That’s an excellent question, reader Margaret, for in fact there are several kinda of babkas out there. I’m making the Jewish version which originated in Eastern Europe and is almost certainly a relative of potica, another rolled bread baked in a loaf. There are at least two other varieties, however. One is a bundt-style version that’s more like a brioche cake, sometimes made with raisins and occasionally iced. Those babkas often look like this, and it’s said that the name “babka” — which literally means “grandmother” in Polish — is actually a reference to a grandmother’s skirts. That’s the story at anyway.
Another type of babka is made in the Ukraine at Easter time (clearly a Christian thing). It’s an elaborate bread typically decorated with floral patterns, some of them very lovely indeed. That might be fun to try to make sometime, but for now I’m sticking with the babka I know, and in Chicago it’s sweet and full of chocolate. Or cinnamon. I won’t turn down either one.