boozy rum babas with lemongrass and lime syrup

boozy rum babas drenched in l
emongrass and lime syrup
Have you ever looked through the cookbooks of the 1950's, 60's and 70's? As a child, I would pore over my mother's cookbooks, avidly absorbing the technicolour photographs and the sort of food that inevitably my mother didn't cook. I suspect that my fascination came from the novelty value of the food presentation as well as the magically named dishes. At restaurants, I would choose courses based on how they sounded, (much as I study form on the rare of occasions that I go to the races - which probably explains why I never win anything).

I'll give you an example. At the age of eight my favourite restaurant meals were dover sole (no idea why, but the name gave me a lot of pleasure - it looks nice on a menu!). The other (and frankly I am appalled with my younger self), is chicken a la king. Clearly I wasn't a child with much taste!

In those days, from scrutinising the old cookbooks, I thought that sickly-sweet rum babas with pineapple rings, filled with whipped cream and topped with a glace cherry were the height of sophistication. Admittedly fighting with little brother for the cherry in a tin of fruit salad was pretty much my idea of haute cuisine too. I like to thing that things have changed since then!

To redress the crimes of the 1970s against the blameless baba, I have updated these light and airy little cakes with my favourite tastes of the Far East, with lemongrass and lime syrup, steeped with star anise and cinnamon. The photography may look somewhat spartan and austere, sober even. But the flavours are anything but. This is fragrant boozy heaven!

Skill level: Easy
Makes 6


80ml milk
4 tsp sugar
2 tsp dried yeast
190g plain flour
a pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
80g melted butter
syrup300ml water
half tsp vanilla extract
juice and zest of 1 lime
3 tbsp lemongrass and lime cordial (I used Belvoir)
150ml rum
300g sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise


  1. Gently warm the milk to hand hot. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar. Stir to dissolve. Sprinkle over yeast. Whisk in and set aside.
  2. Combine rest of the sugar with flour and salt. Add eggs and yeast mixture. Beat together so that dough forms. The dough should become smooth and elastic. 
  3. Add butter in 3 batches, mixing well between each addition. You will end up with a smooth, sticky batter.
  4. Dollop into buttered silicone muffin pan (about three-quarters full). (Or use savarin tins or dariole moulds). (If you pipe the batter in, you will get a much more even effect, unlike my lopsided efforts!)
  5. Set the babas aside to rise for about 15 minutes.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 200C / Gas Mark 6.
  7. Bake the babas for 15 minutes, until risen and lightly golden.
  8. Make syrup by warming all the ingredients together. Bring to the boil. Simmer until a thin syrup forms.
  9. Pour syrup over babas and allow to sit in the syrup so that babas absorb the liquid. You could prod them with a toothpick to increase absorption.
  10. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and some roasted pineapple.

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