Babas are delightfully airy French yeasted cakes that are drenched in boozy sugar syrup. This recipe takes the classic dessert into tropical territory with a sauce made from fresh pineapple and good aged dark rum and big dollops of whipped coconut cream to finish. Be sure to get your coconut cream in the freezer first thing. The colder it is, the easier it is to scoop out just the cream top, which will naturally firm up and separate from the small amount of coconut water at the bottom of the can. The coconut water can dilute the cream, making it difficult to whip to the desired texture. —Christian Reynoso
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1 13.5-oz. can coconut cream (preferably Thai Kitchen or Let’s Do…Organic)
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
2tsp. active dry yeast
¼ cup (25 g) plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt, plus more
3 large eggs
2½ cups ½” pieces fresh pineapple
1½ cups aged dark rum
1 cup (packed; 200 g) light or dark brown sugar
Maraschino or other preserved cherries (for serving)
Place a medium bowl in freezer. Open can of coconut cream and chill in freezer until coconut cream is very cold but not frozen solid, about 30 minutes. (Alternatively, chill in the refrigerator overnight.)
Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°. Butter 8 cups of a standard 12-cup muffin pan. Combine yeast, ¼ cup (25 g) granulated sugar, and ¼ cup lukewarm water in a medium bowl and let sit until foamy, 5–10 minutes.
Whisk flour and ½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt in a large bowl. Add eggs to yeast mixture and whisk until incorporated, about 1 minute. Gradually stream into dry ingredients, mixing with a wooden spoon until a thick and sticky dough forms. Add 4 Tbsp. butter and mix until combined and dough is smooth and elastic. Spoon about ¼-cupful (about 70 g) dough into each cup of prepared pan. Using wet fingers, lightly smooth top of each scoop of dough. Loosely cover pan with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until dough is nearly doubled in size (it should almost reach the top of the pan), 30–60 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring pineapple, rum, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep sauce warm.
Remove plastic wrap from dough and bake babas until puffed and golden brown around the edges, 15–20 minutes. Transfer babas to a wire rack and let cool slightly.
Uncover sauce (reheat if needed; you want it to be warm). Working with 2 or 3 babas at a time, add to sauce and turn to coat on all sides. Transfer babas back to wire rack.
Take coconut cream out of the freezer. Carefully scoop just the cream into chilled bowl, leaving the watery liquid at the bottom of the can behind. Add remaining 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar and vigorously whisk coconut cream until no lumps remain and soft peaks form.
To serve, tear a baba in half and place on a small plate. Spoon more sauce over insides of cake (you want to really soak it), then top with a big dollop of whipped coconut cream. Garnish with cherries.
Do ahead: Babas can be baked 1 day ahead; store airtight at room temperature. Sauce can be made 3 days ahead; transfer to an airtight container and chill. Reheat before soaking babas. Coconut cream can be whipped 8 hours ahead; transfer to an airtight container and chill.
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