On Purim drinking spirits like liqueur and wine is a mitzva. One of my favorite
ways to enjoy such alcoholic beverages is to use them to moisten cakes,
especially light yeast cakes known as savarin.
My future brother-in-law,
Prachya Levy, first introduced me to these delicious cakes when I was new in
“You must taste sabrina,” he said, “it’s my favorite cake.” I was
used to homey American cakes and had never tasted a cake like it before. It was
rich yet lighttextured, glazed with jam, filled generously with whipped cream
and garnished with a candied cherry. And it was flavored with rum, which my
mother never put in cakes.
The sabrina was moistened liberally with
syrup, like Middle Eastern sweet pastries and unlike other cakes I knew. I found
a recipe in a book for professional bakers, Cakes, Desserts and Ice Creams (in
Hebrew) by Yitzhak Nikolai et al. Chef Nikolai flavored his dough with lemon
zest, and his syrup with lemon and orange zests as well as rum. After moistening
the ring-shaped cakes and glazing them with apricot jam, he added an additional
layer of lemon fondant icing.
He noted that in Israel sabrinas are
commonly prepared in basket-shaped molds, split in half like a sandwich and
filled with whipped cream.
Years later at cooking school in Paris I
realized that sabrina is part of a category of French cakes – babas and
savarins, all made from the same basic dough. In France ring-shaped cakes are
called savarins and individual bucket-shaped ones are known as babas.
chefs taught us how to make these tempting cakes. Their buttery batter is much
easier to make than other yeastleavened doughs because it does not require
kneading. You simply blend it in a food processor or beat it in a mixer or even
with a wooden spoon.
After you bake the dough, you moisten it with syrup.
If you’ve baked small cakes, you dunk them whole. To moisten larger ones, you
set the cake on a rack and ladle the syrup over it. Next you brush the cake with
heated jam or jelly and serve it with whipped cream.
Rum is traditional
but I also love fruity spirits. For my strawberry savarin, I spike the syrup
with clear raspberry brandy or clear cherry brandy called kirsch. I give my baba
cupcakes extra kick flavoring the dough with candied orange peel soaked in
orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier. For a chocolate variation, I flavor the
syrup with chocolate liqueur and serve the cake with chocolate whipped cream,
made by blending the cream with melted chocolate. Israeli cookbook author Carine
Goren makes coffee sabrinas by flavoring the syrup with coffee, coffee liqueur,
brown sugar, cinnamon and cocoa, and garnishing the cakes with coffee flavored
Unlike cinnamon rolls and other yeast cakes, which have a
slightly chewy, breadlike texture, savarins and their relatives are light,
moist, delicate cakes, perfect as an ending for a festive dinner. When serving
them, you can follow a tip I learned in France. At the table drizzle each cake
lightly with more spirits, a perfect finishing touch for Purim.SAVARIN
Makes 2 1/2 cups dough, enough for 12 to 18 servings, depending on size of
My favorite way to make this dough is in a food processor. To use a mixer
or make the dough by hand, see the Notes following the recipe. These cakes can
be baked in advance and, before being moistened with syrup, can be kept up to 3
days in an airtight container; or they can be frozen. After they have been
moistened, the cakes can be kept, covered one day in refrigerator.
would like to bake the dough in a different pan from those specified, butter the
pan well and use enough dough to fill the pan by one third to one half.
15 gr. fresh yeast, crumbled or 7 gr. dry yeast (about a Tbsp.)
✔ 1⁄4 cup warm
water (41º to 46º)
✔ 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. sugar
✔ 4 large eggs
✔ 2 cups
unbleached all-purpose flour
✔ 1 tsp. salt
✔ 7 Tbsp. (100 gr.) unsalted butter,
cut in small pieces, room temperature
Sprinkle yeast over water in small bowl,
add 1 tsp. sugar and let stand 10 minutes.
To make dough in a food
processor: Put yeast mixture, remaining tablespoon sugar and eggs in food
processor fitted with plastic dough blade or metal blade and process until
blended, about 5 seconds. Sift in flour and salt and process 30 seconds without
stopping machine. If dough is not entirely smooth, transfer to medium bowl and
slap dough a few times in bowl by hand.
Dough will be soft and very
Transfer dough to a lightly oiled medium bowl. Put butter pieces
side by side on top of dough. Cover with plastic wrap or with lightly dampened
towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1
Beat butter into dough, with cutting and folding motion of wooden
spoon. Follow individual recipes for shaping and baking.
• To make
dough in a mixer: Sift flour into mixer bowl. Add 2 eggs, salt and 1 Tbsp.
sugar. Mix with a dough hook or flat beater at low speed until a few Tbsp. of
flour are drawn into egg mixture. Add yeast mixture and remaining 2 eggs and mix
at low speed until dough is soft and smooth, about 10 minutes. Beat dough at
medium speed until very smooth and most of it comes away from sides of bowl and
wraps around hook, about 12 minutes. Mixer can also be used to beat
butter into dough.
