Babka is an Eastern European Jewish coffee cake that is yeasted and swirled with filling, most commonly chocolate or cinnamon. It's stunning! This version is inspired by the flavors of Mexican chocolate and incorporates some spiciness and cinnamon in with the chocolate. It's a perfect little kick!
For the Mexican chocolate babka dough: In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast, salt and cinnamon. Add the milk and eggs and mix with the dough hook to combine. With the mixer running, add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time until it is incorporated into the dough. The butter should be soft and pliable but not melty. When all the butter is incorporated, knead/mix, stopping to scrape the hook, sides and bottom of the bowl every few minutes, until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky, another 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, flip over to coat and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest and rise until it's doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
For the Mexican chocolate babka filling: In a medium bowl with a stiff rubber spatula, mix together the sugar, butter, cocoa powder, cinnamon, chili powder and salt until combined. Add the oil to smooth it out to a spreadable consistency. Taste and add more chili powder if you like more heat. Reserve at room temperature.
Grease a pullman loaf pan or standard loaf pan with cooking spray and line with parchment so that it comes up 2 of the sides and overhangs by an inch. On a clean countertop, roll the dough out into a 10-by-22-inch rectangle. The dough should be slightly sticky, but if it’s too sticky to work with, you can dust with a little flour. Spread a thin even layer of filling all over the dough, reserving about 2 tablespoons of it. Roll the dough the long way into a tight log and cut it in half so you have 2 shorter logs. Spread the top of one of the logs with the reserved filling and then twist the logs together. Transfer to the prepared loaf pan, cover with plastic, and let rise until puffy and risen by about half, another 30 to 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Gently brush the top of the babka with heavy cream. Bake until the top is deep golden brown, about 50 minutes.
For the simple syrup: Meanwhile, combine the sugar and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan and warm until the sugar is completely dissolved.
When the babka comes out of the oven, brush the simple syrup over the top. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a rack to continue cooling. Of course, you should try it while it’s still warm!! To store, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature. This is best within a day or two--after that, use it for French toast!