Recipes·Technical Bake

Baba au Rhum

Soaked in a spiced rum syrup and filled with luscious currants, this cake makes an inviting centrepiece for the holidays.

With spiced rum syrup and luscious currants, this cake makes an inviting centrepiece for the holidays

(Geoff George / The Great Canadian Baking Show)

Similar to a babka, a baba au rhum is made with yeast and needs proofing. The yeast also helps create a cake that is tender but structured enough to absorb a lot of liquid without becoming soggy.

Soaked in a spiced rum syrup, filled with luscious currants and topped with a smooth Chantilly cream, this cake is rich and aromatic and makes an inviting centrepiece for the holidays — especially when garnished with Cape gooseberries and spun sugar.

A classic French dessert, the baba au rhum has origins in the Alsace region, where Stanisław I, a 16th-century Polish king, had gone into exile. To redeem a sweet yeast bread Stanisław had found too dry, his pastry chef, Nicolas Stohrer, poured a dessert wine over it — and only later did recipes use rum. The cake is also commonly known as a rum baba or simply baba.

Baba au rhum was the Technical Bake for Patisserie Week in Season 5 of The Great Canadian Baking Show.

Baba au Rhum

Special Equipment

  • 9½-inch Bundt pan
  • Large star piping tip

Ingredients

Cake:

  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp (37 g) granulated sugar
  • 1¾ cups (249 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1¾ tsp instant yeast
  • ¾ tsp kosher salt
  • 7 tbsp (100 g) unsalted butter, cubed and softened
  • ⅓ cup (47 g) currants
  • 2 tbsp dark rum

Spiced Rum Syrup:

  • 1¼ cups water
  • ¾ cup (149 g) granulated sugar
  • 6 (2-inch) strips orange zest
  • Juice of a small orange or ½ a small orange
  • 4 (2-inch) strips lemon zest
  • 1½-inch piece ginger, cut into coins
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise pods
  • Seeds of 1 vanilla pod (halve pod and scrape out seeds with a knife, reserving pod for garnish)
  • ⅔ cup dark rum

Cake Pan Preparation:

  • 1 tbsp (14 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1½ tsp all-purpose flour

Apricot Jam Glaze

  • 450 g apricots; halved and pitted, each half cut into eight slices
  • ⅔ cup plus 2 tbsp (157 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice, divided

Spun Sugar Ball and Candied Fruit:

  • 2½ cups (495 g) granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup glucose syrup
  • ¾ cup water
  • 3 Cape gooseberries

Caramelized Apricot:

  • ¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 apricot, halved and pitted

Stabilized Chantilly Cream:

  • 1 sheet gelatin
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 cup 35% cream, divided
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1½ tsp vanilla

Preparation

Cake:
If using a proofing drawer, heat to 100 F.

In a large bowl, whisk the milk, eggs and sugar with a fork. Stir in the flour, yeast and salt until a ragged dough forms. Turn it out onto a work surface and using two bench scrapers, flip and work the dough until elastic, about 5 minutes. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, scraping and flipping until the dough is smooth and keeps its shape.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic, and place in a warm area or proofing drawer until slightly puffed, about 30 to 45 minutes. 

Cake Pan Preparation:
While the dough is proofing, Mix the butter and flour in a small ramekin to form a paste. Brush it on the inside of the Bundt pan.

Spiced Rum Syrup:
Place all of the ingredients except the rum in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until the syrup is reduced to 1 cup. Let cool, reserving the vanilla pod and star anise for the garnish. Stir in the rum.

Cake:
Combine the currants and rum in a small ramekin and let soak (or microwave them for 20 seconds and let cool). Strain the currants and gently fold them into the dough after the first proof. Spoon the batter into the prepared Bundt pan, smoothing the top. Cover and proof until almost doubled, about 25 minutes. 

Heat the oven to 375 F. Bake until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes. Let it cool in the pan for 2 minutes while you warm the rum syrup on low heat. Brush the cake with some of the syrup, then invert the cake onto a cooling rack, place the rack on a baking sheet and soak the cake with the remaining syrup. Pour any syrup that accumulates on the baking sheet back into the saucepan and repeat until all of the syrup has absorbed into the cake. 

Apricot Jam Glaze:
In a large saucepan, toss the apricots with the sugar and 1½ teaspoons of the lemon juice and set over medium-high to high heat. Cook, stirring a few times to prevent burning, and break up with a potato masher or wooden spoon until the jam is thick enough to coat a spoon, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the remaining lemon juice. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and set aside to cool slightly. Brush onto rum-soaked cake.

Spun Sugar Ball and Candied Fruit:
Oil two wooden dowels and tape them to your work surface side by side and extended over the edge (or use wooden spoons with the handles facing out). Cover the floor underneath with newspaper. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice water, and fill a second smaller bowl with cold water for brushing the inside of your saucepan. 

Combine the sugar, glucose syrup and water in a medium saucepan and allow the water to absorb into the sugar. Heat over medium-high without stirring. Once the mixture comes to a boil, use a pastry brush to coat the sides of the pan with cold water to stop sugar crystals from forming. 

Brush water on any sugar crystals on the side of the saucepan and heat to 329 F. Immediately place the pan in the ice-water bath and let cool, then place it on a trivet or kitchen towel. Place two forks back-to-back, then dip them into the syrup and swing them back and forth over the dowels, letting the syrup fall in threads. Gather the threads and form them into a ball. 

Working quickly, dip the Cape gooseberries into the syrup to coat. Place them on parchment paper to cool.

Caramelized Apricot:
Sprinkle sugar in a small non-stick frying pan set over medium-high. When it becomes very dark, place the apricot halves face down, making sure they’re coated evenly, and let them caramelize. Carefully flip them with a spatula and transfer to a plate. 

Stabilized Chantilly Cream:
Place the sheet of gelatin in a bowl of cold water and let stand for 5 minutes. 

Right before serving, use the whisk attachment of a mixer to whip all but 1 tablespoon of the cream with the icing sugar and vanilla until the whisk leaves a trail. Combine the gelatin with 1 tablespoon of water and microwave in 10-second intervals until fully melted. Stir it into the whipped cream until it dissolves. With the mixer on low speed, drizzle in the remaining tablespoon of cream and beat until it forms medium peaks.

Immediately put the cream into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip (No. 829) and pipe it into the hole in the middle of the cooled cake. (If you wait too long, the gelatin will set and the cream won’t be soft enough to pipe.) 

Assembly:
Decorate the cake with the reserved vanilla pod, star anise, spun sugar ball, Cape gooseberries and apricot halves.

Makes 1 cake

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