Baba au Limoncello

An aprés ski treat.

I lent a neighbor my New England style hot dog bun mold.  A few days later it was returned to my doorstep in the same "Lebanon Feed Store" bag in which I'd originally placed it.  But inside was more than the bun mold.  A beautiful bottle full of sunshine sat nestled in one of the bun nooks.   Homemade Limoncello.

I love limoncello.  It's a beautiful closer to any meal, coating your taste buds with bright citrus and coaxing a full belly into believing that there might be room found for a morsel of dessert.

Norm's Limoncello.  Perfect.

It's also the perfect soaking syrup for liquored up cakes.  And right now, with winter scheming to overstay his welcome, a cake that manages to both keep you toasty and give you a sweet taste of spring is a must on every menu.


This is a riff off of baba au rhum, a rum soaked yeast cake that's topped with chantilly cream and fruit.  One thing to note before you dive in is that, unlike almost every other yeasted preparation, a Baba is more a BATTER than a dough.  You can also bake it in two different kinds of molds:  a savarin mold or a dariole mold.  Savarin molds come in individual sizes or in large sizes, like mine.  You will adjust baking time for each type of mold.

Two Savarin molds.


Makes 2 large Savarin sized cakes

for the Baba

2 1/2 cups AP flour, I use King Arthur
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 packet instant yeast, I use Red Star Platinum yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 eggs
1/2 cup milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
zest of two Mandarins.  Strips of rind taken from 2 more mandarins for decor

for soak and assembly

2 cups Limoncello
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup creme fraiche (I use Vermont Creamery vanilla bean creme fraiche)
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar


for the Baba

•In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment, stir together the flour, sugar, yeast and salt.

•In a small sauce pan, bring the milk to a simmer.  Take from the heat and add the butter and zest.  Allow to sit until the butter is completely melted.  Stir and test the temperature of the mixture to make sure that it's not too hot, luke warm is perfect.

•In another small bowl, whisk the eggs until completely broken apart and slowly pour the milk/butter mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly.

•Add the egg/milk mixture to the flour and mix until the batter is smooth and shiny, about 5 to 10 minutes.

•Place a moist kitchen towel over the bowl and place in a warm spot in your kitchen to rest for 1/2 hour.  If your kitchen is as cold as mine, it may need an hour of rest.

•Spray the savarin molds with non-stick spray or coat with butter.  I've used both to great success on my non-stick savarin molds.

Just filled.  One coated with cooking spray and one with butter.

•Transfer the batter to a large pastry bag (you don't need a tip attached, just a large opening) and pipe the batter evenly among the molds.  Spray the exposed batter with a thin layer of non-stick cooking spray and allow to rest in a warm area of your kitchen until almost doubled in size.  In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350º.


•Bake for 30 minutes or until the tops of the cakes are golden brown.

Cake's out.  Limoncello's in.

•Immediately flip the cakes out of molds and pour 1/2 cup of Limoncello into each of the cavities.  Put the cakes back into the molds to soak up the Limoncello.  Pour the remaining Limoncello over the tops of both the cakes.  Allow to soak for at least 20 minutes or until cool.

Soaked in sunshine.

To finish

•Whisk together the cream, creme fraiche and confectioner's sugar until stiff peaks form.  Pipe the cream in the middle of the cake and top with mandarin slices and zest twirls.

•Can keep, covered, for several days up to a week.

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