Friday, February 17, 2012

Baba Cakes

The blue flame glows in the dark room, swirling inside the funnel-shaped tuille for a few seconds until it fades.

Damn, that's impressive. Especially for a cupcake. But this isn't any ordinary cupcake. This is not something you give to your underage children. It's more of a dessert and cocktail blended into a single decadent entity.

It's more dynamic than a cupcake, too. Normally, you buy a cupcake, eat it and throw away the paper. These have a bit of showmanship. They get plated, someone pours hot rum into the cup, you pick it up and blow out the flame or wait for it to diminish. The rum sinks into the cake.

Take a bite. Raisin, rum, buttercream, dark sugar will unite to proclaim to your senses that this is far from your typical sugar bomb cupcake. It's more like an exotic visitor from Europe, a bit risque, even perhaps dangerous. There's rum in there! An alcoholic cupcake? Yes! Your visitor may be unusual, but he certainly knows how to entertain!

In fact, the cake is too rich for mass consumption that could lead to drunkenness. You won't wake up in bed with someone you hardly know who speaks with an accent. There could be a moment of rum-induced change of consciousness, but only a moment. There is also a built-in warning. If the tuille melts, you've added too much rum. Normally, this would only happen if you filled it twice. Not recommended, since you've exceeded the design parameters by 200%.

The rum soaks into the cake from the bottom of the tuille funnel, so you're not supposed to get a shot of pure rum. The rum melds with the raisin, sugar and baba dough, accented by the raisins in the buttercream. It's still a cupcake, not a shot glass after all. You could also heat a rum-sugar-water syrup and use that, for a reduced alcohol version.

Remember that this formula comes from an advanced baking class, so there's a lot going on. We had a team of four people doing things at the same time, so you can get together with friends to make these.

Baba Cakes

This is enough for about 30 rather large cupcakes or even more small ones.

Rum syrup
You can prepare this in advance.
yield 2 lb 3 oz

 6 oz    Brown sugar
    14 oz oz    Granulated sugar
    1 oz    Lemon juice
    6 oz    Water
    8 oz Dark rum
    0.1 oz    Vanilla extract

  1. Place the sugar, lemon juice and water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until the sugar dissolves. 
  2. Pour into a 4-cup heatproof stainless steel or other non-reactive pan and allow to cool. 
  3. Add the rum and vanilla and set aside. Alternatively, you can heat the rum with the other ingredients in the first step to vaporize some of the alcohol.
Chocolate tuiles
yield: 14 oz

Prepare these in advance so they’re ready to go when the cakes are baked.

2. 4 oz    Cake flour
1. 3 oz    Dutch-processed cocoa powder
4.5 oz    Confectioner’s sugar
2.3 oz    butter, unsalted
3.5 oz    egg whites, room temperature
0.1 oz    vanilla extract

  1. Line sheet pan(s) with silicone baking mats. Cut out 3” to 4” diameter circles from a manilla file folder.
  2. Mise en place: have shaping and cutting instruments ready: tapered dowels, round cutters.
  3. Sift together the cake flour and cocoa powder
  4. Cream together the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment, starting on low speed and increasing to medium speed until smooth, 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
  5. Add the egg whites and vanilla and mix on medium speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
  6. Turn off the mixer and add the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed until incorporated. Do not overmix.
  7. Use an offset spatula to spread a very thin layer of tuile into the circular openings in the modified folder. Do not place more than four openings on a pan, since they will set up quickly and be difficult to form.
  8. Bake at 325°F until golden brown but still soft, 8-10 minutes. Watch carefully - the convection oven may be too hot and can overcook things!
  9. Remove the cutout template from the silicon mat.
  10. Using a cone-shaped item, form the tuiles into cone shapes. Reheat as necessary to shape (try to avoid this if you can).
  11. Reserve for later.

