Czech christmas magic: Vanocka / Kouzlo Vanoc: VanockaCzech christmas vanocka recipe | Czechmatediary
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Czech christmas magic: Vanocka / Kouzlo Vanoc: Vanocka

vanocka yahoo image Vanocka ( = “Christmas bread”) has a long history in Czech and Slovakia and without it Christmas is simply just not complete. In the past the Czechs called it pletenice or zemle or ceplik. Before the 18th century it could only be bought at the baker store – people never baked it at home. Since preparing Vanocka wasn’t and isn’t easy, a variety of customs have developed over time to make sure that the baking process is successful. One of those customs, for example, was for the woman to wear a white apron and kerchief while she was cooking so she couldn’t talk, AND she was supposed to jump up and down while the dough was rising (I personally still do that and my Vanocka always comes out perfect; one time I wore an apron that was green and instead of Vanocka I found a baked pig in my oven! So all that to say, please make sure that your apron is WHITE!). Another tradition was (and still is) to bake it with a coin which you insert into a dough prior to baking and whoever finds it in their slice is to be wealthy the following year.

CZ: Jak vsichni vime, bez Vanocky proste nejsou zadne Vanoce. Nagooglovala jsem si jeji historii a predstavte si, ze az do 18. stoleti byla k dostani pouze u pekare! Nikdo si ji “nedovolil” pect doma. Dnes jsou ale jine casy, zeny jsou emancipovane a nejaky ten obtiznejsi recept je preci nezastavi. Tak jdeme na to! Jo, a malem jsem zapomnela; jestlize se bojite toho zapletani copu, nebojte se, je tu YouTube!


  • 6 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 9 Tsp of sugar
  • 4 oz of unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbs of yeast
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 yolk
  • a pinch of salt
  • vanilla sugar
  • lemon rind
  • 1 Tsp of nutmeg
  • 3 Tbs of raisins
  • 3 Tbs of sliced almonds
  • 1 whipped egg for the icing

vanocka image /

  1. Crumble the yeast into the room-temperature milk
  2. Add in 1 Tbs of sugar and sprinkle with a about 1 Tbs of flour. Leave it in a warm place to rise.
  3. Put in the rest of the flour, 8 Tbs of sugar, vanilla sugar, salt, lemon rind, nutmeg, egg yolk and mix well.
  4. Add in the softened butter and continue to mix well.
  5. When the dough no longer sticks to the side of the bowl, stir in the raisins and almonds.
  6. Shape the dough in the bowl into a smooth loaf, dust it with flour, and leave it covered in a warm place to rise.
  7. When the dough has risen completely, divide it into 9 parts to make vanocka.
    1. The first layer is weaved from 4 strands
    2. The second from 3 strands
    3. The third form 2 strands
  8. Gradually lay the strands of vanocka on top of each other (4-strand layer on the bottom, 2-strand layer on top) on a greased baking sheet. Leave it for a while on the sheet to finish rising.
  9. Before putting it in the oven, baste it with the whipped egg and sprinkle it with chopped almonds
  10. Finally, puncture the vanocka at both ends and in the middle with skewers to prevent warping of the dough during baking.
  11. Bake slowly (at about 350 degrees) for about 45 minutes.

Here is a Youtube video of how to make the 4-strand layer. Do everything what that person is doing, just don’t curl it into the ball at the end.



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13 comments… add one
  • February 2, 2009, 10:55 pm

    The old recipes are always so much work, but well worth the trouble and time it takes to prepare them. Thanks for the cook recipe and information on how to make it!

  • Queen of Mayhem December 11, 2009, 8:59 pm

    I love your blog and have tried baking a couple of your nepecene cukrovi. 🙂 My boyfriend is from CZ so he’s my taste tester. Anyway, I found this explanation for braiding vanocka and thought you might be interested:

  • Tanja December 11, 2009, 11:20 pm

    Hi Queen of Mayhem! (love the name by the way) – thank you!
    I bet your boyfriend is a tough test tester,right? 😉 You must be a great girlfriend to bake him Vanockas!

  • dayrecipe March 11, 2010, 1:15 am

    Love to try this one..thanks

  • Marek D. Budka December 3, 2010, 9:53 pm

    I am a 48 year old 3rd generation Czech-American. Thank you for this web site! I am making my first vanocka! The tradition was lost with the death of my grandmother in 1990! This Czech is listening to the Bartered Bride and making Vanocka!

  • Tanja December 4, 2010, 12:24 am

    Hi Marek! I am so glad I could help out! Got to let us know if this vanocka is as good as the one your grandma used to make. Hopefully the Batered Bride will help :))

  • Lu December 23, 2011, 4:20 pm

    Sounds like a great recipe! Thanks for posting! Just one question… what type of yeast is best to use with this particular recipe? Is active dry yeast ok? Will the measurement be the same?

    Thanks and Vesele Vanoce! 🙂

  • Tanja December 24, 2011, 10:37 am

    Hi Lu,
    I did it with the dry yeast and it turned out fine. I would use probably the whole pack?

  • Hallie December 13, 2012, 8:38 am

    I have made this three times now. I don’t understand what I am doing wrong. I have followed the directions very clearly but it just doesn’t come out right. When it comes time to mix the rest of the flour there is just sooo much dry and not enough wet ingredients. I even had my mom help me try to mix it and she said we needed to add something. I added milk. It still didn’t turn out great. Pleaseeee help me try to pinpoint what I am doing wrong!! I need to make it for my Spanish AND sociology classes(two different ones, to share culture). One class is today and the other is Saturday. I don’t know if I will get a response that quick so I will try it a 4th time or maybe just try another recipe. 🙁 I’m sad it hasn’t worked out yet! lol.

  • Tanja December 15, 2012, 3:14 pm

    Hi! Sorry Hallie that it has not worked out for you :((
    I am kind of hit and miss with this recipe as well – not sure why! I would love to make Vanocka this year but not sure if I will have time since it takes a long time. Plus, I think we kind of ran out of time anyways, right?

    You know you can buy Vanocka in a regular store? At least they have it here in CA, it has some kind of a Hebrew name since the Jewish people eat it for Christmas as well.

  • Parker December 12, 2015, 6:57 am

    My father’s side of the family is Czech and fortunately he passed down our family recipe for Vanocka to me when I was younger. He used to make loaves every holiday season for our whole family. This past June he passed away and to honor him I will be making it this year; first time on my own. Besides the ingredients listed he also used Citron.

  • Tanja December 13, 2015, 4:34 pm

    How sweet of you,Parker! Vanocka – to me – is super hard to make. I guess it takes practice. So if it turns out just OK this year, don’t give up!

  • Erica Viezner January 3, 2016, 10:05 am

    In my family and all my past generations we always made Vánočka out of 12 rolls. Base was out of 5 (not difficult as it’s made similar to 4), middle out of 4 and top covered with a lovely braid of 3. Even my 14year old grand-daughter made one like that successfully. Is this now a lost art?? BTW my mother was from Šumava and my father from Moravia and both these families made their Vánočkas that way.

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