Rum baba (baba au rum), this classic yeast bundt cake soaked in delicious rum syrup, decorated with a light vanilla bean whipped mascarpone frosting is the ultimate brioche-like boozy dessert! My rum baba recipe is super fluffy and moist and the rum-based soaking syrup makes it even creamier without making it soggy. An easy and light vanilla bean mascarpone frosting is added on top making the baba rum cakes even more luxurious and creamy.
What is Rum baba
It is said that the original form of the baba was a tall yeast cake that was popular in Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine, while the modern rum baba, which is soaked in rum, was invented in Paris in the 19th century.
Rum baba or baba au rhum is a small yeast-based dessert that is often referred to as a Rum baba bundt cake or Rum baba cake, however, it is more like brioche in terms of the ingredients and baking method. It is usually soaked in a rum-flavored sugar syrup that makes the babas wonderfully moist and flavorful. It is most typically made in individual servings either in a mini bundt mold, or special baba mold, and decorated with whipped cream. The dessert, of course, can be made as a larger size cake as well, in a so-called savarin mold.
Is the Rum baba Italian dessert? I first came across rum baba in Naples, Italy (Babà Napoletano) where it is in fact a local specialty and available everywhere with all sorts of filling and shapes. A few years later, I had this wonderful rum baba at Comi 107 Restaurant, Lake Como (Italy)! And finally, I am sharing with you my best Rum baba recipe, keep reading!
Why this is the best recipe
- It is super easy – No fancy ingredients are needed to make this Rum baba recipe, it is literally made of flour, butter, milk, etc. The recipe comes together really easily, a totally doable even if you are a beginner - however please make sure you pay attention to my Baking tips.
- It is not much effort, most of the time is just waiting for the dough to proof – The amount of effort making Baba is really minimal, however, you will have to rest the dough in between steps. Since Baba is a yeasted dough, you can´t really speed the process of proofing. Rest assured, the time you will spend in the kitchen itself is absolutely minimal
- It is super delicious – Imagine delicious buttery pillowy brioche dough soaked in a rum syrup with that luxurious creamy vanilla bean mascarpone frosting. This Rum Baba is totally addictive! A lovely mini rum cake that will impress everybody
- No special equipment is needed – A stand mixer is super handy when it comes to kneading the Baba dough but apart from that, all you need is a tin to bake, and you are good to go! Having said that, you can totally knead the dough with your hands, and replace the gym with baking on that day!
How much alcohol is in this recipe
Before we jump into the alcohol content, in general, there are two ways to add rum to your Babas.
- In this recipe alcohol is added to the syrup after the sugar and water was cooked - this means that as we do not cook the rum, all the alcohol will stay in
- If alcohol is a concern, feel free to add rum to the water sugar mixture while cooking - in this way you will cook the syrup with the alcohol and during the cooking process most of the alcohol will evaporate
Can I make this recipe with more rum?
Yes, you can, however, reduce the water with the same amount
Can I make this recipe with less rum?
Yes, you can, however, increase the water with the same amount
Can I make this recipe with no rum?
Yes, you can, however, increase the water with the same amount and think about what other flavoring you want to bring in, eg. orange zest would be a good idea
Can I make this recipe with another alcohol?
