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Cozonac – Romanian Easter or Christmas Bread

This Walnut Roll recipe, known as a Cozonac in Romania and neighboring countries, is made with a soft, sweet bread dough and a lightly sweetened walnut filling flavored with rum. Often made for Easter or Christmas this is a celebratory treat that is a favorite around the holidays.

Origins of Cozonacs

While this recipe is traditional to Romania, Moldova, and even Bulgaria (it is called kozunak there), growing up in a city in Ukraine that bordered Romania meant that much of our daily cuisine was influenced by the Romanian roots of many local Ukrainians.

Growing up, my grandma frequently made all kinds of filled sweet bread pastries (think apple, poppy seeds, sweet cheese, and nuts, of course) just because, but the nut rolls were always my favorite. She did not wait until the holidays to treat her kids and grandkids, and we were lucky to enjoy a variation of this Cozonac year-round.

In Romania, Cozonacs and other sweet yeast breads are made for any holidays, including Christmas, Easter, New Year.

Several years ago, a reader shared her recipe for Cozonacs, which reminded me of my grandmother’s walnut rolls. I adapted that recipe to use my own sweet bread recipe and some of her walnut filling ingredients, which I prepared a bit differently than what her recipe called for. I’m so thankful when you guys share your favorite recipes with me!

Walnut Roll Filling for Cozonac

Let’s talk about the star of this Cozonac recipe – the walnut filling. Traditional ingredients for the Walnut Roll Filling are walnuts, sugar, cocoa powder, rum, and egg whites or milk.

In some recipes, the egg whites are just mixed with the walnuts, sugar, and cocoa powder,f which makes for a somewhat runny filling that makes it hard to work with the dough.

Other recipes for walnut filling require cooking the mixture of nuts, cocoa powder, sugar, and egg whites over a water bath to thicken it. While this eliminates the problem of the filling being runny, the extra pots and pans required, as well as the cooling time, did not sit well with me.

I also found recipes that use a milk-based custard that is then added to the nuts, sugar, and cocoa. This method required more pots and pans, cooling time and it diluted the flavor of nuts that I love.

The recipe and technique that I found to work the best is whipping the egg whites and sugar until thick, then combining this meringue mixture with the rest of the ingredients.

The pros: This approach prevents the filling from being runny. It also doesn’t require a lot of pots and pans, nor any cooling time. Also, the filling that is at the edges is exposed to heat it crisps up and makes the best-tasting walnut edges you’ve ever had. I hope you give this recipe and try and love it as much as we do!

How to make the Cozonac – Romanian Easter Bread

Make the Sweet Bread Dough

Make the Sweet Bread Dough

  1. Activate the yeast by combining it with warm milk in a cup. Leave to froth for about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, salt, egg yolks, and sour cream. Finally, add the risen milk/yeast mixture.
  3. Fit the mixer with a dough hook and mix until the dough stops sticking to the sides of the bowl.
  4. Add the butter and knead to incorporate. Add raisins and lemon zest or orange zest if desired and mix them in.
  5. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to double in size in a warm place.

Step by step pictures to making the sweet bread yeast dough recipe

Cozonac Walnut Filling

  1. Grind the walnuts/pecans in a grinder or in a food processor and set aside.
  2. Next, make the meringue by whipping the egg whites and sugar on medium high until the meringue is thick and glossy, about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the meringue and fold everything until combined.

Shape the Cozonac

  1. Roll the dough to about 24″x”16″ on a lightly floured surface.
  2. Spread the filling evenly and stay off the horizontal edges furthest away from you.
  3. Roll into a log and pinch the edges to seal.
  4. Cut the log into two. Set two strands next to each other and twist.
  5. Cut the twist into 2 equal pieces
  6. Add each piece to parchment paper lined 8″x4 loaf pans.
  7. Cover and allow to proof in a warm place until doubled in size. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F with the rack centered.


  1. Once the cozonac’s doubled in size, brush the tops with the egg wash.
  2. Transfer the pans with the cozonacs to the oven and bake for about 50-55 minutes or until the tops are golden and the internal temp is 190F. Tent with foil if browning too quickly.


Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans. Then pull on the parchment overhang and transfer the cozonacs to a wire rack to cool.
Cool completely before slicing and enjoying.

Storing instructions

Keep at room temp covered under a dome for up to 2 days.

Or, wrap the Cozonacs in plastic and freeze for later use.

Leave in the fridge to thaw.

Slice and toast to enjoy warm.

