babá cake (babá au rum)

The babá is a classic Italian pastry one can find in nearly any Italian pastry shop in Italy (pasticceria). Looking like a wet popover, it is drenched in rum like a sponge, giving it that extra kick as it goes down pleasantly. Piero is another friend from south of Rome (originally Napoli! Sabaudia where we met) who loves to cook. He and Ida have a fancy kitchen robot machine called a Bimby that they use to create all kinds of interesting dishes, including probably the bundt pan shaped baba cake he served us one summer, opening our eyes up to the possibility of enjoying this tasty treat without having to become pastry chefs. We asked for the recipe.

From: Pietro Cielo
Sent: Saturday, October 29, 2011 3:15 PM
To: Robert Jantzen
Subject: Babà

Dear Bob,

this is the recipe of the rhum cake.

Ingredienti per 8 persone

-per il babà: 300 g di farina; 45 g di zucchero; 4 uova; 100 g di burro; 1 cubetto di lievito di birra; un po’ di sale.
[flour, sugar, eggs, butter, brewer's yeast, salt]

-per lo sciroppo: 1 litro d’acqua; 500 g di zucchero; 500 g di rum bianco.
[water, sugar, white rum]


Preparare il babà

Versare insieme gli ingredienti da impastare ed impastare a lungo. Lasciare lievitare per 30 minuti. Lavorare ancora l’impasto, toglierlo e metterlo nell’apposito stampo. Lasciare lievitare ancora per un’ora. Cuocere in forno caldo a 220 gradi per 10 minuti, poi a 180 gradi per altri 20 minuti.

Preparare lo sciroppo

Mettere in un frullatore acqua e zucchero e mescolare per otto minuti. Togliere e aggiungere il rum. Con questo sciroppo inzuppare il babà appena sfornato.



Five and a half years later we find motivation from a cousin in Lebanon whose family has a megarestaurant in the Becca valley in Ani's Armenian village from which her family found their way to America. Having found by chance googling for Anjar,  a You Tube video in Arabic turned up that features a miniature babá cake towards the end. Reminding us of our good intentions 5 years earlier. So how do we make this into one of our recipes? Google and compare. Ina Garten seemed to have the simplest recipe if we discard her currants topping. We convert her 2 extra large eggs to 3 large eggs and proceed. Who buys extra large eggs anyway?

The cake batter really does rise nicely. And the final result is a very light cake. We tried Bailey's cream liqueur flavored whipped cream to serve with it, but some lemon juiced berries and mango pieces would nicely complement both. Very nice.

Ironically in the meantime we have become regular popover makers. Which look just like the  babá pastry shape but are empty inside, hence even lighter. Maybe we could contemplate actually making little babás.


1/2 c milk
1 pkg dry yeast (2.5 t)
2 T sugar
3 large eggs
1 2/3 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t Kosher salt
4 T butter, room temperature plus 1 T for buttering the pan
rum syrup
 1 c sugar
1 1/2 c water
2/3 c good dark rum
1/2 t pure vanilla abstract.


  1. Bring the butter to room temp. Use some extra when softened to butter the bundt pan.
  2. Heat the milk to 115° F and then pour into the mixer bowl with paddle attachment. Stir in the yeast and sugar and let sit 5 minutes while it foams up a bit.
  3. On low speed, add the eggs, then the flour, salt, and butter (cut into pieces).
  4. Raise speed to medium high and beat 5 minutes.
  5. Scrape down the bowl and beater to form the dough into a soft ball (more like a lump) and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  6. Move to the buttered bundt pan and smooth out, cover the top again and allow to rise until it reaches the top of the pan, whose height we did not specify, so about 50 minutes to 1 hour.
  7. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375° F and make the syrup  so that it has time to cool.
  8. Bake cake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool 10 minutes, then carefully remove from the pan by inverting onto a baking rack sitting in a sheet pan and praying.
  10. Prick the cake with an icepick as many times as you have patience for to facilitate the absorption of the syrup, which you pour very very slowly onto the warm cake as your partner rotates it around also very very slowly, allowing the rum reinforced liquid to soak in completely. If too much falls through to the pan below, try a recovery and pour operation and try to do better next time. Use all the syrup, the cake is supposed to willingly accept it all.
  11. Figure out how to transfer this spongy mess to a serving plate. [Not difficult.]
  12. Optional.
    Serve with flavored sweetened whipped cream (1 c heavy cream, 1 T sugar, 1 t vanilla). Be inventive. Maybe a little coffee or hazelnut liqueur in the whipped cream or some cream liqueur, just vanilla if not.


  1. Ina Garten, baba au rum
  2. Melissa Clark, NYTimes, with bits of chocolate bonus: flaming baba au rhum. Her video was inspiring but in the end Ina's simpler fewer egg recipe won our lazy cook hearts.
  3. Shams Restaurant, Anjar, Lebanon: YouTube [.5 min4 min, 25min], Facebook. An amazing place, we were Hovig and Tamar's guests one summer for an incredible meal. The operation is mindboggling. Too bad more Lebanese cooks with restaurant intentions did not land near Philly to remind us of their terrific cuisine.
  4. It's a Bimby and it does everything.
  5. Illustrations available.
babacake.htm: 12-mar-2017 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]