Cozonac (sweet walnut roll bread)

Cozonac is a sweet yeasted bread traditional to Romania, Bulgaria, and other southeastern European countries. Often filled with a chocolate walnut paste, it’s a delicious and festive treat!

I recently had a comment on my panettone video requesting that I try Romanian Cozonac. Up until that point, the only time I had heard of Cozonac was on the Great British Baking Show. When I saw it’s beautiful swirls and fluffy texture, I knew I had to give it a try!

cozonac with walnut paste

What is Cozonac?

Cozonac is a sweet enriched bread made with butter, milk, and eggs and leavened with yeast. It is often flavored with citrus and filled with a sweet walnut chocolate paste for a super fragrant and delicious treat. The walnut paste is swirled in between the dough to create beautiful spirals when the loaf is sliced. Some versions also contain dried fruit, but I decided to try the walnut version.

The top of the bread is sprinkled with coarse sugar or poppy seeds for decoration and taste.

Cozonac is traditionally eaten in Romania, Bulgaria, and other southeastern European countries. In Romania, the bread is eaten around Christmas and Easter.

loaf of cozonac

How to make Cozonac

First, we’ll mix together bread flour, yeast, salt, lemon zest, and orange zest.

We’ll then heat up milk, sugar, and butter on the stove until the butter is almost all melted. Remove and let cool before adding to the dough.

To make the dough, combine the milk mixture with the flour mixture and then add in the eggs, rum or orange liquor, and vanilla extract. Knead until the dough forms a window pane, then set aside to rise for 2 hours.

While the dough rises, make the walnut paste, which is a combination of crushed walnuts, milk, sugar, cocoa powder, orange liquor, and orange zest.

You’ll then divide the dough in half and roll each piece out into a rectangle. Spread evenly with walnut paste and then roll up to create a swirl. Twist the two pieces of bread together and place in a loaf tin to rise for 2 – 3 hours. 

Before baking, brush with egg wash for a beautiful shine and sprinkle coarse sugar on top. You’ll bake for 45 – 60 minutes and then let the loaf cool completely!

romanian cozonac

Tips for making Cozonac

Cozonac is an enriched bread that is almost cake-like in texture. I recommend reading my guide to enriched bread if you’ve never made enriched bread before. Luckily, the dough is not too wet and is fairly easy to handle. 

Here are my tips to get a beautiful loaf:

  • When heating up the milk, sugar, and butter, make sure not to overheat. You want it to cool to 80 – 90F before adding to your dough, so that you don’t kill the yeast
  • Be patient – the dough will take a long time to rise, especially if your kitchen is cold. To help speed up the proofing, I place a steaming tray of hot water in the bottom of my oven. I then place my dough in the oven, and the warmth and humidity from the water will help the dough rise faster.
  • When separating the egg yolk for the dough, save the egg white so you can use it for the egg wash at the end of the bake
  • Make sure you knead until the dough develops enough gluten to pass the window pane test
  • For a tall loaf, use a loaf tin. I use an 8 x 4 inch tin to get a very tall loaf. For a wider loaf, you can bake it directly on a baking tray.

I loved learning about this traditional bread and I hope you enjoy the recipe! The recipe was adapted from this version by She Loves Biscotti so that it would work for only one loaf.

cozonac bread slices

Other bread recipes to try




Cozonac is a sweet yeasted bread traditional to Romania, Bulgaria, and other southeastern European countries. Often filled with a chocolate walnut paste, it's a delicious and festive treat!
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Resting Time 5 hrs
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine Romanian
Servings 1 loaf


  • Mixing bowl
  • Rolling Pin
  • Baking tin or tray



  • 1/2 cup (120g) milk
  • 6 tbsp (75g) granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp (85g) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups (360g) bread flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp instant or active dry yeast
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tbsp rum or orange liquor


  • 3.5 oz (100g) walnuts
  • 1/2 cup (120g) milk
  • 6 tbsp (75g) granulated sugar
  • 1/8 cup (30g) orange liquor
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup (30g) cocoa powder


  • 1 egg white (from earlier)
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • coarse sugar


  • In a skillet over medium heat, mix together the milk, sugar, and butter. Stir until the butter is right about to melt. Remove from the stove and let cool to 80-90°F
  • In a large bowl of a stand mixer, add the bread flour, salt, yeast, lemon zest, and citrus zest. Mix together.
  • Fit the stand mixer with the paddle or dough hook attachment. Pour in the milk mixture while the stand mixer runs on low speed. Once the dough has come together, add in the egg, egg yolk, rum or orange liquor, and vanilla extract.
  • Knead for 5 – 10 minutes on medium speed until the dough passes the window pane test. It should pull away from the sides of the bowl and not feel too sticky.
  • Cover the dough and let rest for 2 – 2.5 hours in a warm spot until doubled in size.
  • While the dough proofs, make your walnut filling. Add your walnuts to a food processor or blender and mix on high until coarsely ground.
  • Add the walnuts, milk, sugar, orange liquor, orange zest, cocoa powder, and salt to a skillet over medium heat. Whisk until well-combined and let cook until a thick paste forms, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, cover with plastic wrap, and let cool
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, divide it into two equal pieces. Take the first piece of dough and roll into a 9 inch x 6 inch rectangle. Spread half the walnut mixture evenly across the whole surface of the dough, making sure not to skimp on the edges. Roll the dough up so you have a 9 inch long roll. Repeat with the second piece of dough
  • Grease a baking tin and set aside. Twist the two pieces of dough around each other and place in the baking tin. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, which will take 2 – 3 hours.
  • Towards the end of the second proof, preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix together the egg white and milk and brush on the top of the loaf to create a beautiful shiny crust. Sprinkle the top with coarse sugar
  • Bake for 45 – 60 minutes until the crust is a deep golden brown and the loaf makes a hollow sound when tapped. The inside temperature should be 190°F. Check on the loaf around the 30 min mark – if it's browning too quickly, tent with aluminum foil.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool in the tin for 15 min. Remove from the tin and let cool completely on a wire rack


  1. As with all my bread recipes, I strongly recommend using a food scale to measure your ingredients. If you are using cups, make sure to spoon & level your flour instead of scooping directly from the bag. This gives you a more accurate measurement.
  2. Traditionally, cozonac uses rum but I decided to swap for orange liquor
  3. When rolling out the dough, I found that I did not need to use any flour to prevent sticking. If you find the dough to be too sticky to work with, sprinkle some flour on the countertop and on your rolling pin
  4. You can choose to bake this loaf in a baking tin or free form on a baking tray
Keyword bread

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