Yes, you can, however, I have not tried it, so not sure what else would be a great fit. Maybe Gin & Lime, sort of a gin&tonic Baba. Or Aperol & Orange, kinda like an Aperol Spritz Baba. Feel free to experiment
For the Baba dough
- Butter: Use always unsalted butter as you want to be in control of the quantity of the salt. I am using 82% fat content European-style butter in all my recipes. In this recipe, the butter needs to be at room temperature so soft enough to be able to knead into the dough. Make sure that you avoid last-minute microwaving as melted butter won´t incorporate into the dough
- Sugar: A small amount of white granulated sugar is used to make the Baba dough. No need to use too much sugar as the syrup will make the Babas sweet enough. If you want to learn about the different types of sugar and how to use them in baking, please read my article in here
- Yeast: I am using fresh yeast in this recipe, however, it can be made with dry yeast too. My instant dry yeast pack says that its 7 g yeast equals 25 g fresh yeast. I used 10 g fresh yeast to make this recipe which is equal to approx 3g dried yeast (a little bit less than 1 teaspoon). Please check your local brand and calculate your yeast need accordingly. Also, check my ultimate yeast guide out for more information on how to handle yeast
- Milk: Use room temperature whole milk
- Egg: Room temperature as always, 1 egg + 1 yolk to keep the Baba extra moist and delicious
- Flour: Rum baba is effectively a sweet bread similar to brioche, or sweet bread, like babka. Make sure to use high protein content bread flour which contains more gluten and helps to achieve that lovely airy texture. It might not be called bread flour in your country, so check the protein content and choose one that is higher. If you really can´t find bread flour, go with all-purpose flour. If you want to be a Pro when it comes to deciding what type of flour to use in your baking, please read my article in here
- Salt: An essential ingredient in most of dessert recipes. Balances flavor and enhances other ingredients
Exact ingredient quantities can be found at the bottom of this page in the RECIPE CARD!
For the rum syrup
- Sugar - use simple granulated sugar to make the syrup
- Water - Soaking syrups are very often used in a 1:1 sugar water ratio, however, in this Rum baba recipe we will need the syrup to be a bit more on the liquid side so there will be more water in the recipe than usual
- Rum - Use high-quality white or dark rum, I used a mix in this recipe. Please see above at "How much alcohol is in this recipe" for more information and substitutes
- Lime juice and zest (optional) - Any citrus would balance the sweetness of the syrup and bring an extra depth of flavor. Feel free to try it
Exact ingredient quantities can be found at the bottom of this page in the RECIPE CARD!
For the whipped mascarpone frosting
- Mascarpone: Very rich Italian cream cheese, exceptionally smooth, and easy to spread or whip. The flavor is milky and slightly sweet. Use full-fat version, the one I used has 41% fat content
- Heavy cream: Also known as whipping cream, has a fat content between 36% and 40%, the one I am using is 36%. Use it very cold and do not substitute with vegetable-based “whipping cream”
- Icing sugar: Icing sugar or powdered sugar is the first choice when it comes to whipping up the frosting. The question I often get is whether the quantity is a typo. NO, it´s not! You do not actually need a lot of sugar when making whipped mascarpone frosting! It stays beautifully fluffy without tons of sugar, the secret is the technique of whipping, not the amount of sugar. See my Baking tips below
- Vanilla: Use high-quality natural vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste, or the vanilla pod itself
Exact ingredient quantities can be found at the bottom of this page in the RECIPE CARD!
7 Expert tips regarding the technique
1. How to activate yeast
I know a lot of you afraid of handling yeast, please don´t be scared! It is super easy if you follow some simple rules that are mainly related to the temperature! Also, check my ultimate yeast guide out for more information on how to handle yeast!
The process is easy: heat whole milk until lukewarm, mix the sugar in, then sprinkle yeast on top and wait 10 minutes until yeast starts to foam. The same process applies whether you are using fresh or dried yeast. The key here is that your milk is warm enough (lukewarm) but not too hot. Make sure that your kitchen is not too cold (above 20C / 68F). If yeast does not start bubbling after 10 minutes, chances are very low that the dough will rise. I recommend starting over again with new, fresher yeast.
Please follow the quantity of the yeast. Your Rum baba won´t get better or softer by adding more yeast! There is an exact science of adding leaving agents to baking products, and adding less or adding more is an equally bad choice.
Also, please make sure that you start using the activated yeast after it foams, about 10 minutes. Leaving it on the kitchen counter for too long might result in yeast overflowing and eventually breaking.
2. How to make the Baba dough
The Rum baba dough is basically a sweet brioche, therefore the process of making it is similar to baking bread meaning, and it starts with kneading the dough.
