What’s the difference between the two? asks reader Laura. Since they both originate in the same place, there really shouldn’t be much difference. However a baba is generally recognized as a small, cylindrical cake that may contain candied fruit, and may be doused in an alcohol-spiked syrup. A babka has come to mean something rather different. It’s also made from a yeast-leavened dough, but it’s a single large cake, usually ring-shaped, usually filled with some sort of candied or dried fruit filling. Or at least that’s how Central European Christians interpret it.
Central European Jews have a different idea about a babka. For them, a babka is a yeast cake, often braided, usually baked in a loaf pan, filled with cinnamon or (these days) chocolate. Yeah, I know, it’s a little confusing. But that’s the way things often go with foods that have been around a long, long time.