Naples’ emblematic Babá al rum actually comes from Poland

Babá al rum, iconic treat of Naples, arum-soaked dessert made of yeasted dough. Babá in Naples is like the cannolo in Sicily or the seadas in Sardinia: memorable, divine and unmissable. Locals love its friable consistency and its splendid alcoholic perfume. I love it, too for me it is one of the ten best Italian sweets, so I got quite a shock when I have found out that it was actually born in the cold North, in  Poland. In Poland??????


The great grandfather of the babá was originally called babka ponczowa and was born in the court of king Stanislao Lesczynksi in the eighteenth century. Once, the traditional Polish dessert the kugelhupf was about to be served for the monarchs, but Stanislao knew that his wife could not stand it anymore and found it too dry to eat. Hence, he poured the content of the closest bottle on the kugelhupf. This happened to be a bottle of rum and the new sweet was ready. He called it Ali babá sinc ehe was keen on reading the tales of One thousand and one nights.

Afterwards, history wanted that the Polish sovereign had to flee from Poland to France and took the babá and its recipe with himself. Parisian pastry chefs perfectioned it further, this is when it obtained its typical mushroom-like form that was supposed to recall the form of the dome of the Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul. Then French confectioners serving at Neapolitan noble families brought it to Campania and it has become the most symbolic dessert near the Vesuvius. Today there are endless variations for a good babá, you can have it with limoncello instead of rum or fill it  with confectioner’s cream or chantilly. A real attack against any diet. But it is a piece of heaven on Earth.

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