Everybody knows the baba: a round cake with a risen dough, made with raisins and a rum syrup. This recipe comes from Poland. So... is it a French dessert? Yes, because this cake was created by the greedy king of Poland and duke of Lorraine Stanislas Leszczynski!
Stanislas popularized this cake in Lorraine. A damn greedy one, Stan! We were in the 18th century, in Lunéville castle, near Nancy. Stanislas was old, he went blind and had a toothache... he was so fond of food, especially desserts!
What a heart-breaking... forced to eat soup, soup and soup! But, one day, he finally soaked a kugelhopf in a glass of wine, in order to chew it. Eureka! What a nice idea!
This new dessert needed a name... the legend says Stan was fond of the book "The Arabian Nights", especially Ali Baba's story... and he named the baba after his favourite hero... Oh, it’s a little far-fetched, isn’t it?
Actually, here’s a better explanation: the babka is a Polish dish, a cake made with eggs, milk, cream, sugar and crushed almonds. The baking tin is pretty narrow and very high, but above all, dough is adding on the top, and sometimes collapses.
A dough that gives to the cake a look of an old bend woman... so they called it babka, "old woman" or "grandmother" in Polish!
Anyway, our cake became very popular in Lunéville castle's court. In the beginning of the 19th century, rum replaced the wine and the baba from Lorraine arrived in Paris thanks to pastrycook Stohrer, from Lunéville. He opened his shop rue Montorgueil... The shop still exists and it’s the oldest patisserie in Paris!
Another greedy one, writer Alexandre Dumas, talked about the baba in his Grand dictionnaire de cuisine. But not only him: we also have the famous French cook Antonin Carême, who said in his Pâtissier royal parisien, chapter 10: "The baba is a Polish dish created by Stanislas Leczinski, king of Poland, great duke of Lorraine, a very greedy prince at the end of his day."
Carême told us how to make baba and gave us the recipe: "You need a fine flour, yeast, salt, sugar, Corinthian raisins, Muscat grapes, candied citrons, saffron, cream, a glass of Madeira wine, eggs, butter. The true colour of the baba must be red. But it's very difficult to get it, because the saffron, with its yellow colour, dulls the baba tint, and sugar and Spanish wine add too much red colour, sometimes..."