Symbol of Naples’ patisserie, the babbà has very peculiar and, indeed, ancient origins! It reached Naples from Paris, city were the chefs of bourgeois families were usually sent to improve their culinary skills. But Parisians didn’t invent it because, according to the legend, this sweet, rum-filled little mushroom was born off an accident, caused by an angry King Stanislao Leszczynsk of Poland. Kept against his will in the Lorraine region of France one day, while conceiving and writing improbable political pamphlets and documents, he dropped – luckily, we may add – a bottle of his favorite tipple, rum, onto a cake called kugelhunpf.
Nicolas Stohrer, the chef who created its distinctive shape, was probably inspired by a polish cake called babka ponczowa, called baba in French and then transformed into babbà by Neapolitans.
In Paris again, the baba savarin, a baba filled with fresh fruit salad and glazed with apricot jam, was invented.
The secret of this delicious cake lies in its slow leavening, which results in a soft, spongy texture, perfect to absorb liquors: rum, limoncello, sugar syrups… Simple or filled with whipped cream and fruit, babbà remains one of Naples’ best known culinary expressions, even though its history leads us quite far from the city.