Rum babà (Rum syrup infused sponge cake)



Neapolitan cuisine is one of the most appreciated in the world. Its secrets are rooted in the history of the different peoples who influenced it. Examples are pizza, sartù, struffoli and today's recipe: babà. Rum babà is a dessert that goes back to the gugelhupf, a sort of very dry doughnut. The addition of a syrup, as is done for the French savarin, has given a better consistency for the palate, making it a more appreciated dessert. Rum babà is served soaked in a delicious rum syrup that can also be enriched with other aromas and even a limoncello version.

Rum babà is not only one of the distinctive sweets of Neapolitan pastry, but it is also considered a pastry to eat on the go, like the curly or shortcrust sfogliatella. How is that possible? It is very simple. In downtown Naples you can find pastry shops that sell classic babà, the version decorated with whipped cream and strawberries or custard and sour cherries, in convenient to go cups. In ancient times, instead, it was customary to taste rum babà sitting at a table or at most standing holding the traditional cardboard tray. In short, it is really true, the Neapolitan expression "si comme a 'nu babbà" ("you're like a babà") is a fantastic compliment! Now all you have to do is get ready to make one with us so you can get just as many compliments!


Ingredients for twenty-five 4.6-oz (130 g) capacity babà molds
Eggs 2 cups (600 g) - (12 medium) cold
Manitoba flour 1.3 lbs (600 g)
Fine salt 2 tsp (10 g)
Sugar 2 ½ tbsp (30 g)
Butter 7 oz (200 g) - at room temperature
Fresh brewer's yeast 0.9 oz (25 g)
For the syrup
Water 1 ½ quart (1.5 l)
Sugar 2 cups (600 g)
Rum 1 ½ cup (300 g)

How to prepare Rum babà (Rum syrup infused sponge cake)

To prepare rum babà, start with the dough. Pour the flour into the bowl of a food processor and crumble the yeast 1. Turn on the machine fitted with a spatula at medium-low speed and start mixing the ingredients. Add the eggs, one at a time 2, it is important that they are cold. When they are blended in, add the sugar and mix 3.


Then add the salt and let it continue mixing for a few more minutes 4 until it is absorbed; overall it will take 10 minutes. Switch off the food processor and replace the spatula with the hook attachment. Turn on the machine again at medium-low speed and add the butter flakes. You will have to be patient and let each piece be completely absorbed before adding the next one. Once the butter is combined, let the machine mix for a couple more minutes 5. At this stage, let it continue for 10-15 minutes. At the end of the process the dough will be soft and smooth 6.

Make sure that the capacity of your food processor is at least 2.5 quarts (2.5 liters), otherwise transfer the dough to a larger bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap 7 and leave to rise at a temperature of 78-80°F (26-28°C) for about 3 hours. After this time, butter the molds thoroughly. After the rising time, pick up the dough and gently peel off the part that has stuck to the plastic wrap. Use a wet metal spatula. Gently deflate the dough with your hands (8-9)

With a wet hand take a portion of the dough 10 and squeeze about 2 oz (50/55 grams) of it, cutting it as you do for mozzarella, dropping the piece directly into buttered aluminum molds 11. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest until the dough rises to the edge 12.

Once ready for cooking, move the babàs onto a drip pan and cook them in a static oven preheated to 360°F (200°C) for about 20-25 minutes 13, taking care to keep them quite separate from one another. Then let them cool down for about ten minutes before unmolding and let them cool completely: it is better if they are left to cool all night, so that the surface will dry well and the inside will dry completely 14. Now for the preparation of the syrup: pour the water 15 into a saucepan.

Add the sugar, stir until completely dissolved 16. Now turn off the heat, add the rum 17 and wait for the water to reach 120°F (50°C), the ideal temperature for soaking, then dip in 1 or 2 babàs. Let them soak for about 1 minute 18, turning them over.

Give them a gentle squeeze 1 or 2 times, gently but firmly: this will soften them and improve the soaking 19. After the last dip, if you prefer, you can stop squeezing them. Drain them on a grill with a plate underneath 20 and repeat the process with all the others. Collect the excess syrup as you go. Your rum babàs are ready to be served 21. You can enjoy them plain or garnished with whipped cream and strawberries, or custard and sour cherries!


Rum babàs can be stored in the fridge for up to 1-to-2 days. When cooked, but not soaked, instead, they will keep for about ten days: keep them in a bowl covered with a cloth, so they will dry out well. Freezing is not recommended. The rum syrup can be prepared and stored for several days, as its ingredients are not perishable.

4 tips as good as a babà!

1, Working with a food processor will be easier on your arms and result in a smooth and elastic dough. Alternatively, you can work by hand in a large bowl, armed with patience, but above all with energy. The correct movement is to beat the dough against the sides of the bowl by keeping your hand in a spoon shape.

2, It is essential that the eggs are very cold to keep the bowl of the food processor cool because the movement of the processor tends to heat the dough. If this should happen when adding the butter, you may find it difficult to combine it.

3, The rum syrup we prepared is quite neutral in flavor. If you prefer, however, you can flavor it according to your taste. A classic version adds lemon peel from the Amalfi Coast, but orange peel and even a vanilla bean are allowed!

4, To make your rum babàs even more beautiful you can glaze them. In pastry making, it is customary to prepare a syrup made with apricot jam diluted with an abundant part of rum syrup.


As an alternative to fresh yeast, you can use dehydrated yeast, adding 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 grams). You will have to prepare the dough starter: in a bowl pour 1 oz (30 g) of flour taken from the dose for the dough, add 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 g) of dehydrated yeast dissolved in 1 1/2 tablespoons (25 g) of fresh water and mix until you obtain a ball. Let it rise covered with plastic wrap for at least half an hour until it has doubled in size. Then continue according to the recipe by pouring the flour into the food processor, followed by the yeast and then the eggs.

If you have any rum babà dough left over, you can also use different sized molds, including the classic savarin ones!

Interesting fact

Although the Neapolitan cuisine claims this delicious dessert as its own, in reality rum babàs are originally from Poland and can even boast royal origins. The inventor of the famous babà is in fact the King of Poland, Stanislas Leczynski, who, being a great gourmet, always delighted in inventing new dishes. It seems that the sovereign did not particularly like kugelhupf, a typical Polish dessert that he found too dry, even though it was served with a sort of sauce made with Madeira wine, sugar and spices; he actually found it to be so dry that he even stopped eating it! Legend has it that one day Stanislas, fed up with the sickly-sweet dessert, threw it to the other side of the table, where by chance stood a bottle of rum. The sweet liquor spilled on the baba and gave off such a scent that the king, after tasting it, fell in love with it and, being a passionate reader of One Thousand and One Nights, called it Alì Babà, after a famous character of these stories. From the sovereign's court the babà arrived in Paris, France, with the name of babà and from here it was then exported to Naples by the so-called "monsù", the chefs who served the noble Neapolitan families.