Neapolitan Baba’ with Limoncello and lemon custard

Neapolitan Baba’ with Limoncello and lemon custard

By 23/12/2013

If you ever visit Naples you certainly cannot miss the popular "Baba'"sold in almost any bakery around the city.

This cake was actually invented in the 18th Century by the Polish king Stanislas Leczynski who used to enjoy having fun in the kitchen creating new dishes. Legend says that the king, who had an irritable personality, one day being fed up with the same dry Kugelhupf cake served with Madera wine, he just threw it over a cupboard smashing a bottle of rum which soaked the cake. He loved the aroma of the liquor and he decided to call this cake "Baba'" as he was a keen reader of "One Thousands and One Nights" in particular of the Ali Baba story.

The cake reached France and then Naples through Neapolitans working for the French upper classes. It slowly became one of the most popular cakes sold in Naples.

It requires some prep time as the dough needs to rise in a warm place but the result is a soft and delicate cake, ideal to be soaked in liquor. As a twist to the traditional rum-baba I have soaked the cake with limoncello liquor instead and made a lemon flavoured custard which goes perfectly with it. Served with fruit of the forest this is an elegant cake to be presented to your most special guests!

  • Prep Time : 50 minutes
  • Cook Time : 45 minutes



Make the dough by dissolving the yeast in little warm water. Add 50 grams of flour and shape it into a ball. Let it rest covered with a cloth in a warm place for half an hour.

Add the remaining flour, the eggs, the sugar, the lemon zest, a pinch of salt and the softened butter. Work the dough with your hands for about 10 minutes and shape it into a smooth ball. Add some lukewarm milk if you find the mixture being too dry. Then put it in a bowl, cover with a cloth and let it rest again in a warm place for a couple of hours.

Place the dough in a greased baking ring, cover it up with the cloth and let it rest for a further 30 minutes. Cook in a warm oven at 190C for 25-30 minutes until golden.
Wash the lemon, dry it well and peel the rind with a knife, then put it in a sauce pan with the milk and bring to the boil.
Whip the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and creamy; pour the milk over it whilst stirring all the time.

Add the vanilla extract and the corn flour and bring to the boil over a gentle heat until the sauce has thickened.
Let it cool down, add the chocolate chips and then the whipped cream stirring it gently into the custard. Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool down.
Make the syrup by stirring 50 ml of water with the sugar over a source of heat. Let it boil for a few minutes then add the limoncello and stir well.

Now let’s assemble the cake.
Brush the cake with the syrup until it has all been absorbed;
Put the cake on a plate and pour the custard into the central hole. Decorate with fruit of the forest, small mint leaves, lemon wedges and candied lemon rind.

Neapolitan Baba' with lemon cream


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6 Responses to Neapolitan Baba’ with Limoncello and lemon custard

  1. Dottie Sauchelli Balin

    Dear Alida,

    Thanks for sharing this very interesting story and your recipe. I never knew that about how the Baba came to be, and how the name figured in the story. How wonderful, I always love to hear stories about how different foods get named. I also like the other website you have your recipe on. Looks delicious, my dad would be thrilled. He loves the Baba..Your website is so inviting, love to come here and look around. Have a blessed day…Dottie 🙂

  2. gloria

    Look amazing ALida!!!
    merry Christmas dear Alida!

  3. la cucina di Molly

    Non conoscevo la leggenda del babà, ma ti posso assicurare che questo dolce è fantastico! Tanti auguri di un felice e Santo Natale, a presto!

  4. Choclette

    Interesting story Alida, I knew nothing about the origins of rum baba. I must say your limencello baba sounds even better. Hope you’re enjoying Christmas and I wish you all the best for 2014.

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