Once the yeast is foamy, place all the wet ingredients (the yeasty mixture + egg) into the bowl of your Stand mixer then after mixing for a minute, add the dry ingredients (bread flour, salt) and start kneading with the help of the dough hook. First, it will look a bit messy, but after a few minutes, the dough will start to come together then add soft butter in very small portions piece by piece while the mixer is on.
Very important that butter is at room temperature and soft, but not too soft or liquid which would make it impossible to mix that into the dough. Butter might not get mixed in immediately but keep your Stand mixer on, and eventually, it will all come together. Do not add more flour but keep kneading in your mixer! Once the dough comes together, you will have to knead it for another approx. 10 minutes on medium-high speed up until the dough is super shiny, elastic, and achieves the gluten window! At this point, the dough should not stick at all.
Please do not change this Baba dough recipe and add a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I promise the dough will come together in the process of kneading and does not require more flour or milk etc.
Once the dough is ready, cover it with a tea towel and let it proof for 1-2 hours at room temperature. Make sure that you chose a warm spot in your house (but not hot, no direct heat or sun). The dough should approx. double in size, the exact proofing time will depend on the temperature and humidity of the environment.
3. Useful tips for proofing any yeasted dough
23-25C / 73-77F is sort of ideal to proof this dough, but avoid speeding the process with your oven as that can lead to an over-proofed dough. Also, avoid direct sunshine and extreme heat as that would just melt the dough.
Under proofed dough is equally problematic than proofing the dough for too long. Instead of focusing on time whether it is 1h or 2h - that might vary depending on your temperature and humidity - here is how to check whether your dough is ready to be baked.
Gently press the dough
- if the dough bounces back immediate - your dough need more time to proof
- if the dough stays there or only comes back halfway - the proofing is done
- if the gentle press causes the dough to deflate - your dough was over proofed
If by any chance you over-proofed your dough, it is better to punch the air out of it and start the process again by proofing again. To avoid over-proofing please make sure you do not forget your dough and you do not force-proof it with the oven.
4. How to shape the Babas
Once the dough approx. doubles in size, punch the air out of it, gently knead for a minute with the palm of your hands then divide it into 8 using a Digital scale.
Prepare your baking in. Butter and flour the tin throughout or use a cylinder silicone mold that does not require any greasing.
Form 8 balls with your hand and place them into your mold. Use a small amount of extra flour while shaping the dough, if needed. Please note that if you are using a different mold, you might need to use more or less dough per 1 baba.
Now moving on to the 2nd proofing that will take 1-2h depending on your room temperature and humidity. What we are looking for is the baba dough to about fill the cake tin but make sure you do not over-proof it. Please check above my proofing tips!
5. How to bake
First of all, how not bake these Babas? Never bake them without a second proofing!
During the end of the second rise pre-heat your oven to 190C / 374F, then once Baba dough has a nice rise place it into the oven, lower the temp to 180C / 356F, and bake for about 25 minutes.
Please make sure you invest in an inexpensive Digital oven thermometer to avoid under-baked or burnt Babas especially if you typically have trouble with your oven. Check the progress at 20 minutes and adjust the temperature, if needed. The Babas are ready when they are nicely puffed up and golden brown.
6. How to make rum syrup
Similar to a Lemon Pound cake, the syrup makes the Babas wonderfully flavorful and super aromatic! Making this rum syrup literally takes less than 5 minutes and could not be easier!
- Towards the end of the baking time, start boiling sugar, water, a little bit of lime juice (optional), and lime zest (optional) for 5-7 minutes (depending on your stove) until syrup slightly thickens. Once the mixture gets syrupy, remove it from the stove and pour rum in.
- Use the syrup immediately: pour half of the warm syrup of the hot babas as soon as they are out of the oven. Some of the syrup will sink in.
- In a few minutes remove the babas to a plate or baking pan and pour the rest of the syrup on them. The syrup might look a lot at first, but keep turning the Babas in it and they will soak that in.
