From Benita Bendon Campbell, this photo of a savarin she made recently:

From NOAD2 on savarin (which it has only lowercased):

a light ring-shaped cake made with yeast and soaked in liqueur-flavored syrup.

ORIGIN named after Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755–1826), French gastronome.

The wider semantic domain is that of moistened cake. The history, social and linguistic, is complex, however.

From Wikipedia, which starts with baba au rhum and works its way through Polish and French royalty (or at least their cooks):

A rum baba or baba au rhum is a small yeast cake saturated in hard liquor, usually rum, and sometimes filled with whipped cream or pastry cream. It is most typically made in individual servings (about a two-inch-tall, slightly tapered cylinder) but sometimes can be made in larger forms similar to those used for Bundt cakes.

The batter for baba is even richer than brioche batter, and includes eggs, milk and butter.

The original form of the baba was similar to the babka, a tall, cylindrical yeast cake (babka is still cooked in Poland and in Polish communities over the world). The name means “old woman” or “grandmother” in the Slavic languages; babka is a diminutive of baba.

The modern baba au rhum (rum baba), with dried fruit and soaking in rum, was invented in the rue Montorgueil in Paris, France, in 1835 or before. Today, the word “baba” in France and almost everywhere else outside eastern Europe usually refers specifically to the rum baba.

The original baba was introduced into France in the 18th century via Alsace and Lorraine. This is attributed to Stanisław Leszczyński, the exiled king of Poland. The Larousse Gastronomique has reported that Stanislas had the idea of soaking a dried Gugelhupf (a cake roughly similar to the baba and common in Alsace-Lorraine when he arrived there) or a baba with alcoholic spirit. Another version is that when Stanislas brought back a baba from one of his voyages it had dried up. Nicolas Stohrer, one of his pâtissiers (or possibly just apprentice pâtissiers at the time), solved the problem by addition of adding Malaga wine, saffron, dried and fresh raisin and crême pâtissière. The writer Courchamps stated in 1839 that the descendants of Stanislas served the baba with a saucière containing sweet Malaga wine mixed with one sixth of Tanaisie liqueur.

Stohrer followed Stanislas’s daughter Marie Leszczyńska to Versailles as her pâtissier in 1725 when she married King Louis XV, and founded his pâtisserie in Paris in 1730. One of his descendants allegedly had the idea of using rum in 1835. While he is believed to have done so on the fresh cakes (right out of the mold), it is a common practice today to let the baba dry a little so that it soaks up better. Later, the recipe was refined by mixing the rum with aromatized sugar syrup.

In 1844, the Julien Brothers, Parisian pâtissiers, invented the “Savarin” [capitalized, presumably to give explicit honor to Brillat-Savarin], which is strongly inspired by the baba au rhum but is soaked with a different alcoholic mixture and uses a circular (ring) cake mold instead of the simple round (cylindrical) form. The ring form is nowadays often associated with the baba au rhum as well, and the name “Savarin” is also sometimes given to the rum-soaked circular cake.

The baba was later brought to Naples by French cooks and became a popular Neapolitan specialty under the name babà or babbà.

The pastry has appeared on restaurant menus in the United States since 1899, if not earlier.

Not all babas and savarins are alcoholic, however. The savarin above is moistened but not alcoholic. Bonnie writes:

I used a simple syrup – added pure vanilla and a quarter cup of maple syrup. The glaze is based on strawberry jelly.

Simple syrup alone would be too bland, so the vanilla and maple syrup were inspired additions

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