Orange & vanilla rum babas

Surely it is time for a full-on revival of these fabulous 1970s dessert trolley staples?

Updated: August 2018 (new photos)

Rum babas should have a beautifully light texture, a rich buttery flavour and a real adult kick of indulgence from the rum.

They are, I think, a winning end to any meal, a great sweet treat as part of an Afternoon Tea or……..well, to be honest, they can be eaten at any time and with neither excuses or apologies!

About the recipe

I have varied the recipe from a very old, well-used cookery book (it is literally falling apart!): I increased the egg content and included vanilla and orange in both the dough and the syrup: a kind of rum baba meet Crêpes Suzette affair!

As you can see from the picture below, the interior is open and soft rather than the dense, stodgy affair that can sometimes be the case.

I love to add fresh fruit on top: raspberries are terrific but passion fruit seeds scattered over the top are excellent: their sharpness cuts well through the richness and sweetness of the dough and the syrup….not to mention that fabulous aroma you get from the passion fruit.

The recipe below will make 14 small rum babas (silicone moulds, which I have used for these photos) or 6 larger, individual rum babas in standard rum baba tins.

Any shape will do!

Although I like to make these in silicone moulds for smaller rum babas, the tin moulds are ideal for larger ones. You can even make a huge one in a bundt tin.

If you don’t have rum baba moulds, they can be made in practically anything you have to hand and whatever size you want:

  • deep muffin tins
  • small dariole moulds
  • cupcake cases (silicone ideally but paper will do!)
  • small cake tins for larger rum babas
  • mini cake pop moulds
  • silicone canelé moulds


I sometimes make a variation of these at Christmas, adding a teaspoon of mixed spice and a small handful of rum-soaked sultanas and currants to the dough after its first rise.

A cinnamon stick added to the syrup as it boils gives a nice festive note, and sometimes I will also add a spike of a star anise for a subtle aniseed kick.

Recipe: orange & vanilla rum babas (14 small babas or 6 larger ones)

For the babas:

  • 200g strong plain white flour
  • 7g easy-blend dried yeast (instant yeast)
  • 3g fine sea salt
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 100g very soft unsalted butter
  • finely grated zest of a most of a large orange (the juice and the rest of the zest is used in the syrup)
  • 60ml whole milk
  • 3 large egg yolks (the whites can be frozen for making macarons or meringues later)

For the syrup:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 150ml water
  • about 100ml rum of choice (you can reduce or increase this depending on preference but the syrup needs to be suitably rummy!)
  • seeds from 1 vanilla pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a little finely grated orange zest
  • juice of a large orange

For the cream filling:

  • 200ml double cream
  • 50g icing sugar
  • about 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To finish:

  • fresh fruit of choice: raspberries, strawberries, passion fruit, blueberries, blackberries……..

You also need either tin rum baba moulds, deep muffin tins or dariole moulds, liberally buttered and sprinkled with caster sugar. Alternatively, use mini silicone rum baba moulds.

(1) Mix the flour, sugar, salt, orange zest and yeast together. Add the egg yolks and milk.

(2) Mix well to give a sticky dough. Knead for a few minutes – this is best done in a machine with the dough hook on a medium setting.

(3) With the machine still running, add the butter about a third at a time, letting the dough hook mix the butter well into the dough with each addition. Continue to knead the dough in the machine for about 5 minutes: the dough, while still soft, should become more elastic.

(4) Cover the dough with cling film and leave to rise until it has doubled in size – this can take a couple of hours or so, depending on the room temperature. But don’t rush it: the slower, the better in terms of flavour.

(5) Knead the risen dough lightly for a few moments – the deflation of a knocked-back dough is always fun to watch! Spoon the dough into the moulds, coming to about the height of the centre ring if using rum baba moulds. You can dip your finger in water and gently run it over the tops to smooth if you wish. Leave to rise for about an hour until the dough is almost at the top of the moulds: it will rise further in the oven.

TOP TIP: don’t over-fill the moulds, but if you have do and the dough has risen too far over the moulds, bake them as they are: you can always trim the tops (great for tasters!!), as the tops will become the bottom of the rum babas, and nobody will know……

(7) Bake in an oven preheated to 170°C (fan) for about 12-15 minutes for smaller rum babas to about 20 minutes for the larger ones: when they are done, they will be golden brown on top. Leave to cool in their tins.

(8) Meanwhile, make the syrup by bringing the sugar, water, orange zest and vanilla pod to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the orange juice and simmer for about 5 minutes until the liquid has reduced a bit and becomes slightly syrupy. Remove from heat and stir in the rum. Taste, and add more rum if you feel it needs it: this is not the time to skimp on the rum! Pour the syrup into a shallow baking dish.

(9) Carefully remove the babas from their tins and place in the warm syrup, allowing the babas to soak up some of the syrup. Turn them over and allow the other side to soak up some of the syrup. Carefully place on plates.

(10) Whisk the cream, vanilla and icing sugar together until thick enough. Spoon or pipe the cream on top. Add fruit of choice.

Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking, teaching and eating good food.

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