• To make dough by hand: Sift flour into large bowl
and make a well in center. Add 2 eggs, salt and 1 tablespoon sugar to well and
mix them using wooden spoon, gradually drawing in 2 or 3 tablespoons
Add remaining 2 eggs and yeast mixture to well. Stir to a soft
dough. With cupped hand under dough, slap dough against bowl for about 1 minute
or until smooth.SYRUP FOR SAVARINS
Small cakes can be dipped directly in
the syrup and absorb it quickly. For large cakes, it is easier to ladle the
syrup over them. The syrup is heated because hot syrup penetrates the
cakes easily. The syrup can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated.
to 11⁄2 cups sugar
✔ 2 cups water
Heat sugar and water in heavy saucepan over
low heat, stirring gently until dissolved.
Bring to a boil over high
Remove from heat.STRAWBERRY SAVARIN
Makes 12 servings
sure to use fresh, fragrant berries to go with this festive cake. This cake is
moistened with neutral syrup, and then sprinkled with fruit brandy at serving
✔ Savarin Dough (see recipe above)
✔ Savarin Syrup (see recipe
✔ 3 cups strawberries, quartered lengthwise
✔ 1 to 2 Tbsp.sugar, to taste
✔ 1 Tbsp. plus 11⁄2 tsp. clear raspberry brandy or cherry brandy, or to taste
2 Tbsp. clear raspberry brandy (for sprinkling) Raspberry Brandy Whipped Cream:
✔ 1 cup heavy cream, well chilled
✔ 2 tsp. sugar
✔ 4 tsp. clear raspberry brandy
Transfer dough to mold. Using rubber spatula, smooth dough in mold to an even
layer. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm, draft-free place 25
minutes. Remove covering and continue letting rise to top of molds, about 15 to
30 more minutes.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 205ºC.
Bake about 23 minutes, or until dough comes away from sides of pan, top is
browned, and cake tester inserted into cake comes out clean. Unmold onto rack.
Prepare syrup. Reheat to a simmer before using and
remove from heat.
Put cake, with firm crust side down, on rack set above
deep tray. Very slowly and evenly ladle hot syrup over cake until it has
absorbed as much syrup as possible. Let stand about 2 minutes.
syrup that dripped onto tray to saucepan. Reheat to simmer. Moisten cake and
reheat syrup a few more times, until most of syrup is absorbed; do not overheat
syrup or it will caramelize. If sides of cake appear dry, gently brush syrup
over them. Drain cake 30 minutes on rack. Carefully transfer cake to a platter,
using 2 wide slotted metal spatulas.
Sprinkle berries with sugar and with
brandy and mix gently using a rubber spatula. Cover and refrigerate 15
To serve, spoon berries into center of ring.
serving, whip cream with sugar in chilled bowl with chilled beater until soft
peaks form. Add 4 teaspoons brandy and beat until stiff.
and whipped cream until ready to serve.
As close as possible to serving
time, slowly spoon 2 tablespoons raspberry brandy over cake, moving spoon over
surface of cake several times. Using pastry bag and medium star tip, pipe
flavored whipped cream around edge of fruit mixture and around base of
Serve remaining cream separately.ORANGE BABA CUPCAKES WITH
Makes 16 cupcakes.
The amount of Grand Marnier to sprinkle
on each of these cakes depends on your taste. If you like, split them and fill
them with whipped cream like sabrinas, or serve whipped cream
✔ 1⁄4 cup chopped candied orange peel, plus 16 diced pieces
✔ 2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
✔ Savarin Dough (see
✔ 2 tsp. grated orange zest
✔ Syrup for Savarins (see recipe
✔ 1 cup apricot preserves
✔ 2 Tbsp. water
✔ 8 to 11 Tbsp. Grand Marnier
✔ about 1⁄4 cup sliced almonds (for garnish)
In a small jar
combine chopped candied peel and 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, cover tightly and
shake. Let stand while making dough. After mixing butter into dough, drain
candied peel, reserving any Grand Marnier that was not absorbed. Stir candied
peel and grated peel into dough.
Generously butter 16 cupcake or muffin
pans or small fluted pans of about 1⁄2-cup volume. Spoon about 2 tablespoons
dough into each. Cover and let rise for 25 minutes. Uncover and let rise to top
of molds, about 15 to 30 more minutes.
Preheat oven to 205ºC. Bake for 12
to 15 minutes or until dough comes away from sides of pan, top is browned, and
cake tester inserted into cake comes out clean.
Prepare Syrup. Reheat to a simmer before using and remove from
heat. Set a cake rack above deep tray. Put one cake in hot syrup, with firmer
crust facing down, and leave a few seconds. Ladle syrup over cake several times
until it is moist throughout but not soggy; if left in syrup too long, it may
fall apart. Remove carefully with skimmer or slotted spoon and drain on rack,
with cake’s firm crust facing down. After moistening several cakes, reheat syrup
if it becomes cool.
Drain cakes for 30 minutes on rack.
preserves and water over low heat in medium saucepan, stirring, until completely
melted. Strain into another saucepan, pressing on pieces. Put cakes on rack,
flat side up. Sprinkle each slowly with 11⁄2 to 2 teaspoons Grand
Reheat preserves until just beginning to bubble. To Grand
Marnier reserved from candied peel, add enough Grand Marnier to obtain 1
tablespoon and stir into preserves.
Brush over cakes on all sides.
Garnish each by making a flower with 5 almond slices as petals and a center of
diced candied peel. ■ Faye Levy is the author of
Fresh from France: Dessert
Sensations and of Sefer Ha’ugot (the book of cakes), in Hebrew.