One afternoon at Prague’s Cafe Slavia, over a glass of the infamously narcotic turquoise-green absinthe, the manager shared the recipe for this simple coffee cake, a perfect example of how Czech recipes have evolved over the years. Babka has roots in the cooking of Russia and Poland and, along with some ugly architecture, is one of the few remnants of the Russian years in Prague. While old recipes for babka certainly used butter, this one uses vegetable oil, a reminder of the Communist era, when butter was looked down on as a capitalist extravagance. It doesn’t suffer from the substitution, and the cake is moist and filled with chunks of nuts and raisins.
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