This is a classic dessert with a twist. Usually, this recipe is served with Rum, but in our opinion bourbon is always a good idea. Basically, with this, you get a boozed soaked light and fluffy cake.
- softened unsalted butter, as needed for greasing the mold
- 3 large (170 g) eggs, separated
- 1/2 cup (99 g) granulated sugar, divided
- 1/4 cup (57 g) whole milk
- 3 tablespoons (42 g) unsalted butter
- 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
- 1 1/4 cups (150 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons (8 g) baking powder
- 1 teaspoon (4 g) instant yeast
- 3/4 teaspoon (3 g) fine sea salt
- zest of 1 orange
Soaking + Finishing:
- 3/4 cup (170 g) bourbon
- 1/2 cup (113 g) water
- 1/2 cup (106 g) dark brown sugar
- zest and juice of 1 orange
- 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves
- apricot jam, as needed for finishing (optional)
- whipped cream, as needed for serving (not optional)
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour the cavities of a popover pan (mine has 6 cavities; you could also use muffin cups, which will yield closer to 12 babas).
Make the babas: In the bowl mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the egg yolks and 1/4 cup (half) of the sugar until it’s pale and very thick (ribbon stage), 3-4 minutes. Set aside.
In a medium pot, heat the milk, butter, and vanilla bean scrapings until the butter is just melted; the milk shouldn’t be too hot. Test it with your finger, it should feel warm, not hot. If it’s hot, let it cool a bit before proceeding, add the milk/butter mixture to the egg yolks and stir to combine. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, yeast, salt, orange zest to combine. Add the flour mixture to the yolk mixture and stir to combine.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed until they start to get frothy, 1-2 minutes. Slowly stream in the remaining ¼ cup sugar and continue to whip on medium high speed until the mixture reaches medium peaks, 2-3 minutes more.
Add about 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter. Mix to combine; this will help “temper” or lighten the batter. Fold in the remaining egg whites in 2 additions, very gently, just until incorporated.
Fill the prepared pan 2/3 way full (if you’re using muffin cups, fill the cups just over 3/4 of the way full. Bake until the babas have risen very tall and are evenly golden brown, 20-23 minutes.
While the babas bake, make the soaking syrup: in a medium pot, stir the bourbon, water, dark brown sugar, orange zest, orange juice, vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, and cloves to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
When the babas are baked, unmold immediately. Let them cool for a few minutes (no more than 10), then soak them in the syrup while they are still warm. Be generous – really dunk them. After you’ve dunked each one, dunk them all again—by the time you’re done, the syrup should be gone.
If using, warm the apricot jam in a small pot, then use the warm jam to glaze the babas. Serve warm, with whipped cream.