Category Archives: Cakes

Wise Sons Chocolate Babka

What makes for an exquisitely delicious chocolate Babka? To start, the flavors and proportion of chocolate to dough have to be perfectly balanced. Not too sweet, not too bready; not simply a dense mass of chocolate, but enough to sate your cravings.

Over the past holiday season I let it be known I was on the hunt for a great chocolate Babka and my family did not disappoint. I will not name all the loaves I tried in the vain hope of finding something reminiscent of my grandmother’s sublime version. Suffice it to say: Nine of the ten I sampled shall remain nameless.

One stood out high above the rest: Wise Sons of San Francisco. The ingredients alone tell you how fabulous this Babka will be: organic wheat flour, chocolate, milk, butter, sugar, cage-free eggs, brown sugar, water, cream, cocoa powder, vanilla, yeast, cinnamon, and salt. The loaf is beautifully adorned with a streusel topping that is somehow not too sweet. The interior is marbled with deep fissures of dark chocolate. The dough is like a breadier brioche, but that description doesn’t do it justice. My daughter, who went to culinary school, thought it was like a combination of brioche and puff pastry. Indescribable? Perhaps. But definitely capable of satisfying the most jaded Babka palate.

When I was growing up in NYC I used to have a hard time limiting my Babka intake as I found it very addicting. Probably because it was too sweet and I was a kid. This version is so satisfying that a modest portion is enough to sate even a major Babka jones.

If you’re not lucky enough to live near the Wise Sons bakery you can mail order this through It’s definitely a splurge, but each Babka will give you tons of gustatory joy and it freezes beautifully.


Aldi’s Tear and Share Chocolate Lover’s Brioche from France

I don’t usually buy pastry as it is typically too sweet for me; however, this Chocolate Brioche from Aldi ($2.99) had been calling my name for a while and I finally succumbed. Lucky me. This is really delicious, even though it looks more chocolatey than it tastes, the texture is divinely chewy and satisfying. For a commercial product it is remarkably free of junky ingredients. There are palm and canola oils, but no trans fats. Every ingredient is a recognizable substance, like creme fraiche, eggs, flour, etc. One serving, 50 grams or 1/8th of the cake, contains 4 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, 14 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of fiber. Definitely not a health food, but for a decadent treat at least it contains real ingredients.

I have also tried the chocolate chip brioche and did not like it nearly as much as the chocolate swirl variety because its chocolate presence was barely noticeable. On the other hand, it has 1/3 less sugar and a lovely, eggy brioche texture. Could make a great base for your favorite raw chocolate hazelnut spread, or some excellent jam.

They also offer cinnamon and vanilla cream versions.

Bananappeal: Frosted Cakes, Cheesecakes, and Gluten Free Cheesecakes

I can’t decide what to rave about first. There are the adorable glass jars adorned with red and white twine just begging to be re-used as soon as I scarf down their contents, the great textures of all Courtney Dougherty’s products, or the fact that there are two gluten free cheesecakes.

As someone who loves innovative packaging, I will start there. Not only are these jars very appealing (there are two sizes, both of which beg to house spices, nuts, or grains), but the labels and pretty twine make them look different and new. As an avid recycler, I am often miffed when labels adhere to glass jars as if they were super-glued. These came off with no effort. I also liked the pewter colored screw tops.

Still on the subject of packaging, the cardboard carrying case housing four cakes was fetching and functional.

Courtney has made two cheesecakes for those on a gluten free diet. The Tiramisu was wickedly addictive. I didn’t miss the crust, at all, since I was so preoccupied with the luscious, creamy texture and layers of flavor. Her Strawberry Cheesecake had a strawberry infused creamy topping made with sour cream. All I can say is it was the epitome of strawberries and a welcome treat in January. The more traditional Banana Gingersnap was perked up with spices and molasses in the crust. Bananas Foster sandwiched her signature cake between a brown sugar shortbread crust and a layer of sinfully delicious cinnamon rum caramel whipped cream. You can buy a box of one flavor, a variety pack, or an all gluten free assortment.

There are four cake flavors, all of which are unique. Each has a layer of banana buttermilk cake on the bottom and a healthy helping of frosting. Courtney’s frosting is not heavy and overly sweet, like most commercial products. I found the texture and sugar levels spot on. It’s amazing how much gustatory punch Courtney packs into these jars.

Here are the flavors:

Banana Salted Caramel was topped with a smooth brown sugar caramel cream cheese frosting. English Malden Salt is a beautiful catalyst to the not overly sweet caramel.

Banana Peanut Butter had half an organic milk chocolate peanut butter cup imbedded in its peanut butter cream cheese frosting. A classic combination and with good reason.

Toasted Coconut was festooned with toasted coconut shards and the one I found most redolent of banana. The banana cream cheese frosting enhanced the chewy coconut and perfectly textured cake.

Banana Chocolate Fudge, the reason I sampled these little beauties in the first place, had a thick layer of creamy banana chocolate ganache over Courtney’s cake. Another delight.

You might think this much banana gets boring, but I never once thought about the fruit. As strange as that may seem, it took a back seat to strawberries, peanut butter, Tiramisu, fudge, caramel,and gingersnaps.

As easy as these are to enjoy at home, they would be equally suited to a picnic, lunch box, or office treat.