, organic means more flavor! And not just more flavor but a more true and pure flavor. And organic ingredients are much healthier for you to eat in general as they do not contain GMOs or anything artificial. Plus, you are being environmentally friendly when you choose organic ingredients!
So, I highly recommend that you buy the best organic ingredients for this recipe! You can also shop my Amazon Storefront for all my favorite organic ingredients here. Tip – hover over each ingredient to see the name. And if you want to learn more about organic foods and the difference, read my post here on Food Labels and What They Mean.
Cinnamon Pecan Babka Coffee CakeDifficulty: Intermediate
Try a new kind of coffee cake with my Cinnamon Pecan Babka Coffee Cake recipe – the best holiday coffee cake ever!
10 grams (1 tablespoon) organic instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon organic cane sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup (57 grams) organic salted butter
1 cup organic milk
7 grams (1 teaspoon) organic raw honey
446 grams (3 1/2 cups) organic all purpose flour
57 grams (1/4 cup) organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon organic Chinese five spice
1/4 cup (57 grams) organic salted butter
113 grams (1/2 cup) packed organic dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons organic cinnamon
127 grams (1 cup) organic pecans, chopped
142 grams (1 cup) organic powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons water
- In a small pot over medium heat, add the butter, milk, and honey. Stir until completely melted, remove from heat.
- Add the flour, remaining 1/4 cup cane sugar, sea salt, and Chinese five spice to the mixing bowl in that order. Add the milk mixture and knead on speed 2 to 4 for 5 minutes.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let rise for 2 to 3 hours, until doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- To make the topping: In a small bowl, add the brown sugar and cinnamon and mix together.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 12 x 9-inches.
- Using a spatula, spread the butter onto the dough. Then top it with the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture. Then sprinkle the pecans on top.
- Starting at the longer side, roll the dough so it is completely rolled into a log. Pinch the dough to seal it and put the seam side down. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough log in half lengthwise to expose the rolled inside. Twist the halves together, leaving the cut side up.
- Spiral the dough into a circle and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 40 or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely.
- To make the glaze: In a small bowl, add the powdered sugar and water and whisk together until you have a smooth glaze. Add into a pastry bag with a tiny hole, or just drizzle the glaze over the top of the babka with a spoon.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- High Altitude — Bake at 350°F for 35 minutes or until golden brown.
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