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.