Polish Babka Recipe (No Yeast)


This Polish babka is a simple everyday cake especially popular around Easter.  It’s made without yeast so comes together quickly and is very easy to prepare. Ready in 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Side view of Polish babka slice and cake on white plate.

What is Polish babka cake

Polish babka can be made with or without yeast. Yeast-based babka often contains raisins (soaked in rum) while the yeast-free variety is typically made with either lemon or cocoa (as in this recipe).

Polish babka without yeast is called ‘babka piaskowa’ (‘piasek’ means ‘sand’ in Polish) which describes the soft texture of this cake (it doesn’t actually taste gritty like sand!).

The words ‘babka’ or ‘baba’, as this cake is also sometimes called, in Polish as well as other East European languages mean ‘grandmother’ or ‘old woman’. This name comes from the cake’s cylindrical shape and fluted sides which are reminiscent of an old (village) woman’s skirt.

Where does it come from

According to the Encyclopaedia of Polish Cuisine¹ babkas were known in Poland already in the 17th century. The tradition of baking these cakes originated in the east and came to Poland from countries such as Lithuania and Belarus.

Good to know

Polish babka is very different from Jewish babka which is a braided yeast bread made with chocolate, cinnamon or other ingredients.

Ingredients and substitutions

Ingredients for making Polish no-yeast babka in individual dishes.
Polish babka ingredients.
  • Flours: all-purpose/plain flour and potato starch (see details below).
  • Baking powder.
  • Salt.
  • Oil: any mild tasting vegetable oil with work (I used rapeseed).
  • Eggs: ensure they are at room temperature.
  • Vanilla extract: use almond extract instead if preferred (1 tsp), or a bit of both.
  • Sugar: I recommend caster sugar (superfine sugar).
  • Lemon juice.
  • Cocoa: or cacao.

What flour to use

I used a combination of regular wheat flour and potato starch which is typically used in babka recipes. Potato starch makes light and fluffy bakes and is sometimes even used on its own. Contrary to what you may have heard, it is not the same as corn flour (although they have a similar texture) and I do NOT recommend making this swap. Your cake will be denser and have a slightly powdery texture (I tested it!).

If you can’t get potato starch (‘maka ziemniaczana‘ in Polish) the next best thing is cake flour (omit regular flour and use cake flour only).

What cake pan to use

To make a traditional Polish babka you will need a fluted ring pan approximately 4 inches deep (which is what I used).  Some babkas are also made in regular bundt cake pans so if you prefer to use that make sure it’s big enough (an 8-cup pan will be sufficient).

Loaf cake pans are also used but less frequently.

Top tip

Using a bundt cake pan is likely to shorten baking time (check with a skewer after about 50 minutes). You might also like to bake the cake at 180 C.

How to make Polish babka: step-by-step

Round babka on white plate dusted with sugar.

Serving suggestions

Icing sugar is the most common ingredient used to decorate Polish cakes and works well in babkas. Alternatively you can drizzle your babka with lemon or orange glaze

To make a simple glaze combine 3.5-4 tablespoons of icing sugar with about 1 tablespoon of lemon or orange juice and stir until smooth then drizzle over the cake (once cooled). Finish off with lemon or orange zest, poppy seeds or candied fruit.

Other popular flavours you can use

  • Lemon: add zest of 2 lemons to the batter and omit the cocoa. Decorate with icing sugar or lemon glaze.
  • Orange: add zest of 1.5 oranges (you can but do not need to omit the cocoa layer). Decorate with icing sugar or orange glaze.

Top tips

  • Make sure your eggs are at room temperature.
  • It’s important to beat the eggs and sugar until pale and thick so take your time doing this step.
  • I recommend greasing the pan with either butter or margarine rather than oil. The ground almonds will stick to the pan better. Grease your pan even if it is non-stick.
  • Cool your babka cake completely before decorating and cutting.
  • Keep covered with cling film or in a plastic container for up to 3 days.
  • Freeze for up to 3 months. Decorate after defrosting.
  • You can buy potato starch in Polish shops (look for ‘maka ziemniaczana‘).
Side view of cut babka cake on white plate.

Related recipes

Check out also these other traditional Polish recipes!

Keep in touch!

If you make this Polish Easter cake recipe I’d love to know how it turned out for you. Let me know in the comments below, thanks😊

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¹Encyclopaedia of Polish Cuisine, Hanna Szymanderska, Wydawnictwo REA s.j., Warsaw 2003, p. 939.

Side view of Polish babka slice and cake on white plate.

Polish Babka Recipe (No Yeast)

This Polish babka is a simple everyday cake especially popular around Easter. 

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Course: Dessert

Cuisine: Polish

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Servings: 12 servings

Calories: 157kcal

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 325 F/ 170 C/ fan 160 C/ gas mark 3. Grease your cake pan thoroughly (with butter or margarine) and coat with almond flour or breadcrumbs. Turn the pan upside down to remove excess crumbs and set aside.

  • Combine the flour with the potato starch, baking powder and salt and stir thoroughly using a whisk or fork. Set aside.

  • Beat together the sugar and eggs (on high) for 7-8 minutes or until pale, thick and fluffy.

  • Slowly pour in the oil and beat (on low) until thoroughly incorporated. Add the vanilla extract.

  • Gradually add the dry ingredients whisking in until just combined (or use the lowest setting of your electric mixer). Towards the end add the lemon juice.

  • Pour approx. 3 quarters of the batter into the prepared pan.

  • Whisk the cocoa powder along with 1 teaspoon of water into the remaining batter until thoroughly incorporated.

  • Pour the cocoa mixture into the cake pan (try to distribute it evenly over the surface of the cake). Some of this mixture will sink into the batter.

  • Bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hour or until the skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

  • Remove from the oven and set aside to cool a little. Remove from the pan while still a little warm (gently tap the pan against the counter a couple of times before turning over).  Cool the babka completely before dusting with powdered sugar/icing sugar and serve.

Notes

  • You can buy potato starch in Polish shops (look for ‘maka ziemniaczana‘).
  • *If you can’t get potato starch the next best thing is cake flour (omit regular flour and use cake flour only).
  • Make sure your eggs are at room temperature.
  • It’s important to beat the eggs and sugar until pale and thick so take your time doing this step.
  • I recommend greasing the pan with either butter or margarine rather than oil. The ground almonds will stick to the pan better. Grease your pan even if it is non-stick.
  • Cool your babka cake completely before decorating and cutting.
  • Keep covered with cling film or in a plastic container for up to 3 days.
  • Freeze for up to 3 months. Decorate after defrosting.

Nutrition

Calories: 157kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 55mg | Sodium: 66mg | Potassium: 156mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 79IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 18mg | Iron: 1mg

*Nutritional information is automatically generated and should be considered as an estimate.

**A note about baking: If using a fan-assisted oven refer to your appliance’s instructions and adjust the temperature accordingly.





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