A rum baba or baba au rhum is a small yeast cake saturated in
liquor, usually rum, and sometimes filled with whipped cream or pastry cream. It
is most typically made in individual servings (about a 2" tall slightly tapered
cylinder) but sometimes can be made in larger forms similar to those used for
Left: Rum baba.
The batter for baba is even richer than that for brioche, and includes eggs,
milk, and butter.
The original form of the baba was similar to the babka, a
tall cylindrical yeast cake. The name means 'old woman' or 'grandmother' in the
Slavic languages; babka is a diminutive of baba.
The modern "Baba au Rhum" (Rum Baba), with dried fruit and soaking in rum, was
invented in rue Montorgueil (Paris, France) in 1835 or before. Today, the word
"Baba" in France and almost everywhere else outside eastern Europe usually
refers specifically to the rum baba.
The original Baba was introduced into France in the 18th century via Alsace and
Lorraine. This is attributed to Stanislas, the exiled king of Poland. The
Larousse Gastronomique reports that Stanislas had the idea of soaking a dried
Kugelhopf (a cake roughly similar to the baba and common in Alsace-Lorraine when
he arrived there) or a baba with alcoholic spirit. Another version is that when
Stanislas brought back a baba from one of his voyages it had dried up. Nicolas
Stohrer, one of his pâtissiers (or possibly just apprentice pâtissiers
at the time), solved the problem by addition of adding Malaga wine, saffron,
dried and fresh raisin and crême pâtissière.
Nicolas Stohrer followed Stanislas' daughter Maria Leszczyńska to Versailles as
her pâtissier in 1725 when she married King Louis XV, and founded his
Pâtisserie in Paris in 1730. One of his descendants allegedly had the idea of
using rum in 1835. While he is believed to have done so on the fresh cakes
(right out of the mold), it is a common practice today to let the baba dry a little so that it
soaks up better. Later, the recipe was refined by mixing the Rum with aromatized
In 1844 the Julien Brothers, Parisian pâtissiers, invented the "Savarin" which
is strongly inspired by the "Baba au Rhum" but is soaked with a different
alcoholic mixture and uses a circular (ring) cake mold instead of the simple
round (cylindrical) form. The ring form is nowadays often associated with the
Baba au Rhum as well, and the name "Savarin" is also sometimes given to the
rum-soaked circular cake.