Cocoa Wreath from Leavened Dough

My biggest struggle in writing this recipe was how to name it properly. Cocoa Wreath or perhaps Bundt Babka, or maybe a Kaisergugelhupf? Well, the truth is that my wreath is a bit of everything. This dough is very similar to one I make for Babka but shaped into a Wreath and baked in a Bundt pan what classifies it to be a traditional Kaisergugelhupf.  I know – complicated 😀 Anyways, whatever we call it – it’s a delicious piece of pastry, filled with a scrumptious filling and baked to brown & crispy perfection. 


The word Gugelhupf stands for a yeast-based cake baked in a Bundt mold and it is very popular in Germany and Eastern European countries. In Slovakia, we usually bake this Wreath around Christmas time, but because my love for the traditional pastry is bigger than patience to wait for the Christmas to come, I happily bake it in the middle of the summer with a big smile on my face 🙂

I have been baking this very same wreath almost every single day during the last couple of months – teaching it during one of my baking classes. The fact that it can be used in many different recipes and baked in many different ways only adds to its’ attractiveness. The dough is really universal and you can play around and bake a variety of pastries using this very same dough.


During the months of baking the wreath, I gathered several tips on how to achieve the most delicious result: 

  • Use a small baking pan – the smaller the pan, the less space for the wreath to spread while baking. Instead, it will rise higher and keep the filling inside the pastry without drying out
  • Don’t overbake – once the wreath is baked through, take it from the oven right away (it will be still baking in the pan from the residual heat during the cooldown)
  • Proper proving is critical – do not skip or shorten the proving time. Be patient and wait until the dough rises double in size (usually around 1 1/2 – 2 hours)
  • Overnight proving in the fridge is not necessary – if you’re familiar with overnight proving you might know that it usually helps to develop a deeper flavor and better texture of the dough. From my experience working with this dough, this is not the case
  • Be generous with the filling – whatever filling you choose, be generous and spread it evenly on the roll-out dough

My favorite fillings for the wreath: 

  • Poppy seeds – Slovak specialty and my taste of home far away from home
  • Chocolate Spread – homemade or purchased, whatever you choose make sure it’s not too runny or liquidy and has a spreadable consistency
  • Cocoa Filling – my preferred, less sweet but deep in taste compared with chocolate
  • Walnut Filling – always delicious and in combination with cinnamon – irresistible


400g AP Flour, or fine flour

40g Sugar 

200g Whole Milk 

60g Butter, unsalted

2 Eggs Yolks 

20g Fresh Yeasts or 8g Dry Yeasts (not instant) 

Lemon Zest from 1/2 Lemon

Pinch of Salt 

Cocoa Filling

100g Cocoa Powder

80 – 100g Sugar 

150g Whole Milk 


  1. In a small bowl, combine together 100g of Milk with 20g of Sugar and warm it up in the microwave or on the stovetop. The mixture should be warm enough for the sugar to dissolve but it shouldn’t be boiling. Add your yeasts – fresh or dry into the milk and mix until dissolved (dry yeasts won’t dissolve right away, they will float on the top of the milk). Cover with a clean towel/ beeswax wrap and let it sit to activate at room temperature for some 20-30 minutes
  2. In the meantime, combine together 400g of Flour, rest of Sugar (20g), a pinch of Salt, and Lemon Zest from half a lemon in a big mixing bowl or bowl of your standing mixer. Mix just to combine
  3. Pour in the rest of Milk (100g), 2 Egg Yolks and Yeast-mixture that now should be frothy and bubbly with a strong yeasty smell. Start kneading either with your hand (~10 – 15 minutes) or with a mixer attached with a hook (~ 8 – 10 minutes). The dough must be well incorporated, hold nicely together with no flour on the bottom of the bowl and without sticking to the sides of the bowl
  4. Chop 60g of butter into smaller pieces. Now add all your Butter (at room temperature) at once and keep kneading on a higher speed for another ~ 5 minutes with the mixer or ~ 8 – 10 minutes with your hand (hand-kneading is hard work, you’ll sweat and cry but I promise it will pay off :). The dough is well kneaded when it’s very elastic and stretchy and it’s not tearing right away when stretched & pulled away. Cover your dough and let it rest and prove at room temperature for at least 1 hour or until double in size (from my experience in winter it takes up to 2 1/2 hour, in summer sometimes only 1 hour when it’s really hot and AC doesn’t work 🙂
  5. Dust your work desk slightly with some flour and take your well-proved dough out of the bowl. Start rolling it out into the circle-shape – from the center out in all directions. Try to get as big and as thin circle as possible (the bigger & thinner the dough, the more filling and layers you’ll get). Now spread a Cocoa filling (or filling of your preference) evenly on the dough (thick some 2-3mm) spreading almost all the way to the edges. Start rolling your dough slowly and tightly all the way until you’ll get a nice roll. Make sure the end of the dough is on the bottom, not on the top of the roll
  6. Cut your roll length-wise into 2 equal-size coils, cutting through all layers. Now braid your coils just like when you’re braiding a Babka – right coil over left, right over left, right over left, repeating until you braid it all
  7. Carefully transfer your braided dough into a Bundt pan and let it prove for a second time, covered with a clean towel for some 20 – 30 minutes
  8. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F and bake your Cocoa Wreath for 35-45 minutes (test if it’s properly baked through by inserting a skewer in the center – a skewer should come out clean with no raw dough traces). Once baked, let it cool down in the pan for at least 1 hour (it will be still baking from the residual heat)
  9. Carefully take your Wreath from the pan, dust it with some powder sugar if desired and try not to eat it all at once 🙂

Cocoa Filling: 

  1. In a small saucepan combine together all ingredients for the filling (100g Cocoa Powder, 80 – 100g Sugar, 150g Milk) and cook it on a low heat for ~ 7-10 minutes while stirring or whisking constantly. As the mixture warms-up, it will slowly thicken-up as well (it will take several minutes). Desirable consistency is thicker & spreadable filling (similar to jam or fruit preserve)

Dobrú chuť,


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