Soft and delicious pull-apart yeast cake with almonds. Also known as Hungarian coffee cake or monkey bread.
YEAST CAKE OR HUNGARIAN COFFEE CAKE
First of all, this is a yeast cake, but you will not have to knead anything with your hands. Just in case the title worries you.
I found the recipe for this pull-apart yeast cake or monkey bread on a German cooking website Chefkoch and I was immediately intrigued by its name. I mean, I was born and raised in Transylvania and even though I spent the last 15 years in Germany my heart still beats for anything Romanian. Well, sometimes… at least. 🙂
I read the recipe and thought that it didn’t sound like anything I have ever eaten in Romania, but still, my grandma rarely baked and I didn’t eat any cake at all as a child (the Harlequin cake was the exception), so what do I know? If there is any Romanian person out there reading this, who happens to know this cake, I would be very happy to hear about it.
I am updating the recipe for the yeast cake in July 2019. Thanks to some comments I received for this recipe, I found out that this Transylvanian yeast cake is actually the better known Hungarian coffee cake, monkey bread or pull-apart bread, which was brought to the US by Hungarian immigrants.
A recipe for the yeast cake or arany galuska – golden dumpling was first published by Betty Crocker in 1972 under the name of Hungarian Coffee Cake.
“ As it became more popular in America, arany galuska came to be confused with monkey bread in which the balls of dough are not dipped in cinnamon and sugar but only in butter. “Monkey bread” soon became the more common name for this Hungarian Jewish dessert.”
And now that I know that this yeast cake has Hungarian origins, I understand why I found the recipe under the name of Transylvanian yeast cake. Lots of Hungarian people live in Transylvania – Romania and that explains everything.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE YEAST CAKE
Different types of yeast:
There are two kinds of yeast: fresh and dry yeast. And also there are two kinds of dry yeast: active dry yeast and instant yeast.
- The best kind of yeast you can use. Buying it in Germany is a piece of cake, it is available in any supermarket and it costs about 10 cents a cube. Fresh yeast bought at the baker’s is even better.
- A cube of fresh yeast weighs 42 g/ 1.48 oz in Germany and it is usually enough to bake a regular sized bread or to make the dough for a large yeast cake, for instance. However, always follow the quantities indicated by the recipe you are following.
- But, fresh yeast is not easily available all over the world (I could never buy when I was living in the UK), so dry yeast is a good substitute.
Active dry yeast:
- It has larger granules and has to be dissolved in water before using.
Instant dry yeast:
- The granules are finer and the yeast can be mixed with the dry ingredients before adding the milk (or water).
Both types of dry yeast are usually sold in small packages and, at least in Germany, one package is the equivalent of ½ cube fresh yeast. One package of dry yeast weighs 7 g/ 0.24 oz in Germany.
To make this Transylvanian yeast cake you will need 1 cube/ 42 g fresh yeast or 2 packages (a total of 14 g/ 0.5 oz) active dry yeast or instant yeast.
The original recipe calls for hazelnuts, which is definitely more Romanian or Hungarian than using almonds. I didn’t have any hazelnuts though, so I took the almonds instead. Please feel free to take whatever you have or like best.
HOW TO MAKE A YEAST CAKE
The yeast dough is really easy to make, so don’t get scared by it. You will not even have to knead this time, because the dough is too soft.
You can use either a food processor with a kneading attachment or a hand-held mixer with kneading attachments.
How to make the dough with fresh yeast:
- Heat the milk very gently until lukewarm, not hotter than 37 degrees Celsius/ 98 degrees Fahrenheit/body temperature or the yeast will be destroyed.
- Crumble the fresh yeast into the milk and stir until dissolved.
- Give the yeast mixture to the flour, sugar and salt mixture and continue with the recipe.
- How to make the dough with active dry yeast:
- Mix the active dry yeast with the lukewarm milk and proceed with the recipe.
How to make the yeast dough with instant yeast:
- Mix the instant yeast with the flour, sugar and salt. Add the lukewarm milk
- Proceed with the recipe.
Steps to make the yeast dough:
- Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk as instructed above. Or mix it with the flour, sugar and salt, if using instant yeast.
- Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the middle.
- Pour the milk-yeast mixture in this well and mix it with a little of the flour.
- Add the eggs and the very soft butter.
- Knead using the kneading attachments of your hand-held mixer or a standind mixer/food processor.
- Give the dough to a clean bowl and cover with a kitchen cloth.
- Let the dough rise in a warm place. It should double in size, this will take about 30 minutes if you use fresh yeast and about 35-40 minutes if you use dry yeast. But check, the rising time depends not only on the type of yeast you are using, but also on the temperature in your kitchen.
How to shape monkey bread:
- Take the dough out of the bowl piece by piece using two tablespoons for help. Scoop some dough with one tablespoon, the tablespoon should be more than full, quite overflowing. Help it keep in shape with the second tablespoon.
