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Rum Baba recipe and history

Rum baba cake topped with cream

The classic rum baba is popular all over Europe and many lay claim to its origins. But no one can deny that it was in Paris that it became the rum baba we know and love today.

The base of a rum baba is eastern European – from a babka cake. A popular sweet treat, it made an appearance in France when King Stanislaus I of Poland and his family were exiled to northeast France in 1719 and took their pastry chefs with them.

One legend says that the King added alcohol to a dry babka cake and the rum baba was born. No one knows for sure.

But what we do know is that the King’s daughter Marie took her pastry chef Nicolas Stohrer to Versailles when she married Louis XV in 1725. He apparently made what the French call rhum baba at the court and in 1730 opened a bakery in Paris. Patisserie Stohrer is still there – the oldest patisserie in the city. And it’s still selling rum babas! The cake is a staple offering in most bakeries in France. It should be a sort of large cork shape if it’s a classic rum baba, when it’s a ring shape it’s called a Savarin and has a different flavour…

It’s not an easy recipe, if you do it the traditional way you’ll use yeast, let it rise three times and it’s all a bit of a faff. So this is an easy recipe you can make without fuss, topped with sweet Chantilly cream and soaked in a rum syrup – it’s delicious!

Recipe for Rum Baba (6 cakes)

For the baba

125g plain flour
100g caster sugar
3 eggs
70 g butter
Sachet of baking powder (16g)
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon vanilla essence

For the Chantilly cream

250ml thick cream
25g icing sugar

For the orange rum syrup

4 tablespoons dark rum
2 tablespoons orange juice
250g caster sugar
340ml water

How to make rum babas

Preheat the oven to 170°C (Gas mark 3/325˚F).

Beat together the sugar, eggs and vanilla until it goes frothy and doubles in volume.

Melt the butter and add to the mix whisking for about a minute until well blended.

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder and mix gently with a spatula.

You can use baba tins but muffin tins work just as well. Butter them first, put the mixture in and bake for 20 minutes.

While they’re cooking, make the syrup. Heat the sugar and water in a pan, boil for three minutes. Remove from the heat and add the rum and orange juice and set aside.

Remove the babas from the oven and prick the top of them and drizzle some of the syrup over. Let it soak in and then drizzle some more. Leave for 15 minutes and then turn them out of their tins.

Allow to cool complete before adding the cream. Whisk together the cream and icing sugar (French Chantilly cream doesn’t use vanilla essence).

When the babas are cool, top with a dollop of cream and dig in …

More classic French cake recipes

Easy recipe for chouquettes – the tasty snack that the French adore
Tarte tatin – quite possibly the best recipe for this delish dish. Ever. Michelin Star chef Daniel Galmiche shares the secrets of a perfect tarte tatin.
Sweet pithiviers – loved all over France, this classic recipe originated in the Loire Valley
Financiers – oh so sweet and irresistible