Rum Baba Recipe

Babas are not unlike brioche: light, rich yeasted breads. However the formula has a little less butter. Fat tenderizes any dough that it’s added to, and that’s usually a good thing. Babas, however, get soaked with alcoholic syrup. Breads that are very, very tender will tend to fall apart under those conditions. That’s especially true if they’re tall and cylindrical like my babas will be, so they’ll need a little structure if they’re going to stand up.

Here I should point out that babas, like brioche, can be made in virtually any shape you wish. I think the traditional tall baba is a thing of beauty, however nowadays shorter, more muffin-like babas are more in vogue. Why? Well simply, without the height to worry about, pastry makers can soak them to the point that they’re practically pudding. In fact some baba recipes call for immersing them in syrup once they’ve cooled, until they’re completely sodden. I think that’s taking a good idea too far, but do what you like.

I’ve seen single, giant bundt cake-like babas, iced babas and stuffed babas. I’ve even seen “deconstructed” babas that are nothing more than thick brioche-like slices of baba served on a plate with a small pitcher of rum syrup on the side. That’s not my cup of tea, really, but it goes to show how creative you can get with with the classic baba if you feel like it. This recipe will fill either one large, 8-cup mold, eight traditional baba molds or just about any other mold you can think of.

For the dough:

2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
9 ounces (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces (1/2 cup minus two tablespoons) whole milk
3 eggs
2 1/2 ounces (5 tablespoons) softened butter

Put all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle (beater) and stir on low to combine. Add the milk and turn the machine up to medium, then the eggs one at a time and continue stirring until the eggs have been incorporated. Keep beating on medium for about 4 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. With the machine running, add the butter about a tablespoon at a time, kneading until it’s all incorporated. Cover the dough lightly with plastic wrap and let it rise about 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400. Lightly butter your mold(s) and put in the dough. Let the baba rise 30-45 minutes or until almost doubled in size. Bake individual babas about 12 minutes, a larger one about 30 minutes or until done (a sharp knife inserted into the center should come out clean). Remove the babas from the oven and allow them to cool on a rack. Meanwhile, prepare the syrup.

To finish:

1 recipe Cake Syrup flavored with 2-3 tablespoons rum and one half teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup (or so) Apricot Glaze
sliced or poached fruit of your choice

To assemble: Turn the cooled babas out on a rack placed over a sheet pan or platter. Brush the syrup onto the babas until they are noticeably heavier but not totally soaked. Let stand until ready to serve. To serve, place the babas on individual plates and paint lightly with apricot glaze. Warm the syrup, then spoon a few tablespoons over the baba. Garnish with fruit.

6 thoughts on “Rum Baba Recipe”

  1. I thought the ring shaped cakes were called “Savarins”. What is the difference between Baba au Rhum and Savarin (besides shape)?

    BTW, I have seen a lot of recipes that call for splitting the baba when serving and adding a dollop of whipped cream. You don’t approve?

    1. I’ll be getting to that in more detail, but suffice to say that savarins (which produce cakes that are almost perfectly smooth and tubular) are just one of many different ring-shaped molds that baba dough can be baked in. So, to answer the question, a savarin is a baba au rhum baked in a single, large form. Sort of like brioche can be baked in a loaf or in little single-serving “têtes.” As for splitting a baba and filling it with whipped cream or pastry cream, I’m fine with it. I’d just rather start with the classic shape.

  2. I started making babas recently and they are delicious ! I would like to know how long I can store them…the best way to store them ( in syrup or not) I’ve seen them sold in jars in syrup. Please help! I have someone who would like me to make them for them at there restaurant…of course I’d have to use their kitchen … They want to start with 20 a week…

    1. Hi Janis!

      You’ll need to experiment a bit, but I think freezing might be the best since you’re basically dealing with brioche and it’ll stale after a day or so. Storing in them in syrup will really soak them of course, and may cause them to start turning to mush and/or falling apart. So maybe you make them, freeze them and thaw them in the microwave since you want to serve them warm anyway. What do you think?

      – Joe

  3. i was born in italy, and the rum buba came in a jar filled with syrup and they never fall apart, iam trying to find a traditional rum buba for a friend that is dying to make them, but reading the direction about just brushing the buba with the syrup does not sound like the real rum buba, can you explain why in italy they are completelly soaked in the syrup, you can sqeeze the liquid aldo the cake is like a spungy texture, is this what your recepy is? like a spongy cake? just wandering before i share the recepy with a friend

    1. Hello Angela!

      Very interesting. You can soak this baba quite a bit more if you want but yes, it eventually it can get so wet that it breaks or falls over…at least if you make a tall one like I do. I don’t know the sort of pastry or bread that would stay in one piece while soaking in syrup for weeks or months in a jar, but I definitely believe what you say. This baba is made with brioche, a very eggy and buttery bread. I think it works pretty well. Sponge cake would definitely fall apart, especially if it was baked fresh. If you decide to try it please let me know what you think!


      – Joe

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