Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Triple lemon baba cake and the Amalfi Coast

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 baby baba, the tartness and sharpness of the lemons (don't use meyers) help to make it not too sweet at all. Serve with a dollop of (lemon-scented) whipped cream (makes lemon x 4!).

Places pictured (top to bottom): Sorrento, Capri, Positano

Read on for recipe....

Triple Lemon Baba Cake
cake recipe loosely adapted from the New York Times
makes one 8-inch ring mold*

for cake:
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.

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!



  1. What gorgeous photos! I dream of going to Italy one day, and a stop on the Amalfi Coast is definitely on the list of things to do. 
    I love rum baba, limoncello baba sounds amazing!

  2. Such a gorgeous looking cake! LOVE citrus and this is perfect!

  3. Hermosas fotos.....y rico cake!!

  4. Such a stunning post! ... The colors! Simply breathtaking. I spent a day in Capri a few years ago and have always wanted to go back and visit Sorrento and the rest of the Amalfi Coast. I've been a bit of a limoncello addict ever since, and this baba looks absolutely divine. 

  5. These photos are stunning...makes me want to go there so bad! And I love the colors you used as a backdrop to the lemon cake, complimenting the place you were. Beautiful post.

  6. Love the colors. I made something similat the other week using a mix of lemons and oranges.  Would love to have your professional opinion :)

  7. Stephanie, do you know that your are just pure awesomeness!! totally amazing; you are inspiration; you are the best; this morning I came to your blog to print a recipe of passion fruit -tapioca tart, and found photos of my dream location; I love you and Desserts for Breakfast with all my heart!

  8. All I can say is: wow.  Your pictures are so incredible.  They make me want to go back to Italy, immediately.  I love the one of the vista with the soccer pitch.  I also love the tower on the water's edge.  Simply amazing.

  9. i don't know if prefer places o cake........

  10. this is beyond gorgeous. not even fair!! haha, well i'm dying to get over to the amalfi coast. sigh. 

  11. What gorgeous photos of the coast and cake! Its that your newly painted backdrop in the cake photos? I love that colour!

  12. This cake looks just delicious and so fresh. I love your pictures of the Amalfi Coast as well. When I visited, my pictures didn't turn out quite as well!

  13. I love the images of Amalfi you conjure up and as for those photos? Beautiful. The lemon yellow against the azure blue is simply stunning.

  14. Stunning pictures, just makes me miss Italy and the limoncello there!

  15. You have such a beautiful blog! I 'm inlove with baba, and this one I think it's a great recipe! 

  16. I love your photos, and am every time surprised when I get your mail. When are you going to publish you own book??? My opinion is that it is high time!

    Keep up the good work!


  17. I just love travel posts.  This one was a true sensual treat!  Thank you.  Happy you had a wonderful trip.

  18. OMG Stephanie, I know I rarely leave you comments, but having met you in SF was a dream to me. Your photos always leave me inspired, the style and colour is simple AMAZING!! I only wish I get to go back to Italy now and take as many lovely shots in the near future. Btw, care to give me some photography lessons when I come again to SF? You take care now and have an awesome time. Love meyer lemons and and limoncello. Definitely a winner in my eyes. Take care now.. Huggsss, Jo

  19. A beautiful looking cake and those photos of The Amalfi coast are to die for.....

  20. gorgeous photos & the cake sounds awesome 

  21. such amazing and inspiring photos (and the cake looks fabulous too!)

  22. Gorgeous photos! What. A. Trip. 


I love hearing from you and reading your comments! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog. Happy feasting!