This light, airy classic proves that yeast isn't just for savory foods. It's the perfect base for whatever fruit might strike your fancy. We use bread flour here to create an airy cake that can stand up to a soak in sweet syrup.
Warm the water and cream in a medium saucepan over low heat until it is about 100 degrees F. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the liquid. Sprinkle the sugar over the top and let sit without stirring, until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Add the flour and mix with the paddle at medium speed to make a moist dough. Add the eggs, mixing until combined, 2 minutes. Increase speed to high and beat thoroughly for 2 minutes. Stop and scrape down the bowl; add the orange zest and salt. Gradually add the butter while mixing, then beat on high speed to make a stretchy, tacky batter, about 3 minutes.
Generously butter and flour an 8-inch ring mold. Scoop batter into the mold and smooth over the top with a spatula. Cover loosely with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray and set aside in a warm place until batter rises about 3/4 up the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
Bake the savarin until golden brown, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool savarin in the pan until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Flip onto a rack to cool.
Meanwhile make the syrup. Put the water and sugar in a medium sauce pan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds; add both vanilla seeds and pod to the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add wine and orange liqueur.
Place savarin in a lipped serving platter and pour the warm syrup over the top. Turn the savarin over a few times until fully saturated with syrup. Cover and refrigerate for an hour. Spoon the syrup over the cake a couple times while it chills to fully soak the cake.
When ready to serve if there is more than a pool of syrup on the platter, pour the excess into a bowl or pitcher and serve on the side. Spoon whipped cream into the middle of the savarin, and top with desired fruit. Serve.
Savarin and syrup can be made up to three days ahead. Soak savarin the day it is served. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to overnight, or freeze for 2 weeks. Defrost and bring to room temperature before soaking in the syrup
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