This is a color story. ...which is basically how I experienced the Amalfi Coast. It's a land of blues and greens, providing the perfect backdrop for the citrus groves that dot its hillsides.
Baba cake is a yeasted cake that's typically soaked to the core in rum (aka: rum baba), but being the heart of limoncello production, the stores in Sorrento all soak their baba cakes in the bright yellow lemon liqueur instead. As an homage to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, I tried to pack as much lemon as I possibly could into my baba cake for a triple lemon baba: a dash of lemon zest in the cake batter, a piling of sweet candied lemons on top, and all of it drizzled with a limoncello and lemon syrupy glaze. I also swapped in semolina flour for regular flour in the recipe because I wanted to have a bit more texture and bite to the finished cake--since it's soaked in a good drenching of syrup, I was concerned with having an overly moist cake with soppy texture on my hands (in Sorrento, you see stores selling jars of baba cakes floating in limoncello, but for me, soggy cake is just a no). The result was a dense yet spongy cake, very yeasty, and very lemony. Despite all of the sugar syrup you pour on this
Places pictured (top to bottom): Sorrento, Capri, Positano
Read on for recipe....
cake recipe loosely adapted from the New York Times
makes one 8-inch ring mold*
1/3 cup whole milk, warmed
2 1/2 tspn active dry yeast
35 gr all-purpose flour
6 Tbspn butter, at room temperature
2 Tbspn (25 gr) sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
210 gr semolina flour
zest of 1 large lemon
1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast into the warmed milk.
2. Add the all-purpose flour and mix gently.
3. Cover the bowl and set aside in a warm place. Let rise for 20 minutes until spongy.
4. Grease and flour an 8-inch ring mold.
5. In a mixer bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 – 3 minutes.
6. Add the sugar and beat well.
7. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
8. Whisk in the yeast sponge.
9. Add the semolina flour and lemon zest and beat until well-combined and thick.
10. Pour the doughlike batter into the prepared ring mold. Cover and let rise for 40 minutes to 1 hour.
11. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
12. Bake the cake for 30 – 40 minutes, until the sides begin to pull away from the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out cleanly. Remove from oven and set on a wire rack. Cool briefly before unmolding.
13. Prick the top of the cake several times with a fork or skewer.
14. Glaze the entire cake with syrup and top with candied lemons (recipes below). Let sit overnight before serving as the cake will continue to soak up the glaze.
for candied lemon slices:
6-8 small to medium-sized lemons
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups (150 gr) sugar
1. Combine the water and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil over medium heat.
2. Meanwhile, slice the lemons into 1/8-inch thick pieces, removing as many seeds as possible.
3. Add the lemons to the boiling sugar water, reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the lemon rinds are translucent and fork-tender. Do not overcook.
4. Strain the lemon slices and reserve the cooking liquid for glaze.
1/2 cup candied lemon liquid
1/2 cup limoncello
1 cup (200 gr) sugar
1. Combine the reserved cooking liquid from the candied lemons, limoncello, and sugar in a small saucepan.
2. Heat and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Use while warm to glaze the cake.
*Note: Don't go and buy a ring mold if you don't have one--I managed to fashion my own that worked, in my opinion, even better than the real thing by using an 8-inch cake ring and a 3-inch cake ring, with a lined, non-stick baking sheet underneath. Plus, cake rings are multi-purpose and make for easy removal of the cake!