- Be careful as the Babas are rather fragile while they are warm and wet from the syrup. It will stabilize as it cools and the syrup will make the Rum babas not just flavorful but also wonderfully shiny
Note regarding rum: Make sure you use a nice, delicious rum otherwise it will just ruin your cake. You can use as much rum as you wish, however, treat it as "wet ingredients" so if you increase the rum in the recipe, you should decrease the water. The rum I state in the recipe gives a decent rum taste that is not too overpowering. You can of course use more or less syrup depending on your taste.
Note regarding the amount of syrup: The amount of syrup in this recipe makes Babas wonderfully moist but not wet nor soggy. Some of the Rum babas I had in Italy and France were way soggier, however, in this recipe, I was aiming for a consistency that makes the Babas creamy and flavorful without being too wet. You can of course use more or less syrup depending on your taste.
7. How to make whipped mascarpone frosting
Whipped mascarpone is a super simple frosting that consists of heavy cream, mascarpone, and a small amount of icing sugar whipped until fluffy, pipeable consistency. It is creamy, milky, super stable frosting. If can´t access mascarpone, make chantilly cream instead, or feel free to serve the Babas with a scoop of ice cream or on their own.
Using the right ingredients at the right temperature is extremely important while making whipped mascarpone:
- mascarpone has to be cold, use the full-fat version (41%)
- heavy cream needs to be very cold (pop it into the freezer for a few minutes before using it) and again, full-fat version so anywhere between 36-40%
- icing sugar has to be sifted to avoid lumps
You will have to whip the mixture with an electric hand mixer for a minute or two until it reaches a creamy, fluffy consistency, then stop. It won´t get stiffer after this point, in fact, if you overbeat it, it will get only runnier then it will break. I don´t use my stand mixer to whip this frosting since it is really easy to overwhip it. For a more detailed tutorial check my mascarpone frosting recipe.
Once you are happy with the consistency, move frosting into a piping bag fitted with your favorite nozzle tip, the one I am using is Wilton 1M piping nozzle tip.
Wait until the Babas come to room temperature and the syrup sets on them, then decorate each with the frosting. Best, if you only decorate them before serving, in that way you can store the Babas at room temperature so they stay softer and moister.
Once you applied the frosting, store the Babas in the fridge.
Regarding the equipment I suggest the following:
First and foremost make sure you measure the ingredients with the help of a Digital scale.
For kneading the dough a Stand mixer is super handy with the dough hook on, however, if you are strong you can attempt doing it by hand, good luck!
Finally, for baking the Babas you will need a mold. I am using a tall cylinder silicone mold and the quantity stated in the recipe makes 8 Babas. Alternatively, you can also use mini bundt mold, mini savarin mold, or even a cupcake tin.
Yes, you can however high protein content bread flour will provide a better texture and flavor
You should always use the yeast within the expiry date. Make sure that the temperature is correct for your yeast to get activated. Milk should be lukewarm, your kitchen should be also not too cold (above 20C / 68F). If yeast does not start bubbling after 10 minutes, chances are very low that the dough will rise at a later stage. I recommend not to waste the rest of the ingredients but start again with a new batch of yeast
It can be a combination of reasons: Either your yeast does not work, see point above. Or, the second proofing has not happened, or for not long enough. Perhaps the oven temperature was too low, or the ingredients are not measured accurately
Most probably yes, you can, however, you can´t just leave out / change one ingredient without reformulating the entire recipe. When one ingredient changes, some other ingredients need to be changed too in order to keep the balance in the texture and flavor. Sadly, I am not able to provide substitutes for all sort of allergies and diets.
Yes, you can, however, you will need to adjust the ingredient quantities and baking time accordingly.
