Contrary to what one might think, the origins and history of the baba are anything but Neapolitan.
Yes, the bitter truth is that the famous dessert has Polish origins! In fact, the inventor of the baba seems to have been Stanislao Leszczyński, king of Poland.
The king who loved sweets and being toothless, found traditional European sweets too dry. From this need, the idea of a soft dessert soaked in rum was born.
According to another more folkloristic version, the king, a man of bad temper, used to throw what was not to his liking against walls and furniture: the lucky baba would have crashed into a bottle of rum, ending up soaked in liquor. The king tasted it and found it delicious.
The origin of the original name, babka, is also debated: according to some, the king called that delicious sweet Alì Babà, in honor of the protagonist of the book The Thousand and One Nights, who was very fond of reading. Another version, perhaps more plausible, refers to the shape of the skirts that the elderly noblewomen of the court used at that time (babka in Polish)..
The recipe for rum baba in the typical modern mushroom shape dates back to 1835. It is due to a descendant of the famous pastry chef Nicolas Stohrer, who came to Paris with Maria Leszczyńska, daughter of the Polish king. Once arrived in Paris, the baba is further modified with a new shape. From Paris he then arrived in Naples thanks to the monsù, the cooks of the noble families who represented the encounter between French and Neapolitan cuisine. In a short time the Babà, in its mushroom shape, became the most consumed dessert for a stroll in Naples.
Classic soaked in rum, revisited soaked in limoncello and, for the sweet tooth, covered with cream or filled with the inevitable custard every Sunday, it is truly a characteristic and picturesque dessert, perhaps the most loved in Italy.