• Romanian sponge cake (cozonac) (Alan Benson)

Traditionally made at Easter, also known in Bulgaria as kozunak, this sweet brioche-like loaf (it’s not really a sponge cake at all!) is similar to those of Italy, Austria and Poland. 

Makes
2

Preparation

40min

Cooking

40min

Skill level

Ace
By
Average: 3.1 (22 votes)
Yum

It's adorned with a swirled filling, which varies depending on the region – with this chocolate/nut/rum filling it becomes a cozonac cu nuca.

Ingredients

  • melted butter, to grease
  • 1 eggwhite, lightly whisked, to glaze
  • 2 tbsp raw caster sugar, to sprinkle 

 

Dough

  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk
  • 2½ tsp instant dried yeast
  • 145 g (⅔ cup) raw caster sugar
  • 825 g (5½ cups) bread or pizza four
  • good pinch of salt
  • 150 g butter, cubed, melted and cooled to lukewarm
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp finely grated orange rind
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lemon rind
  • 2 tsp natural vanilla extract or essence

 

Filling

  • 200 g walnuts, toasted
  • 55 g (¼ cup) caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2½ tbsp dark rum
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon rind

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.

Instructions

Makes: 2 loaves (about 16 slices)

Cooling time: 1 hour

Proving time: 2 hours

To make the dough, place the milk in a small saucepan and warm over low heat until lukewarm. Transfer about 60 ml (¼ cup) of the milk to a small dish and stir in the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the caster sugar. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 5 minutes or until frothy.

Meanwhile, combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the melted butter, eggs, remaining sugar, citrus rinds, vanilla and yeast mixture to the remaining milk and use a fork to whisk to combine evenly. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix to form a soft dough. Continue to knead on low speed for 6-8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Lightly grease a medium bowl with the melted butter, add the dough and turn to coat the dough in the butter. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, to make the filling, combine the walnuts, sugar, cocoa, rum and lemon rind in the bowl of a food processor and process until well combined and the walnuts are finely ground and a coarse paste forms.
Brush two 11.5 cm x 20 cm (base measurement) loaf tins with melted butter to grease.

Punch the centre of the dough down with your fist and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 1-2 minutes or until reduced to its original volume.

Divide the dough into 4 equal portions (see Baker’s Tips). Use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out a dough portion to a 20 cm x 25 cm rectangle. Sprinkle a quarter of the filling evenly over the dough and then press it gently into the dough. Starting from a long side, roll up the dough to form a log and enclose the filling. Repeat with the remaining dough portions and filling.

Twist two of the logs together and then place in a greased loaf tin. Repeat with the remaining dough logs to make another loaf. Cover with a slightly damp tea towel and set aside in a warm draught-free place for 1 hour or until almost doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 190°C (170°C fan-forced).

Brush the tops of the loaves with the whisked eggwhite and sprinkle with the raw sugar. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 160°C (140°C fan-forced) and bake for a further 20 minutes or until cooked through and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the top. Stand in the tins for 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool (this will take about 1 hour).

Serve at room temperature, cut into slices.

 

Baker’s Tips

• You can also plait the dough logs together for a different appearance. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions in Step 8. Roll each to a 12 cm x 28 cm rectangle. Sprinkle each with one sixth of the filling before rolling and then plait 3 of the rolls together to make two loaves. Continue with the recipe.

• These loaves are best eaten the day they are made. They will however keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days and is best served toasted.

 

Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Sarah O'Brien. Food preparation by Tina McLeish. Creative concept by Belinda So.

 

This recipe is part of our Bakeproof: Easter treats column.

 

View previous Bakeproof columns and recipes here.

 

Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. For hands-on baking classes and baking tips, visit her at BakeClub. Don't miss what's coming out of her oven via Facebook,TwitterInstagram and Pinterest.