Baking challenge: sticky, syrupy, sweet – rum baba


This post is part of my personal challenge to bake my way through all the challenges of the Great British Bake Off. The challenge below is the technical challenge for week one (cake week) of series three: rum baba.

Paul Hollywood’s rum babas are an exercise in indulgence. An enriched, yeasted cake is drenched in acutely sweet syrup, the little cakes being turned and turned again until each crumb is soaked through. The cakelets were topped off with creme Chantilly, cream to which vanilla extract and even more sugar is added, resulting in it being stable and stiff enough to pipe. In truth, the very sweet cream atop the syrup-drenched cake was too much for me, and had I not been following the recipe exactly I would have gone with my instincts and chosen the cool lactic contrast of unsweetened cream. This is what I suggest you do.

070_edThe recipe also suggests serving with ‘red fruit’. Strawberries wouldn’t be quite right, as wonderful as they are; something acidic and tangy is needed. I used sharp-sweet raspberries but red currants would be ideal.

Hollywood’s recipe yields four cakes and is intended to serve four, but the babas are quite hefty in size, and when I served them to friends, we halved them. The incredible sweetness of the syrup also mitigates against eating a whole one, I reckon.

Finally, lacking savarin moulds, and unable to find any of the required size anyway, I used a mini bundt tin, greasing it and dusting carefully with caster sugar, and despite the warnings that these delicate cakes may stick, they turned out beautifully. It gave the cakes an attractive whirled pattern, too. In Dutch bundt tins are referred to as ‘turban shaped’ because the swirls of the cake tin recall the swirls of a wrapped turban.

You can see the generous amount of syrup pooling at the base as it soaks in

All in all, this recipe was straightforward enough to put together and makes a manageable number of sweet, sticky, buttery treats which can’t easily be found in high street – or even fancy – bakeries in the UK.

Rum babas
Recipe from the BBC Food website

For the babas

  • 220g strong flour
  • 1 x 7g sachet fast action yeast
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 50g sugar, plus extra for lining tins
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 70ml milk
  • 100g butter, softenedFor the syrup


  • 250g caster sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp dark rum (I used spiced rum and the flavour was quite delicate; I’d go for the darkest, meanest rum you have to hand for these)
    For the Chantilly cream
    I think it would suit the recipe much more if you did not sweeten the cream to offset the sweetness of the babas
  • 250ml double cream
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds only (I may have opted for a teaspoon of good quality vanilla extract instead)
  • fresh fruit, for garnish

Equipment: the recipe calls for four 11cm fluted rum baba or savarin tins/moulds. I used a non-stick mini bundt mould

  1. Place the flour in a large bowl. Place the yeast on one side of the bowl and the salt on the other side, making sure they do not touch. Add the sugar and stir everything together with a spoon until evenly mixed.
  2. Mix together the milk and eggs until well combined.
  3. Add three-quarters of the combined eggs and milk to the flour and stir to combine.
    Mix in the rest of the liquid and knead the dough on a worktop until it’s smooth and glossy, this will take approximately 10 minutes, although it took me a 15 minutes.
  4. Add in the softened butter and work it through the dough thoroughly until it’s silky and stretchy. This should take approximately six minutes. though as with the first knead it took me a little longer.
    Place the dough back into a bowl and cover with cling film. Set the dough aside to rise for at least an hour, until doubled in size.
  5. Grease and sugar the four rum baba tins. Adding the sugar helps the fragile sponges come out of the moulds.
  6. Turn the dough out of the bowl, and knock it back by kneading it a few times.
  7. Place the dough into a piping bag with a large plain nozzle. Pipe the dough into the four moulds. Try and get them all as equal as possible.
  8. Preheat the oven to 180C.
    Allow to prove for a second time until the dough has expanded almost to the top. Be careful not to over-prove at this stage, or you will get a muffin top around the edges.
    Bake in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile for the syrup, put the sugar and rum in a small saucepan with 200ml water and bring to a rolling boil.
  10. When the babas are cooked, take them out of the oven and allow to cool a little before carefully removing the cakes from their tins. They will be very fragile.
  11. Place the babas onto a dish and pour over half the syrup. Allow them to soak up all of the liquid; then turn them over and repeat with the rest of the liquid. Transfer to the fridge to chill.
  12. Meanwhile for the Chantilly cream, whip the cream with the icing sugar and vanilla seeds. The cream must be firm enough to pipe and hold its shape on top of the babas. Transfer the cream to a piping bag and keep in the fridge until needed. Prepare the fruit as necessary.
  13. To serve, pipe the Chantilly cream, using a star nozzle, into the middle of the babas. Garnish with the mixed fruit.


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