The babà is a very soft yeast cake, wet with rum and mushroom-shaped. It is a typical product of traditional Neapolitan pastry.
Originally it was a natural leavening cake from Poland and other Slavic countries, then it was perfected by French cooks before arriving in Naples. It is said that the recipe for rum babà in the typical modern mushroom form dates back to 1835 and is attributed to the famous pastry chef Nicolas Stohrer, who would have invented it on the occasion of the wedding of Maria Leszczyńska with the king of France Louis XV.
Another story tells that the king, known for his ugly character, had thrown the cake against a cupboard crushing a bottle of rum, which ended up soaking the cake and that his father-in-law tasted it and thought it was excellent.
The babà has fully entered the tradition of Neapolitan pastry both in the form of donut served with whipped cream, both smaller with custard and black cherry, or oblong mushroom-shaped of various sizes. It can be filled with cream and fruit salad, chantilly cream and strawberries, mascarpone and limoncello cream, hazelnut cream, citrus cream, with pistachio and fresh raspberries. Even were also made savory versions very tasty with meats and cheeses such as provolone, scamorza, Gruviera or pecorino.
In short, there are endless reinterpretations of this timeless sweet symbol of Italian culinary culture, but especially Neapolitan. Below we propose the indications to replicate at home the traditional version.
Recipe of the babà
Ingredients for the babàs
- 125 g flour
- 50 g butter
- 2 whole eggs (large)
- 1 yolk
- 15 g milk
- 15 g sugar
- 15 g brewer’s yeast
- a pinch of salt
For the syrup:
- 500 g water
- 250 g sugar
- 250 g rum
- 1 lemon
- To start preparing babas with rum, briefly mix flour and yeast in the stand mixer with the hook, or by hand. Add milk, eggs and yolk, previously mixed and work for a few minutes until smooth. To avoid lumps, add the egg and milk mixture while the mixer is running or, if you are working by hand, keep mixing. Add sugar and mix. Finally add salt and butter, softened at room temperature. The dough should be soft, almost liquid.
- Then put the dough in a sac à poche. Pour it, then, into the molds, and fill up to about 1 cm from the edge. Leave to rise for about 30 minutes at 30 ºC in the oven. Turn off the light.
- Bake at 180 ºC in a ventilated oven preheated for about 13 minutes. The babas will be ready when they can be easily removed from the mould. You can cut the bottom of a babà and check the alveolature of the dough. Unmold and let cool very well.
- To prepare the cake syrup: in a saucepan heat water, sugar and lemon peel. Boil it and then filter. Add rum. Put the syrup in a bowl and, when it is still warm, completely immerse the babas for a few moments. Drain on a cake rack.
- Put them in the fridge for 1 hour before serving to enjoy them. Rum babas, before being wet, can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week or in the freezer, until the evening before use, tightly closed in a food bag.