This Baba Au Rhum Recipe Might Make You Fall in Love
The classic French pastry baba au rhum looks and tastes like a special-occasion dessert, but is surprisingly easy to make. You can prepare multiple babas to feed a crowd or scale back proportions for an intimate dessert à deux.
No matter the format, one of the most important ingredients in any baba au rhum recipe is patience. Another is dark rum—and lots of it. Here, we share everything you need to know about baba au rhum and how to make it.
The History of Baba au Rhum
This dessert has a fabled origin story. Some believe baba au rhum is a descendant of babka, a similarly named Jewish and Eastern European delicacy. Others link it to Stanislas Leszczyński, the Polish king who moved to France after he was dethroned in the early 18th century.
As that legend goes, when the displaced Pole complained that the bread from the kitchen was too dry for his liking, pastry chef Nicolas Stohrer doused it in Malaga wine. It was a hit. And so, in 1725, when Stanislas Leszczyński’s daughter, Marie Leszczyński, married France’s King Louis XV, “she took Stohrer and the recipe with her to Versailles,” Jackie Kai Ellis wrote in The Globe and Mail. “Somewhere along the way, rum replaced wine.”
In 1730, Stohrer opened an eponymous Parisian storefront. Still open today, Patisserie Stohrer proudly proclaims to be the birthplace of baba au rhum and sells individual babas for $6.10 a pop.
How to Make Baba au Rhum
Baba au rhum has a rich, tender crumb, and is made with a yeasted dough like brioche. It’s straightforward but requires long resting and rising periods, as well as several hours to soak in its boozy syrup. Fortunately, you can and should make this recipe one or more days in advance. The longer your baked babas sit in syrup, the more flavorful they become.
The syrup is customizable, too. Dark rum is traditional, but you can swap in bourbon or Cognac if that’s what you prefer or have on hand. Substitute some or all of the honey with sugar and play around with spices to suit your tastes. Whole cloves, allspice berries or star anise would all be welcome additions.
The Baba au Rhum Recipe
In classical French kitchens, baba au rhum is made in a special mold, but you can also prepare it in a standard muffin tin. This recipe yields four babas but can be easily halved or doubled.
Butter your mold or muffin tin and set aside. In a small bowl, stir salt and 1½ tablespoons sugar into warm milk. Add instant yeast and let sit, undisturbed, for 10 minutes, or until the granules of yeast have dissolved onto the surface of the milk mixture.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and remaining ½ cup sugar. Add beaten eggs and blend, using a whisk or handheld mixer on low speed. Pour in milk mixture and whisk or mix on low until combined. Gradually add the flour, continuously whisking or mixing on low speed until a sticky dough forms. Use an ice cream scoop, spoon or ladle to divide batter into the prepared mold or muffin tin. Let rest, uncovered, at room temperature, for 2–2½ hours.
When dough has rested, heat oven to 375°F. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until rounded tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely in pan, approximately 30 minutes.
Place cooled babas in a shallow bowl or baking dish, rounded side down. Pour over cooled syrup. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 2 and up to 16 hours, rotating occasionally.
Serve at room temperature, as is or topped with whipped cream. Yields 4 babas.
Syrup Ingredients and Directions
While babas cool, make the syrup. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water over high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Add cinnamon stick and citrus peel and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in rum. Let cool to room temperature.