Cozonac - Romanian Easter Bread

5 from 2 votes

Delicious sweet yeast pastry filled with spiked walnut rum filling. Commonly enjoyed around Easter, Christmas or any time of the year.

Author: Marina | Let the Baking Begin
Course: Bread
Cuisine: Romanian
Keyword: cozonac
Calories: 290 kcal
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 55 minutes
Servings: 20 slices


Pastry Dough

  • 1 cup whole milk, warm (100F)
  • 2 tsp Instant dry yeast or active dry yeast I use Platinum Superior Baking Yeast
  • 3 cups bread flour all-purpose or Canadian flour works well too
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 oz unsalted butter softened, room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup raisins (optional) rehydrated in water and dried with paper towel
  • 1 tbsp lemon or orange zest (optional)

Walnut Filling

Egg wash

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp water


  1. Prepare this sweet bread recipe mixing in 1 cup of raisins and/or 1 tablespoon of lemon zest if desired. Allow to double in size.

Cozonac Walnut Filling

  1. When the yeast dough is almost doubled in size (30 minutes before) start on the walnut filling. Do not make the filling too long ahead, as the meringue in the filling will deflate.

    Using a grinder grind or grate on a fine grater 3 cups of walnuts and set aside.

    You can also use a food processor for grinding the walnuts.

    To use the food processor pulse the walnuts in short bursts until the walnuts of fine-texture. Do not over process or the walnuts will release oil and become paste-like.

  2. Meringue: In a clean grease free mixer bowl combine 3 egg whites and 2/3 cup sugar. Whip on medium-high speed for about 10-15 minutes or until the mixture is thick, shiny and tripled in volume.

  3. Combine: To the meringue, add the ground walnut mixture, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 2 teaspoons of rum extract, 1 teaspoon of orange extract (optional) and mix gently until thoroughly combined.

Shape the Cozonac

  1. Shape:

    Dust working surface with flour. Punch the dough down and turn it out onto the floured surface.

    Using a rolling pin, roll it to one big 24"x16 rectangle.

    Add the prepared Cozonac walnut filling and spread it into an even layer, staying off about 1 1-inch strip on the further horizontal side.

    Roll into a log. Pinch the end to seal. Cut the rolled log into 2 even pieces.

    Twist the two pieces together.

    Cut the twisted roll into 2 even pieces.

  2. Add to pans:

    Using a bench scraper pick up each piece and drop it into 8"x5" or 9"x4" bread pan lined with parchment paper. Cover with a kitchen towel.


  1. Leave in a warm, draft-free place and allow to proof for about 1 hour or until about doubled in size. This dough rises best in a warm environment. If the room temperature is too low, the dough will take a long time to rise.

    To create a warm environment - preheat the oven to 250F for 2-3 minutes then turn it off. Place the bowl with the dough in the warm oven.

    About 15 minutes before the dough has doubled in size, preheat the oven to 350F with the rack centered.

Egg wash

  1. Once the cozonac's doubled in size brush the tops with the egg wash. To make the egg wash whisk 1 egg yolk with 2 tablespoons of water.


  1. Place the pans in the oven and bake for about 50-55 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 190F.

    About 30 minutes into baking check to make sure the tops are not browning too quickly. Tent with foil if needed.


  1. Remove from the oven and leave inside the pans for about 10 minutes. Then, pull the Cozonacs out of the pans by lifting the parchment paper.

    Leave to cool completely before slicing and enjoying.

Storing instructions

  1. Keep at room temp under a dome for up to 2 days.

    Or, wrap the Cozonacs in plastic and freeze them for later use.

    Leave in the fridge to thaw.

    Slice and toast to enjoy warm.

Nutrition Facts
Cozonac - Romanian Easter Bread
Amount Per Serving (1 slice)
Calories 290 Calories from Fat 153
% Daily Value*
Fat 17g26%
Saturated Fat 4g25%
Trans Fat 0.1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 9g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 61mg20%
Sodium 49mg2%
Potassium 162mg5%
Carbohydrates 28g9%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 12g13%
Protein 7g14%
Vitamin A 215IU4%
Vitamin C 0.2mg0%
Calcium 55mg6%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Marina | Let the Baking Begin

Welcome to Let the Baking Begin! I'm Marina and my love and passion for eating only the most delicious foods drive me to share that love here on Let the Baking Begin (since 2009). With over 20 years of experience in the kitchen, you know the recipes are tested and retested until perfect. I'm so happy to have you here. Enjoy! Read more...

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