Yes, you can but then you are not making Rum baba:) If alcohol is a concern, please check my tips on how to reduce or substitute rum at the section above called "How much alcohol is in this recipe"
Yes, you can. Alternatively, make chantilly cream, or even serve it with a scoop of ice cream or on its own
Babas do not require a fridge, however after they should be kept refrigerated after the frosting is applied on them
You can easily freeze the Babas in an air-tight container and enjoy it later whenever you feel like it. Freeze them without frosting as whipped mascarpone does not freeze well.
Other Sweet Bread recipes
The Best Rum baba (VIDEO)
- 100 g Whole milk lukewarm
- 20 g Granulated sugar
- 10 g Fresh yeast Can be substituted with dry yeast, check your local brand for exact measurement
- 1 Egg yolk room temperature
- 1 Egg room temperature
- 210 g Bread flour High protein content flour. Can be substituted with All purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
- 60 g Unsalted butter room temperature, soft
- 250 g water
- 150 g Granulated sugar
- 10 g Lime juice freshly squeezed (optional)
- Lime zest zest of 1 lime (optional)
- 70 g Rum
Whipped mascarpone frosting
- 200 g Mascarpone 41% fat, cold
- 200 g Heavy Cream 36% fat, cold
- 40 g Powdered sugar sifted
- 2 teaspoon Vanilla bean paste
US customary cup measurement is an indicative figure only. Measure the ingredients with a digital scale by weight (gram). Baking is art but also science which requires precision and accuracy.
For the Baba dough
- Start with mixing sugar with lukewarm milk then sprinkle yeast on top. Make sure the kitchen is nice and warm, and in 10 minutes the yeast the should foam
- Place the yeast mixture into your Stand mixer with the kneading hook on, then mix it together with the egg and egg yolk
- Mix in dry ingredients; flour, salt and start kneading until the dough comes together
- Slowly start to add in room temp (soft) butter chunks by piece. Knead the dough for another 10 minutes on medium high speed until dough becomes elastic and shiny and not sticky any longer
- Move the dough into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let it rest and rise at room temperature for 1-2 hours
- After the dough has risen, know the air out, gently knead the dough for a minute and divide into 8
- Form 8 balls with your hand and place them into your mold. Use a small amount of extra flour while shaping the dough, if needed
- Proof Baba dough for the second time at room temperature. Proofing might take 1-2h
- Pre-heat your oven to 190C / 374F then once the Babas are nicely risen, place them into the oven, lower the temp to 180C / 356F and bake them for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown
- During the end of the baking time make the syrup: boil water, sugar, lime zest, and freshly squeezed lime juice together for about 5 minutes until the mixture slightly thickens, then mix in rum
- Pour half of the hot syrup over the Babas as soon as they are out of the oven
- Remove the Babas from the mold and place them onto a plate or baking pan and pour the rest of the syrup over. Keep turning the Babas in the syrup and let them completely cool before frosting
- Whip heavy whipped cream, mascarpone, vanilla bean paste, and icing sugar for a few minutes until fluffy, then move it into a pastry bag
- Once Babas are chilled and the syrup stablizied on them, pipe frosting on top
- Store in air-tight container in the fridge
- Use always unsalted butter in baking, in this recipe butter needs to be at room temperature so soft enough to be able to knead into the dough
- Fresh or Dried yeast can be used. Please check your local brand and calculate based on that
- Use milk and egg at room temperature in order for the ingredients to properly emulsify
- Since rum Baba is effectively a sweet bread use high protein content bread flour
- Use good quality rum as that is the main flavor of this cake
- For activating the yeast (whether it is dried or fresh), make sure that the milk is lukewarm and your kitchen is also nice and warm
- You will knead the dough for about 10 minutes in a stand mixer. The dough is ready when it is shiny, elastic, and does not stick to your fingers any longer. Do not add more flour to the dough. If it sticks too much, continue kneading
- Second proofing is necessary for the perfect rise = fluffy texture
- Regarding the syrup, aim to roll the Babas in the syrup a few times but avoid making them too soggy
- Regarding the frosting, make sure you do not overwhip it. The most common reason for soupy frosting is overwhipping