Pumpkin Seed & Creole Cream Cheese Babka

By: Hannah Lee Leidy
Photo by Chris Granger

Willa Jean Bakery in New Orleans ups the ante on the pumpkin loaf concept by adding a spicy cream cheese filling and coconut, pumpkin seed, and brown sugar topping.

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6–8 servings

    For the cream cheese filling:
  • 8 ounces Creole cream cheese* at room temperature 
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1½ teaspoons lemon juice 
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt 
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar, sifted 
  • For the pumpkin filling:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder 
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda 
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt 
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger 
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar 
  • 1 large egg 
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée 
  • ¼ cup canola oil 
  • ¼ cup sour cream 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • For the dough:
  • 2⅓ cups all-purpose flour 
  • 2 teaspoons yeast 
  • ½ cup water 
  • 3 tablespoons browned butter, softened
  • 3 egg
  • ¼ vanilla bean, split and scraped 
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup granulated sugar 
  • For the coconut-pumpkin seed streusel:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar 
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar 
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt 
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon 
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1½ cups toasted coconut 
  • 1 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
  • Note: White recommends Creole cream cheese from Mauthe’s Progress Milk Barn, but you can substitute plain cream cheese in a pinch.
  1. Make the cream cheese filling: In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine cream cheese, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt. Mix, scraping down bowl sides several times. Add sifted sugar and continue to mix until combined. Set aside.
  2. Make the pumpkin filling: In a large bowl, whisk first six dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, add remaining wet ingredients and mix until combined. Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients, mixing just until combined. Do not overmix. Set aside.
  3. Make the dough: In a stand mixer fitted with dough hook, combine flour, yeast, water, butter, eggs, and vanilla. Mix on medium speed until dough has smooth exterior and is not sticking to sides of bowl, about 8 minutes. Add salt and sugar. Mix until combined and smooth, about 5 minutes. Place dough on a greased surface, rounding under edges to make a smooth ball. Spray dough with pan spray and place on a sheet tray. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Before using, let dough sit at room temperature for 1½ hours.
  4. Make the streusel: In a medium bowl, stir first five dry ingredients together. Cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Toss in coconut and pumpkin seeds and mix by hand to form a crumb topping.
  5. Assemble the babka: Cut dough in half and flatten each half. Roll out on lightly floured surface until both dough halves are very thin and about 9×12 inches in size.
  6. Pipe four rows of cream cheese filling on one half of dough. After cream cheese, spread thin layer of pumpkin filling, leaving a ½-inch border all around. Roll up like a jelly roll down short side, then use hands to make sure roll is smooth and evenly sized. Repeat with other half of dough.
  7. Once both doughs are filled, place side by side. Cut off ends of each so they are smooth and even in length. Cut each log in half lengthwise and then twist the two pieces together. Place each twist side by side in greased loaf pan and let rise 2½ hours.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  9. Top risen dough with coconut-pumpkin seed streusel, using your hands to make large “crumbs” by squeezing the mixture together. Bake, with no fan and with a pan of ice cubes in bottom of oven to create steam, for about 40 minutes. The babka is done when a toothpick can be inserted with no resistance. If dough is getting too dark before finished, cover with foil.

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