I Made the Cinnamon Babka from ‘Seinfeld,’ and It’s Definitely Not a Lesser Babka

Add this gorgeous swirled cinnamon babka to your baking bucket list.

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“You can’t beat a babka!” That’s Elaine’s cry in the Seinfeld episode “The Dinner Party” as she and Jerry shop for a bakery babka. Because it’s Seinfeld, what should be a simple errand devolves into screaming, insults, a broken toe and a nauseating cookie.

Jerry and Elaine try to buy a coveted chocolate babka but miss their chance, and look instead to a cinnamon babka—a mysterious variety they’ve never heard of. Elaine tries to dismiss it as a “lesser babka,” but Jerry fires back. “Cinnamon takes a backseat to no babka. People love cinnamon!”

After making and sampling a cinnamon babka for myself, I have to agree with Jerry: This sweet bread is ridiculously delicious. It’s like cinnamon rolls, but better. Made with sweet and buttery brioche dough, there are several, thick ribbons of cinnamon-sugar filling running through every slice. Some of that sweet mixture also pools at the bottom of the loaf, making a sticky, caramel glaze. This gorgeous bread takes some time and patience, but it’s worth the effort!

What Is Babka?

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This bread with a lovely swirled filling is a Jewish dessert; the name babka is possibly derived from the Yiddish word for “grandmother.” Traditionally babka was made pareve, a group of kosher foods made without butter or other dairy ingredients. Today, babkas are typically made with enriched doughs like brioche, which are sweet and have loads of butter.

Incredibly, historian Gil Marks, author of the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, says that the Seinfeld babka episode is likely what made babka so popular over the last few decades. The beautifully-swirled loaves are now the darlings of Instagram and high-end bakeries.

How to Make Cinnamon Babka

This recipe makes two cinnamon babka loaves. The brioche dough used for this recipe is from Dorie Greenspan’s book, Baking With Dorie. Plan ahead—babka has multiple rising times and is made over two days.


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  • 1 cup unsalted butter, plus extra for the top of the dough and to grease the bowl
  • 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup water, at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten


  • 9 tablespoons melted butter, plus another 1-1/2 tablespoons to brush the pans
  • 1-1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


Tools You’ll Need

  • Stand Mixer: The heavy dough is composed and kneaded in a stand mixer.
  • Bread Pans: You’ll need two 9×5-in. loaf pans.
  • Rolling Pin: This tapered French rolling pin is so comfortable to use.


Step 1: Start the dough

Let the 2 sticks of butter sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, use a little more butter to grease the inside of a large bowl.

Put the flour, sugar, salt and instant yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer, then use a rubber spatula to mix them together. Put the dough hook attachment on the mixer. Stir together the milk and water in a small bowl. With the mixer running on medium-low, slowly pour in the milk-water mixture. Let the mixer run for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the bowl with the rubber spatula once or twice.

Step 2: Add the eggs

Keep the mixer speed on medium-low and slowly pour in the lightly-whisked eggs. Increase the speed to medium and let it run for 5 more minutes, scraping the bowl once or twice as it mixes.

Step 3: Add the butter

Once the mixture has begun to gather around the dough hook, begin adding the two sticks of butter, like this: With the mixer still running on medium speed, tear off one or two small chunks of butter, flatten them between your fingers, then drop them into the bowl. Once the pieces are incorporated, repeat with a couple more pieces of butter. Continue until all of the butter is in; this can take as long as 10 minutes.

Step 4: Knead the dough

Increase the mixer speed a little and knead the dough in the bowl for 10 minutes. Keep an eye on the mixer in case it starts creeping across the counter! Scrape the bowl a couple of times throughout the mixing. When ready, the dough will be soft and smooth, and it will stretch (not break) when a bit is pulled up from the bowl.

Step 5: Let rise at room temp

Scrape the dough into the buttered bowl, smooth the top, then spread a little softened butter over the top of the dough. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let it rise at room temperature for 45 minutes to one hour, until it’s doubled in volume.

Step 6: Let rise in the refrigerator

Reach into the bowl to lift up and then release the edges of the dough all around. This will let some of the volume out of the dough. Smooth the top, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes. Repeat this process three more times so that the dough becomes firm and cold.

Step 7: Rest the dough overnight

Press plastic wrap to the surface of the dough in the bowl, then cover the bowl with a towel. Refrigerate the dough overnight (or for up to two days).

