Babà al rum is a small yeast- leavened cake bathed in rum and syrup. Such is the level of rum in this sweet treat, that it would probably ignite at the mere sight of a naked flame. In fact, it might be wiser to think of the babà as a cake flavoured shot, rather than rum infused cake.
Its distinctive mushroom shape (which, if not molded using tried and tested measurements can look quite phallic) is supposedly shaped as such to mirror a typical church in Constantinople.
You'll find these sweet treats on street-food stalls across Spaccanapoli, on most dolce menus, and in all pasticcerias. Occasionally they will fill them with whipped cream or custard. You might, albeit rarely, find them stuffed with dried fruit, though these interpretations are best avoided. A sneaky sultana is an unwelcome addition to most good deserts.
Despite being one of Naples most iconic specialties, the babà's origins are noble and have nothing to do with Naples. Legend has it that they were invented accidentally in the Court of Lorraine, when the King of Poland, Stanislao Lescinski, tired of a substandard piece of brioche and decided to dip it in Marsala liqueur. A few year later, a pastry chef who had worked at the Court, opened a patisserie in Paris, where the new desert played a starring role. It wasn't until the 18th Century when it became fashionable to employ french chefs in the Kingdom of Naples, that the Baba al rum became a staple.
A noble and nomadic Neapolitan specialty.