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Honeycomb Cake Recipe – Babka Nyagre

This Honeycomb Cake is truly magical. It starts out with crepe-like pale batter that takes on a beautiful, deep amber color as it bakes. The taste, texture, and smell are all very unique and oh so delicious. Chewy, sponge-like, yet very light and fluffy, with honeycomb tunnels going from the bottom up, this Moldovian dessert is sure to surprise and impress.

Want to try more stunning desserts? You’ve got to try this dulce de leche cake, this chocolate honey cake, and this amazing Russian royal cake.

A slice of airy honeycomb cake with beautiful air pockets.

Authentic to Moldova and western Ukraine the honeycomb cake is called many things. Babka Nyagre, Baba, Chocolate Baba are just a few names known to me.

Western Ukraine bordering with Moldova means that the culture, language, and cuisine have traveled back and forth between the two countries.

In Ukraine, this honeycomb cake recipe is known as Moldovian Babka, or Nylon Babka referencing the texture of this honeycomb cake.

Close up shot of Moldovan honeycomb cake.

What does Honeycomb Coffee Cake taste like?

The taste of the honeycomb coffee cake is somewhat difficult to describe. It’s light and spongy but in a chewy kind of way. It has weight when you pick it up, but light at the same time. It has wet kind of texture like a baked custard would, but with beautiful air tunnels that travel from the bottom up.

My theory is that this is the Moldovian interpretation of the Italian caneles, as the ingredients and texture have lots of similarities, sans the crispy outside crust which caneles are known for. But, that’s just my guess.

This honeycomb coffee cake doesn’t require any special molds like the caneles. Also, it is not as sweet. Even though it has a considerable amount of sugar, the end result is not very sweet. In fact, some serve it with a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk to add a touch of extra sweetness.

Key Characteristics of Honeycomb Coffee Cake

While quick to throw together and with no special ingredients, this cake can be extremely temperamental. If you want to know just how temperamental, think of macarons.

Here’s how to know that the Honeycomb cake came out right. It will have –

  • Deep amber color
  • Chewy, elastic, yet springy and light texture
  • Tall tunnels of the honeycomb cake that go from the bottom up. The further up the cake the tunnels are formed, the better.

Slice of Moldovan coffee cake filled with delicate air pockets.

Tips for Success with the Honeycomb Coffee Cake:

  • Prevent clumps: Add the liquid into the dry ingredients gradually, this will keep the batter smooth and clump-free.
  • Use a heavy-bottomed baking dish: it is best to bake the honeycomb coffee cake in a thick-walled baking form. A cast-iron will work best, but a glass baking dish will work as well.
  • Grease the baking form: you want to be able to remove the baked Babka Nyagre from the oven. Make sure to either butter and flour/bread crumb the pan or line it with parchment paper.
  • Do not remove from the oven prematurely: the initial blast of hot temperature is what creates the honeycomb tunnels that are signature to this beautiful honeycomb coffee cake. Next, the low-temperature bake time allows the sugars and milk in the batter to gain the signature deep amber color and flavor without burning it. Removing it from the oven early can leave the babka light-colored and make it dense since the structure hasn’t stabilized yet.
  • Cool slowly: allowing to cool in the oven after baking will further help set the honeycomb babka, preventing the trapped air bubbles from collapsing.

Sliced honeycomb coffee cake topped with fresh herbs on a serving plate.

How to make the Moldovian Babka Nyagre

Find the full, detailed instructions in the recipe card below.

  • Mix the dry ingredients.
  • Add oil and thoroughly mix once again.
  • Add milk gradually, mixing until smooth after each addition.
  • Separately whip eggs for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy.
  • Fold the whipped eggs into the mixture carefully.
  • Pour the Babka Nyagre batter into a parchment-lined and greased cast iron pot, filling it no higher than 3/4 full. Cover with a lid, or foil.
  • Bake at 350F for 1.5 hours, then another 1.5 hours at 200F, or bake for 1.5 hours at 350F, then turn the oven and allow to cool overnight without opening the lid or oven.
  • Leave to cool inside the pot, without lifting the lid for about 1 hour for best results. Then, open the lid, run a thin knife around the edges of the pot and invert the Babka Nyagre onto a wire rack to cool.
  • Cut into slices, or cubes and serve.

