Monday, December 14, 2009

Baba Au Rhum

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Baba au rhum is a dessert commonly found in Italy, particularly Naples and Southern Italy, but not so well known to Americans. It’s really a yeast dough, similar to a brioche, that is baked in a Bundt pan or some other form, and soaked with a rum and sugar syrup. It’s typically served with a vanilla custard or pudding, which only adds to its already decadently boozy appeal.

I was won over to the dessert in 1992 when my town of Princeton initiated a sister-city exchange with a small village in the region of Molise, and I was in charge of public relations. My family joined the delegation from Princeton and headed to the small village – Pettoranello - to celebrate.  As part of the festivities, each member of the delegation was invited to lunch at the home of a local family. My family hit the jackpot when we got invited to the home of Mario and Anna Maria Canzano.

What a feast they prepared – starting with octopus salad using the olive oil made from the family’s olive groves. Two homemade pastas followed, then a braised veal dish,  several vegetable dishes and a platter featuring the soft fresh cheeses of the region. Throughout the meal, wines made by the family from their own vineyards were served, and for dessert Anna Maria  outdid herself with a tiramisu and a baba au rhum.  At some point, I’ll post the recipe for Anna Maria’s tiramisu dessert, which is the best I’ve ever eaten. For now, try her baba au rhum, which is not so difficult as you might think.

The pan used for the baba above is not your typical Bundt pan, but one owned by my friend Lilli, who also makes a memorable baba.  She bought the pan in Italy and it does make for a spectacular presentation, more so than the normal Bundt pan. I am always on the lookout for such a pan when I travel to Italy, but haven’t been able to find one like it yet. In the meantime, I’ll keep calling Lilli to borrow hers.

This baba will easily serve 20 people.

Baba Au Rhum

Printable Recipe Here

6 eggs

1 stick butter

2 3/4 cup sifted flour

2 1/2 tsp. yeast

1/4 cup water

dash of salt

1/4 cup sugar


4 cups water

4 cups sugar

1 cup rum

grated rind of a lemon

Put the water, half of the sugar and the yeast in a mixing bowl and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes or until yeast starts to bubble and rise. When it has started to rise, add the flour, the rest of the sugar, the salt and the eggs, beating in one at a time. Add the softened butter. Mixture will be sticky. If it’s too sticky to mix with your hands, add a bit more flour until you’re able to knead for a few minutes until the dough is smooth.

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Place it into a buttered and floured Bundt pan or angel food cake pan.

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Cover with waxed paper that’s been buttered on one side so it doesn’t stick to the dough as it rises and place in a warm place. Let it rise anywhere from two to four hours, or until it reaches about triple the original amount or the top of your pan. The length of time will depend on the temperature in your room where you placed the pan.

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Bake in a 375 degree oven about 25 to 30 minutes.

While it is baking, prepare the syrup by cooking the water and sugar over high heat about five minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved. Turn off heat and add lemon rind and rum. Let cool a little and poke holes all over the cake with a wooden skewer. I like to pour half of the syrup over the cake while it’s in the pan, invert the cake, then pour the other half of the syrup over the cake when it’s in the serving plate. It may seem like a lot of liquid, but the cake will absorb it all, have no fear. Serve with pastry cream, if desired.

If you don’t feel like going to the extra trouble of making the pastry cream from scratch, here’s a good alternative:

Buy a small box of vanilla pudding. Make that according to package directions, then whip 1/2 cup of heavy cream with a mixer and fold into the pudding.

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  1. It's early in the morning and my mouth is already watering for a big slice of cake. This looks so delicious, Linda. This will be on my Christmas buffet for sure.

  2. What a glorious thing to wake up to this morning! That 2nd to the last photo looks spectacular! That is one beautiful cake, and I want a piece!

  3. E' bellissimo, sembra che il suo profumo sia arrivato sino a me, complimenti anche per le foto.
    Buona settimana Daniela.

  4. Linda ma che buono! Complimenti! E' proprio bellissimo!

    PS I wish Lilli lived close to me so I could borrow that pan too ;)

  5. This looks beautiful. I've never made Baba Au Rhum but have enjoyed many in Italy. I'll have to give it a try.

  6. Linda I just love of my favorite things!
    Thanks for the wonderful recipe...
    Can not wait to see the tiramisu recipe..I often make that for the Holidays, would love to see yours.

  7. I have always loved baba rhums, and I buy the little ones when in Paris......yummy!

  8. Thank you for the "welcome home" Linda!
    What a wonderful recipe! It looks so moist and flavorfull as a cake.
    My brother loves Baba au Rhum in pastry form...we must always include one when we bring pastries to his home.It would be a wonderful surprise to make this cake for him!

  9. Holy smokes, this looks amazing.
    I'm making this for sure. Do you think I can use a regular bundt pan?

  10. That is a great pan! Your baba looks amazing. We bought jars of the little baby ones home from the amalfi coast this summer. They are so good.

  11. this is a beautiful looking rhum cake! a cup of coffee would be perfect with this..

  12. Usually, I favor the mini ones because one doesn't feel quite as piggish indulging.
    But your huge baba au rhum is perfect for the holidays when you want to make a real splash with a festive dessert at the table. Plus, at this time of year, calories be damned. ;)

  13. Gorgeous! And it sounds so wonderfully "adult." I could not resist. I would not share.

  14. Vintage Cake n Mold Pan,Le Nard Product Jell-o Gelatin*


  15. one of my dad's favorites! Nice work Linda.

  16. This cake looks so moist and delicious! Perfect for the holidays! I look forward to the tiramisu recipe as well.

  17. You are so right that you hit the Jackpot with that dinner. This cake sounds so awesome. Very festive that it is soaked in rum and vanilla!

  18. ehi, me lo stavo per perdere questo dolce, per coklpa della mia influenza!! è perfetto e tu sei bravissima
    Un bacione

  19. Looks like the perfect way to finish off a meal - delish!

  20. I always thought this was middle does have a levantine sound to it, doesnt it? or is that just me. Looks lovely and soft and fragrant...

  21. This is one those desserts that's remade in many cuisines. Love boozy desserts - like Baba!

  22. The cake looks unbelievable. So soft and spongy and the syrup...oh the syrup! Oh and by the way, I love the Coca Cola adaptation of your blog title at the top of your page. Tres cool!

  23. Thank-you Linda, I live in Melbourne and found the cake tin imported from Italy sold at Constante in Bell St, Preston...bit of a drive but and payed $16.50. Am going to make that cake for Easter Sunday! Well I'm going to try!

  24. Beautiful blog, everything is decorated so delicately. Congratulation for your blog. Thank you for those wonderful recipes. God bless.

  25. Oh my I'm late to the Rhum party, but happy to have arrived! My mother-in-law was french and made the most divine Baba Au Rhum cakes when she was alive. Sadly, she would never share the recipe. Your finished result looks so much like hers. I will have to pin this and try it. Thank you!