Go Nuts! category winner, 2023

Marian Evoniuk is the winner of the “Go Nuts” category this year with her Mocha Coffee Pecan Babka! Originally from Canada and now residing in Austin, Texas, Marian has been baking since she was a preteen. Both sets of her grandparents immigrated from Ukraine at the turn of the century, which has played a big role in her baking journey. She would follow her mom around the kitchen at the young age of 9 and began with simple cookies and cakes at this age. When she turned 15, her mother started to trust her with more baking responsibilities and when she would go help Marian’s father around the farm, her mother would entrust baking to Marian, which encouraged and inspired a natural interest in baking. After she married, Marian spent even more of her time in the kitchen, baking and experimenting while her husband was preoccupied with his studies.

The inspiration for Marian’s winning recipe came from this tradition practiced in her heritage country. Marian explains wanting to submit a bread that was not too sweet but that did remind her of her heritage and the importance of her home. Marian enjoys cinnamon rolls and streusel bread and wanted to combine her love for these breads with one that is a traditional and cultural piece for her. Marian’s unique ingredients include espresso powder, finely ground pecans, King Arthur Bread Flour, active dry yeast, orange zest, brown sugar and cardamon.

Babkas are made with a sweet yeast dough and are traditionally an Easter bread, Marian explains, but they are served at any time of day desired in Ukraine. This tender, sweet, butter-rich classic is dearly loved and has deep cultural roots for Marian. Her recipe includes a high percentage of butter and citrus flavors often topped with a glaze. She had never added coffee in bread before this one, especially not in a babka.

When asked about baking tips for this beautiful bread, Marian shares that one should be careful when baking this bread. She says that this bread cannot last in the oven for the entirety of the baking time without tenting it with aluminum foil during the last few minutes of baking. She adds that grinding the nuts very finely helps the bread hold together better than if they are left in bigger pieces. She advises new bakers to not be afraid of baking with yeast and learn how to use it in new recipes. She also encourages people to not be disappointed if the baked item doesn’t turn out exactly how they want it the first time they make it. Baking is a learning process, so she encourages people to not be easily discouraged. She includes that baking with yeast is a welcome challenge and one that is fascinating to work through, and seeing the return of one’s dedication and effort is very rewarding. Furthermore, she recommends not shying away from the time it takes to learn how to use yeast effectively and properly.

We asked Marian what she thought made this bread a winner in this category, and she shares that the unique taste catches people’s attention. The zing from the orange zest in both the dough and the glaze is what especially takes this bread to the next level, as people do not usually think to combine citrus and coffee flavors together in a bread. She adds that the pecans and sweetness in this bread make it very easy to love. Pecans add a nice texture to the bread and the citrus flavor adds some hints of summertime and dimension to the recipe. 

Marian is still very involved in her grandparents’ home country and recently raised $2,000 to send to Good Bread, a social bakery & business whose mission is to bake bread and give it to Ukrainian community members in need to have for sustenance. She was humbled by her ability to do this for her heritage country and is encouraged by this company and what they are doing for the hurting nation of Ukraine.


Written by Jenna Fiscus, communications intern