- Roll the dough piece first through the oil and then through the almonds/nuts. Don’t worry if the dough streches and looks lumpy. Just help it more or less keep the shape with the two tablespoons and dump it in the prepared pan.
- Don’t be tempted to shape the dough with your hands, it will not work, the dough is very very soft.
- After you’ve arranged about half of the dough pieces into the pan, you might have the feeling that the pan is too small for all the pieces to fit in. I thought so too at first, but I was wrong, everything fits perfectly, you just have to push the pieces that are already in the pan around and you will be able to fit the remaining ones as well. I usually have 14 to 16 pieces of yeast cake that I have to fit in the pan.
- Bake the yeast cake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and dry. It really depends on your oven, so keep checking.
HOW TO SERVE THE HUNGARIAN COFFEE CAKE
The yeast cake or monkey bread is best enjoyed on the day you bake it.
Serve it lukewarm or at room temperature for breakfast, brunch or coffee time with a cup of coffee or tea.
Leftovers should be stored, covered, at room temperature for 1 day. You can still eat them 2 days later, but the yeast cake will be drier, so you might want to help it with more coffee, tea or milk.
MORE YEAST CAKES
HOMEMADE CINNAMON ROLL RECIPE -SWEDISH
BEIGLI – TRADITIONAL HUNGARIAN NUT ROLLS
MOLDAVIAN YEAST PASTRIES WITH HONEY AND WALNUTS
Pull-Apart Yeast Cake – Hungarian Coffee Cake
- Yeast dough:
- 500 g all-purpose flour 1.1 lbs / 4 cups + 2 tablespoons
- 50 g granulated sugar 7 oz/ ¼ cup
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cube 40 g/ 1.4 oz fresh yeast or 2 sachets dried yeast (Nte 2)
- 400 ml lukewarm milk 13.5 fl.oz/ 1 ¾ cups
- 2 eggs
- 60 g unsalted butter 2.1 oz/ ¼ cup, very soft
- 125 ml vegetable oil 4.2 fl.oz/ ½ cup, Note 3
- 200 g ground almonds 7 oz/ 1 2/3 cups, Note 4
- 75 g granulated sugar 2.5 oz/ 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon
- Yeast: If making the dough with fresh or active dry yeast, mix the lukewarm milk and the crumbled fresh yeast (or sprinkle the active dry yeast in the milk) in a small bowl and stir until the yeast dissolves.
- Place the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour the milk-yeast mixture into the well and mix it with a little flour.
- If using instant yeast, mix the flour, sugar, and salt with the instant yeast. Add the milk and continue with the recipe.
- Add the eggs and the very soft butter.
- Knead for about 5 minutes using the kneading attachments of you hand-held mixer. The dough should be smooth and soft, you will not be able to knead it with your hands.
- Let rise: Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth and let the dough rise in a warm place. It should double in size, this will take about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the type of yeast you are using and on the temperature in your kitchen. Keep checking.
- Line a springform pan (diameter 26 cm/ 10 inches) with baking paper, bottom, and walls of the pan.
Shape the dough for the monkey bread:
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Pour the oil into a shallow bowl or a soup/pasta plate.
- Mix the almonds and sugar in a similar dish.
- Form dough: Remove pieces of dough out of the bowl helping yourself with two tablespoons. Scoop a very full tablespoon out of the dough, helping yourself with the second spoon.
- Turn each piece first through the oil and then through the almond-sugar mixture. Don't worry if the pieces look lumpy, they are supposed to be like that.
- Place each piece of dough in the prepared pan. After you've arranged about half of the dough pieces into the pan, you might have the feeling that the pan is too small for all the pieces to fit in. I thought so too at first, but I was wrong, everything fits perfectly, you just have to push the pieces that are already in the pan around and you will be able to fit the remaining ones as well. You should have 14-16 pieces of dough.
- Bake the cake for 30 to 40 minutes (depending on your oven) or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and dry. Enjoy lukewarm or at room temperature.
- A digital kitchen scale will give you the most precise measure ensuring the best bake possible.
- You can use any type of yeast: fresh, active dry yeast, or instant yeast. 1 sachet of dry yeast weighs 7 g/ 0.24 oz in Germany, so a total of 14 g/ 0.5 oz for this recipe.
Follow the instructions for each type of yeast. I've baked the yeast
cake with all these kinds of yeast, and it always works.
- I used neutral-tasting canola oil. Do not use olive oil or any oil with a strong taste.
- Ground hazelnuts can be used instead.
