My daughter, Stephanie, recently visited Paris and came back raving about a dessert she had at Cyril Lignac’s bakery called a baba au rhum. I make my rum flan or a rum cake for Christmas dinner most years, so she suggested I try making a baba au rhum instead. Anticipating that replicating such a delicious and opulent dessert from one of the best bakeries in Paris would naturally be very complicated and labor-intensive, I cringed at the thought. But she insisted and I accepted the challenge.
It turns out that babas au rhum are not only delicious but also surprisingly simple to make. After reading several baba au rhum recipes online and watching lots of YouTube videos showing how to make them, I came up with this recipe. It will now be a staple at our holiday dinners–and hopefully yours, too!
Makes 12 mini cakes
For the Cakes
- 1 Tbsp melted butter
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 pkg active dry yeast
- 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
For the Glaze
- 1/2 cup apricot preserves
- 1/2 Tbsp rum (optional)
For the Rum Syrup
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 2/3 cup good dark rum
- 1/2 vanilla extract
- 1 piece (about 1″ thick and 2″ long) lemon peel
- 1 piece (about 1″ thick and 2″ long) orange peel
For the Finishing Touches
- Whipped cream
- Raspberries (optional)
- Powdered sugar (optional)
For the Cakes
- Prepare the cake molds by melting 1 Tbsp butter and brushing the molds with the melted butter. Make sure to brush every crevice. (I used 2 mini bundt molds which has 6 bundt wells per pan). Set aside.
- Heat the milk in the microwave or on the stove until it reaches 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a kitchen thermometer, and if it gets hotter than necessary, leave it for a moment and recheck the temperature. Yeast activates perfectly at this temperature but will breakdown at hotter temperatures, so it is important to get this step right.
- Put the milk, yeast and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and, before attaching to the mixer, whisk the milk, yeast and sugar by hand until it is thickened slightly and frothy. Allow the yeast mixture to sit for 5 minutes.
- Attach the bowl and paddle attachment to the mixer. Set the mixer to low, add the eggs, then gradually add the flour and salt, then add 4 Tbsp room temperature butter.
- Raise the speed to medium-high and beat for 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl and the paddle to remove the dough that sticks to them. The dough will be very soft but elastic.
- Place the dough in a disposable piping bag and cut the tip. Pipe the dough into the prepared bundt pans, filling each of them about 1/3 of the way up. You should have enough dough to fill about 12 wells.
- Cover each pan with a clean, damp kitchen towel and set in a warm place for 1 hour to rise. They will double in size.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook the bundt cakes for 8 minutes, until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Remove the mini bundt cakes from the oven, let them cool for one minute and then pop them out onto a cooling rack.
For the Rum Syrup and Assembly
- In a 2 quart sauce pan warm the dark rum, dark brown sugar, vanilla, orange peel and lemon peel until simmering and slightly thickened. Use a candy thermometer to check the temperature; the syrup should not be warmer than 160 degrees or it will break down the cakes.
- Dunk the warm cakes into the warm rum syrup using a slotted spoon, one at a time. Allow the cakes to soak up the syrup for about 8 seconds on each side, using the spoon to lap the syrup over the cakes.
- Once the cakes are soaked through and seem as if they will begin to break down if left any longer, remove them from the syrup using the slotted spoon and place them on a cooling rack over a sheet pan.
- Pour the left over rum syrup over the cakes on the cooling rack. What makes the babas special is the syrup, so use it generously.
- Brush each baba with apricot preserves mixed with a teaspoon or two of water (or rum) to give it a nice shine. This is optional.
- Prepare whipped cream by whisking 2 cups heaving whipping cream and about 1 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar. Add sugar half way through whisking and whisk until soft peaks form, but be careful not to over mix. Place a dollop of whipped cream in the center of each baba.
- Finally you can top each one with fresh raspberries and dust lightly with powdered sugar.