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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Try More Cake Recipes:
Moldovian Honeycomb Cake Babka
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.
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, then add
- 10 large eggs
How to make the Honeycomb Cake
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.
Add the wet: Now add the 1 cup of buttermilk and 2 ¼ cups 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.
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 one 8 or 10-inch round (8 qt cast iron pot)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
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.
* * 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.