Step 8: Prepare the pans and filling

The next day, use the 1-1/2 tablespoons of melted butter and a pastry brush to generously coat the insides of both bread pans. Cut two long strips of parchment and press one into each pan, so that it goes across the width of the pan and hangs over the sides. (This will help you lift out the baked bread.) Brush the parchment with melted butter.

For the filling, pour the 9 tablespoons of melted butter into a small bowl. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, cardamom, lemon juice and salt. Use a whisk or a hand mixer to blend everything into a smooth filling.

Step 9: Roll out the dough

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Lightly flour a work surface and rolling pin. Divide the chilled dough in half; keep one half in the fridge. Roll out the other half into a rectangle 9 inches wide and about 16 inches long. Spread half of the cinnamon-sugar filling over the rectangle. Starting at a short side, roll up the dough tightly into a cylinder; pinch the seam shut.

Repeat these steps with the second half of the dough waiting in the fridge and the rest of the filling. Drape plastic wrap over both dough cylinders, then chill them in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Step 10: Cut, shape and fit the dough

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Take one dough cylinder from the fridge and place it on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife or serrated knife to slice the cylinder in half lengthwise. Turn each half so that the lines of cinnamon filling are facing up.

Braid the two pieces: Firmly press the tops of both pieces together, then carefully weave them over and under each other. Be careful to keep the filling face-up as you do this. Pinch and seal the bottoms together. Pick up the braid and fit it into one of the prepared bread pans, tucking the ends underneath and keeping the filling face up.

Repeat these steps with the second dough cylinder to create the second loaf. Cover both pans with a kitchen towel. Let them rise at room temperature for 45 minutes to one hour; they may not double in size but should have risen some.

Step 11: Brush and bake

Preheat the oven to 350°F and move the center oven rack down a notch. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl, then use a pastry brush to spread egg white over the tops of both babka loaves. Place the bread pans side-by-side on a large baking sheet (to catch drips) and place them in the oven. Bake the babkas for 45-55 minutes. The loaves will turn a deep brown because of all the sugar in the dough, but if you think they’re getting too dark you can drape a piece of foil over the top for the last several minutes of baking.

The babkas are done when the centers register 185° on a thermometer.

Step 12: Cool completely

Move the bread pans to a cooling rack set over a baking sheet. After 15 minutes, use the parchment paper ends to lift the loaves from the pans; place them directly on the rack. If you want, you can brush both loaves with simple syrup. Let the breads cool completely before slicing and serving. Cinnamon babka can be kept tightly sealed in a plastic bag at room temperature for 4-5 days.

Tips for Making Cinnamon Babka

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Patience, patience, patience

I think that this is the most important factor in making babka. Because brioche dough is enriched with butter and sugar, it takes longer to rise and develop flavor and texture. That’s why there are so many rising steps in this recipe. Don’t rush them. Exercise that same patience when rolling, filling and shaping the dough.

Choose a weekend or couple of days when you’ll have plenty of free time to invest in your babka project. This bread is worth it!

Keep the dough cold

When brioche dough gets warm it tears easily and gets sticky. It’s much easier to work with when chilled. After the overnight rise, keep the dough in the fridge right up until the moment you’re ready to roll and shape it. Chilling the dough logs after rolling them makes them easier to slice.

Shape as a round, instead

If you want, you can also bake the babkas in rounds, like they are in that Seinfeld episode. After shaping and braiding the dough, coil it into buttered 9-in. round pans instead of loaf pans. Once baked, you can tuck the babka round into a pretty bakery box tied with a string. (Just don’t expect Jerry to carry it.)

Find more of our best homemade bread tips in this ultimate bread baking guide.

How to Watch ‘Seinfeld’

You can stream Seinfeld on Netflix. The series can also be purchased or rented on Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play or iTunes. If you’re looking for the babka episode, it’s Season 5, Episode 13, “The Dinner Party.”

Nancy Mock
Discovering restaurants, tasting bakery treats, finding inspiration in new flavors and regional specialties—no wonder Nancy loves being a Taste of Home Community Cook and a food and travel writer. She and her family live in Vermont and enjoy all things food, as well as the beautiful outdoors, game nights, Avengers movies and plenty of maple syrup. Find Nancy’s writing and recipes at her website: Hungry Enough To Eat Six.