French raisin buttercream
This can be made while during the first proofing (bulk fermentation).

yield: 3 lbs 9 oz

6.2 oz    raisins
2.3 oz    rum
0.3 oz    vanilla extract
6.2 oz    eggs, whole, grade AA
6.2 oz    egg yolks
14 oz    granulated sugar
3.1 oz    water
1 lb 2.7 oz    butter, unsalted

  1. Place the raisins in just enough rum to completely cover them, and purée until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and set aside. If you gently heat this mixture, you can reduce the alcohol content.
  2. Whip eggs in mixer fitted with a whip attachment on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  3. Combine sugar and water in heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then stop stirring. Heat until the mixture reaches 240°F (soft-ball stage).
  4. Slowly pour the hot sugar syrup into the eggs while whipping on medium speed. Continue to whip until cool.
  5. Gradually add the butter, beating until incorporated after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  6. Blend in rum/vanila/raisin mixture.
  7. Store covered under refrigeration until needed.

Baba Cake
Yield: 2 lb 14.5 oz (46.5 oz)

1 oz     lemon zest (about 1 oz per lemon)
1oz    dark rum
13 oz     Milk, whole (1/2 gallon)
0.9 oz    Brown sugar
0.9 oz    Granulated sugar
1.2 oz    SAF yeast
8 oz    Eggs, grade AA
1 lb 3 oz    A.P. Flour
0.1 oz    Kosher salt
6 oz    Unsalted butter

  1. Pre heat proofer. Line pans with paper inserts. Pre heat oven to 375° when dough is put into pans.
  2. Instructions
  3. Combine the lemon zest and rum in a small bowl, bring just to a simmer and set aside.
  4. Heat the milk to 115°F (46°C) and then pour it into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir in the yeast and sugars.
  5. With the mixer on low speed, first add the eggs, then the flour, salt, and butter. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat for 5 minutes.
  6. Scrape down the bowl and beater to form the dough into a loose ball. It will be very soft.
  7. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and allow it to proof until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  8. Drain the zest (empty the rum remaining into the prepared syrup), fold into the dough with a spatula.
  9. Place the cupcake paper on a scale and add 1-½ ounces of dough to each cake, then place the cups into a cupcake pan.
  10. Cover the pan with a damp towel, and proof until the dough reaches halfway to the top of of the pan, 30 minutes in a proofer. You want to leave room at the top for the buttercream, and the cakes will rise during baking.
  11. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Bake the cakes for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Start checking them after 12 minutes, in case your oven runs hot.
  12. Remove cakes from cake pan and place on a cooling rack (keep the paper wrappers on them). Allow to cool a bit so they’ll be easier to cut.
 Cupcake assembly
  1. Cut out a conical shape in the center of each cake with a paring knife, and insert a tuile into each cake.
  2. Pour the rum syrup very slowly onto the slightly warm cakes, allowing it all to soak in thoroughly. Amazingly, the liquid will be absorbed into the cake, and will take more syrup than you would think. If you want drier cakes, cut the syrup recipe down by half.
  3. Pipe buttercream around each tuile with a star tip, covering any ragged edges created when cutting into the cake.

  1. If the guest is a minor, give him a Newman O. These tricks aren’t for kids.
  2. Place the baba cakes on plates.
  3. Heat a small quantity of dark rum (like Zara) in a pan with a pouring spout. Don’t get it hot - you just need it warm enough to volatilize the alcohol. It could ignite if you get it too hot, and that would be bad. Throw a wet towel over it to extinguish and set it aside to cool.
  4. Holding it away from your body, light the warm rum. For better effect, do this tableside.
  5. Carefully pour the flaming rum into the tuiles, not too much. This is more for the flame effect than anything, and remember that there’s already rum syrup in the cakes. If you pour too much rum, the tuilles will collapse due to the moisture - consider it a built-in warning.
Consume in moderation (these things are rich, so I can’t eat more than one). Do not drive or operate machinery after eating. If you work in a sawmill, save these for after your shift when you're safely home.

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