Babà al Rum (Rum Baba) is a sponge cake that gets its sweetness not from the batter, but from the rum syrup in which it is soaked. The recipe below is how it is cooked traditionally, in tapered moulds, similar to mini muffins, but baba can also be created as one large cake.
As for its origins, one version has it that after the war of the Polish Succession in 1738, the exiled king of Poland wanted to enliven a relatively bland cake (similar to Polish Babka) with a rich alcoholic syrup. Another version says that King Stanislas brought back a Babka from one of his voyages, and on the journey it had dried up. One of his pâtissiers solved the problem by drenching the dessert with Malaga wine.
The name babas may have come from Ali Baba, Arabian Nights being one of King Stanislas’ favourite stories.
Ingredients (serves 10):
300g plain flour
50g lukewarm milk
120g butter, cubed and softened
Pinch of salt
100g apricot jelly
250g fresh cream
For the syrup:
400ml cold water
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk and add with 80g of flour. Set the mixture aside in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume.
In a mixer, combine the remaining flour, eggs, dough, sugar, butter and a pinch of salt and mix until it is soft and creamy.
Half fill small muffin moulds with the mixture and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place, and when they have risen slightly above the moulds’ rim, put them in the oven at 180°C and let them cook for 15-20 minutes until golden.
While waiting for them to bake, prepare the syrup. Melt the sugar in the water over low heat and let simmer for fie minutes. Remove from heat and when the mixture has cooled, add the rum (make sure to wait until it has cooled or the alcohol will evaporate).
Remove the babàs from the mould and place them in a large bowl or pan and pour the syrup over them until they are drenched.
In a small saucepan, melt the apricot jelly with a splash of water over low heat. Place the babàs on a rack and brush them with the jelly mixture.
Beat the cream and serve the babàs with a spoonful of cream on the side.