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Citrus Babka King Cake Pomegranate Caramel
Nathan Congleton / TODAY
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(4 rated)

This cake stays true to New Orleans traditions but also incorporates Middle Eastern flavors. The result of this creative combination is a cake you'll want to make not just for Mardi Gras but any special occasion!

Technique tip: This cake will keep for one week in a well-wrapped container.


  • Dough

    • 3 ½ tablespoons milk
    • 3 ½ tablespoons water
    • 1 packet instant dry yeast
    • 1 ½ cups bread flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
    • 1/4 teaspoon orange zest
    • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 egg
    • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Streusel

    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
    • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon Reim's N.39 spice mix
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 cup butter, cold and cubed
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • Pomegranate Caramel

    • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
    • 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 cup water
  • Cake Filling

    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
    • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
    • 1/4 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs
  • Syrup

    • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1 pinch salt
    • 1 cinnamon stick


For the dough:

1. Warm milk and water together until lukewarm (about 70 degrees), then add in the yeast and let sit for 3 minutes, or until you see bubbles.

2. Add flour, lemon zest, orange zest and vanilla extract to the bowl of your mixer fitted with a dough hook.

3. Add egg and the yeast mixture and begin to mix on low for about 5 minutes.

4. Add in sugar and salt to the mixer and mix on low for 4 minutes.

5. Gradually add softened butter to the mixer while it is still on low. Once all of the butter is incorporated, let the dough mix on low for an additional 8 minutes.

6. Place dough in an oiled covered container for 1 hour to rise. Then place dough in the refrigerator overnight.

For the streusel:

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until it resembles pebbles; reserve mixture in the freezer.

For the pomegranate caramel:

1. Combine heavy cream, pomegranate molasses and butter in a pot and warm; set aside once it has boiled.

2. Combine sugar, honey, salt and water in a larger pot. Take care that there is no sugar on the side of the pot; if there is any brush down with water.

3. Start to boil the sugar, bring to 340°F (using a candy thermometer to measure), or a medium brown.

4. Deglaze sugar with warm cream mixture slowly and carefully. It will be steamy and hot, so be careful. 

5. Once all of the cream mixture has been added, bring everything to a boil. Transfer to another container and cool (this mixture will keep for a month in the refrigerator).

For the filling:

Mix together butter, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla paste and cocoa powder in the bowl of a tabletop mixer for about 4 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy.

To fill and roll cake:

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper.

2. Roll out dough into an 8- by 18-inch rectangle. Spread the cinnamon-sugar filling onto the rolled dough with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon, taking great care not to poke any holes in the dough. 

3. Sprinkle gingersnap cookie crumbs evenly over the dough.

4. Start rolling up the babka from the shorter side; make sure your layers are nice and thin.

5. When the babka is in a log, take a sharp knife and cut it down the length of the pastry. Place your two cut sides up so you can see all of the layers.

6. Starting in the middle of the babka, start braiding the dough strands so that one side goes over the next and the cut sides are always facing up.

7. Arrange the babka cake on a sheet tray in a circle with the ends overlapping, then braid the two ends together to complete the circle. Cover with a wet towel and leave to proof in a warm area (about 15 minutes).

For the syrup:

While the cake is proofing, make a simple syrup by boiling the sugar, water, butter, cinnamon stick and salt together, set aside.

To assemble:

1. When the babka is proofed, sprinkle babka with streusel crumble and place babka in your preheated oven.

2. Bake for 25 minutes, then rotate and bake for another 25 minutes. Bake the babka until golden brown and there are no blonde spots in the middle. You can also check the internal temperature with a thermometer, it should read 175°F.

3. When you take the babka out of the oven, immediately brush with simple syrup. Leave cake to cool, drizzle with pomegranate caramel.