In the Kitchen: Christmas Baba

by | Desserts, In the Kitchen, Recipes

Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms

John McHugh’s Family Recipe for Christmas Baba

I have been making this recipe for over 30 years and recommend a few things. Do not underestimate the value of greasing the mold, make this several days ahead of when you need it, (there will be some bleeding of the syrup so make sure you have a lip on the dish which you decorate and present on.) Because of the amount of syrup and the glaze, the baba will stay very moist for quite a while. — John McHugh



Christmas Baba

½ cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees F)
1 pkg active dry yeast
2 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
3 eggs
¼ cup butter or margarine softened
2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
¼ cups currants
½ cup finely chopped candied citron peel


Rum Syrup

2 cups sugar
1 unpeeled orange sliced crosswise
½ unpeeled lemon sliced crosswise
1 ½ cups light rum
2 Tbsp light corn syrup


Apricot Glaze

1 cup apricot preserves
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Candied red and green cherries
Whipped Cream



Lightly grease

A 1 ½ quart fancy mold. (Any mold in this size, without a hole in center.) I have found that Crisco or its equivalent works better to release than butter or margarine, especially if you have a mold similar to the picture. (Also, put a piece of wax paper over the small indention in the bottom of the mold to ensure the release.)


To make the batter

Check the temperature of the warm water (if you don’t have a thermometer, it should feel slightly warm to the touch).

Sprinkle yeast over water in a large bowl — stir until dissolved. Add 2 Tbsp sugar, the salt, eggs, butter, and 1 ½ cups flour. With an electric beater, beat until batter is smooth, approx. 2 minutes. Stir in remaining flour, currants, and chopped citron — beat until well combined – batter will be thick.

Turn batter into prepared mold, spreading evenly. Cover with waxed paper.

Let rise in warm place (85 degrees F), free from drafts, until it doubles in size and rises slightly above the top of the mold. (Approx. 1 ½ hours.)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Gently place mold on oven rack. Bake 30 to 35 minutes until a deep golden brown.


While baba is baking, make rum syrup

In medium saucepan combine sugar with 1 ½ cups of water. Bring to boiling, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil uncovered for 10 minutes. Reduce heat — add orange and lemon slices. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add rum.

With a slotted spoon, remove the fruit slices from the syrup. Combine fruit and corn syrup in another saucepan. Heat gently for several minutes, just to glaze the fruit slices. Halve orange and lemon slices crosswise to use for decorating and set aside.


After baking for 30 to 35 minutes

Remove baba to a cooling rack. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides from mold with spatula. Turn out — then return baba to the mold. (If you did your greasing of the mold properly this step will be relatively easy, and you won’t crack the baba. If you are using a mold similar to what I have pictured and the top piece doesn’t come out with the bottom, you can get the top and bottom out and then piece them together and still have a decent result. When I first made this 30 yrs ago I had some problems with the release and used some of the apricot glaze to glue the top and bottom together.)


The hot rum syrup and the baba

Place mold on a large sheet of foil. With a cake tester or shish kebab skewer, make holes in the baba at 1-inch intervals. Gradually pour hot rum syrup (reheat if necessary) over the warm baba. Continue pouring until all of the syrup is absorbed. Then let baba stand in mold at least 3 hours.


Meanwhile, make apricot glaze

In a small saucepan, combine the apricot preserves and the lemon juice. Heat, stirring, until the mixture is melted. Strain. (Hint: you will get a chunky residue in your strainer of the apricot pieces that didn’t melt and were heated with the lemon juice. Do not throw these away, they are treat for the cook and cook’s assistants, i.e., licking the bowl.)


Plating the baba

Carefully invert baba onto a round serving plate. Spread with glaze, coating evenly. Decorate with fruit slices and candied cherries. Design will depend on your mold, but make it colorful and festive.

Serve with whipped cream. (I have found that while the baba retains the rum flavor, a lot of the alcohol has been burnt off and a small piece is not going to create a problem for anyone.)





Photos, preparation, and serving notes by John McHugh



Printed version of this recipe

In the Kitchen series – Christmas Baba




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