Thursday 26th of November 2020
I might be late to the party here but I gotta say something here too. I was born and raised in Timisoara. I got married young and my father in law was Hungarian and his parents owned a bakery on the outskirts of the city. He grew up in a bakery, started working there as a really young boy. That’s how things were I guess in the 30’s. Anyway, I was lucky to eat a lot of the pull apart bread. We just called it arany galuska or golden dumplings. They are indeed magical but golden came from the beautiful color they had after baking. Almonds were not used. After all, there were no almonds in Eastern Europe so we always used walnuts. Well, we did use hazelnuts too because they were growing wild but a lot less. I saw the recipes where the dough is rolled on the counter and cut into squares, stuffed with apricot jam and then rolled in butter, nuts and sugar. But I always had the kind that was scooped with a spoon. It was a little bit less wet than what I see here but dough is dough and no one in Romania was using scales or even a measuring cup. You probably remember that. Anyway, my mother in law would take a spoon of that dough, drop it in melted butter and roll it all around and then in nuts and sugar. She would pile them on top of each other too. Somehow she always had just enough dough for a couple of layers. If the dough was sticking to the spoon she’d just use her greased hands to get that off. I guess that’s all I wanted to add. Oh, and we never had vanilla custard with it. No offense to anyone out there but I think it would be an overkill. My marriage wasn’t forever but my relationship with my in-laws lasted throughout the years and I always thought of them as my mom and dad. And my father in law always called me his kisslany or little girl. Happy baking Adina, cred ca am sa fac chiflele de pâine la mic dejun.
Thursday 26th of November 2020
Hi Dana. Thank you for your nice comment, I loved reading it, I can really imagine the way they would work in the bakery. You are right about measuring, no one ever seemed to do it, my grandma would always say: Add as much flour as the dough takes!!! It was driving me nuts, the first nokedli, galusti and cakes I've made were all stones. It took many tries until I converted all the family recipes... It is not that bad in cooking (more or fewer onions in a sauce are fine), but anything that has to do with flour... I really could not live without a digital scale. I think they only managed because they would only cook and bake the same 20-30 recipes over and over again, a whole life until they mastered them to perfection. That was the case with my grandma, everything she cooked was perfect, but she could not even imagine adding parsley to beans (for instance) when she had never done that before. And anyone who would do something like that was a bad cook in her eyes and, needless to say, she would not touch that food. Happy baking to you too and a nice weekend.
Tuesday 9th of June 2020
DELICIOUS! I’m making this recipe for the second time as we speak—the dough is rising right now. I used coarse milled almond flour for the coating and that worked extremely well; it resulted in a deliciously crispy and crackly but still very tender top. I also added a generous amount of cinnamon to the coating—probably half a tablespoon—and cinnamon tastes wonderful in this. It adds a warming effect to it that pairs very well with coffee or milky tea. The only issue I did have with the cinnamon was that it made it a little harder to visually tell when the cake was done, so I checked on it a lot, which made it take a while to bake (but that could also be because I used a 9” cake pan instead of a springform mold, which proved to be WAY too small; the top of the cake puffed up to the full height of the pan while baking, though miraculously it somehow didn’t spill out). I also used a pair of cooking chopsticks to move the dough pieces between the oil and the almond coating, which worked very well and kept things less messy. My whole family loved it and my dad has been asking me to make it again constantly since; the first time I made it, it was gone in less than a day!
Wednesday 10th of June 2020
Wow, Erica, I am so happy to read your comment. We love this cake too and adding cinnamon sounds great, cinnamon makes just about anything better. :) Using chopsticks to turn the dough in the oil sounds good, I must try it next time.
Thursday 7th of May 2020
Hi Adina, Pls. disregard my previous comments added previously. I was able to follow all the ingredients and baking process but my dough seems too wet to spoon and roll to the oil and ground nut mixture. So I just sprinkled nut mixture to the pan and spooned batter 1 at a time and brushing oil and sprinkle the nuts on top of each. It's still have the cracking effect but not as much as you can pull apart. It's more like a spongecake. :(
Thursday 7th of May 2020
Hi Mariz. I think that the fact that the dough pieces were not coated in nuts might have caused the problem, that is you not being able to pull it apart. The dough is supposed to be really soft, softer than most yeast cakes, so that you cannot handle it with the hands. It might seem weird to spoon at first, but it does work actually. Maybe try adding a tiny amount of extra flour next times, maybe it will help.
Wednesday 6th of May 2020
Hello, I was wondering if you could substitute the sugar with honey or maple syrup? Would the cake still turn out?
Wednesday 6th of May 2020
Hi Julia. Yes, there is only a small amount of sugar in the yeast dough, so you can use honey instead. However, I cannot imagine using honey for the coating, I don't think that will work.
Thao @ In Good Flavor
Saturday 20th of July 2019
What a beautiful pull-apart yeast cake!! It looks so light and fluffy inside and out. I like that the dough has to go through only one rise. I want to try making this someday. Pinning!