Visual instructions for making Babka Nyagre

Try More Cake Recipes:

Moldovian Honeycomb Cake Babka

Honeycomb Cake - Moldovian Specialty Coffee Cake
5 from 2 votes
Author: Marina | Let the Baking Begin
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Romanian
Keyword: babka nyagre, honeycomb cake, romanian babka
Calories: 288 kcal
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 12

Ingredients

Honeycomb Cake Ingredients

Dry ingredients + Oil(mix together)

Wet Ingredients (add gradually)

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp vodka (rum or brandy will work as well); (omit if not using alcohol)

Whip for 5 min

  • 10 large eggs

Instructions

How to make the Honeycomb Cake

  1. Combine dry with oil: In a large mixing bowl mix 2 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 tbsp baking soda and 1 cups oil with a mixer until the mixture is well mixed and the flour's coated with oil, about 1-2 minutes.

  2. Add the wet: Now add the buttermilk and milk gradually, whisking after each addition to prevent the batter from forming clumps. Lastly, whisk in the 2 tbsp of vodka. If you added the liquids too fast and the batter looks clumpy, you can pass it through a sieve to remove the clumps.

  3. Whip eggs: In a bowl whip together 10 eggs until light and foamy, about 5 minutes. Then add the whipped eggs to the rest of the batter, mixing it in thoroughly.



    Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400F° with the rack in the middle. If your oven runs a little hot like mine does, you can turn it down to 350F° or 375F°.

    Butter the inside of an 8 or 10-inch round cast iron dutch oven or any heavy-bottomed pot**, then dust it with breadcrumbs; or line the bottom with parchment paper and spray the sides with non-stick spray.

How to bake Honeycomb Babka Cake

  1. Bake: Pour the batter into an 8 qt cast iron pot,* cover with lid or foil and bake for 1 hour 30 minutes. If at any point it smells burnt, turn the oven down about 25 degrees, but do not open the oven or the lid of the pot (this is very important).

    After 1.5 hours, lower the temp to 200F° and bake for another 1 hour 30 minutes. Leave in the oven to cool for several hours if possible, if not, remove from the oven and allow to cool at room temp



    TIP: If you're baking overnight, you can bake for 1.5 hours at 350F°-400F° degrees then turn the oven off without opening the door and allow to cool overnight in the oven.

Recipe Notes

* * It is best to use heavy bottomed, or thick-walled baking container, so a dutch oven works the best. But, you can also use a glass baking dish (just cover it tightly with foil) or even double up disposable foil tins for better insulations. 

Nutrition Facts
Moldovian Honeycomb Cake Babka
Amount Per Serving
Calories 288 Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Fat 8g12%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Cholesterol 143mg48%
Sodium 504mg22%
Potassium 160mg5%
Carbohydrates 44g15%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 28g31%
Protein 9g18%
Vitamin A 305IU6%
Calcium 98mg10%
Iron 2mg11%
* 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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  • Oxana

    Do I need to refrigerate this dessert?! I can’t wait to try it.

    · Reply
  • Alla

    Hi Marina , Thanks a lot for recipe , I was born in Moldova , so I remember my grandmother was making baba nyagre for holidays .I definitely will make this recipe for my family.

    · Reply
  • Inna Reus

    Super excited to make this! My mom used to make this years ago and I’ve never seen this recipe anywhere. I love it with condensed milk.

    · Reply
  • Lena

    Hey Marina! Thanks for the post, I really want to try making it.

    Quick question. My relative’s mom made something similar to this and she said when done, they put condensed milk on top to make it a bit sweeter. When I asked her for the recipe, she said they dont have one but add things here and there with no exact measurements or list of ingredients.
    If I can remember correctly, she referred to it as “начинка”. Is this by any chance same recipe? She also baked it in a heavy bottom pan.
    I want to try it so bad!!! When she let me taste it, it was bomb!

    · Reply
    • Hi Lena,
      Depending on where you’re from, Nachinka can be the same thing as what this recipe is. In our Western region of Ukraine they called this Babka Nyagre, Nachinka as well.

      For others, Nachinka meant something you stuff the turkey with.

      · Reply
  • How many days can this Dessert stay in room temperature or be refrigerated?

    · Reply
    • Hi Vera,
      It spoils at room temp pretty fast, but refrigerated it could probably stay there for up to 4 days. Just make sure to keep it covered, so it does not dry out.

      · Reply

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