Baking Without An Oven

In the West, we are used, these days, to having an oven in every home. The truth is that this situation is actually a fairly new one, only arising with the global availability of electricity. Indeed, prior to the 1940s, in the main only bakeries, farmhouses and large estates would have had ovens. Everyone else would have been cooking on open fires or basic ranges.

If you wanted to bake bread or cakes you either had to fry them (which is entirely possible and still done today) or you had to construct a basic oven with something like a Dutch oven, or you had to steam the dish. This is what's done today in many places in the world, most notably in Africa, where, if you want a cake then you need to steam it over a gas ring or on an open fire.

The same used to be true in Europe and America as well and, in Britain at least the recipes for these steamed desserts and cakes (basically steamed sponge cake mixes) still exist in many family recipe books. Indeed, the classic British Christmas pudding (plum pudding) is a steamed dessert.

This article, however, focuses on sponge cake mixes that can be steamed and which can be served as cake substitutes. The one thing to remember when steaming rather than baking is that the temperature you're using is much lower (100°C as opposed to 180°C to 210°C) so you need to double your cooking times.

Indeed, these recipes are so simple effective that they can be cooked over any fire and are great for wowing your friends whilst camping! No one will believe that you can turn-out a delicious cake over a simple camp-fire. The recipes have also been field-tested in the middle of nowhere in Africa and it always surprises people as to just how simple it is to create a basic cake anywhere.

Steamed Ginger and Citrus Cake

50g Ginger Pieces in Syrup
2 tbsp Ginger Syrup
330g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
finlely-grated zest of 1 orange
finely-grated zest of 2 limes
150g butter or margarine
150g brown sugar
segments of 1 orange
60g fresh fruit (for the filling)
pinch of salt
3 eggs

Sift together the salt and bicarbonate into a clean bowl then cube the butter and add to the mixture. Rub the butter into the flour mix with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Chop the ginger as finely as you can then add it to the crumbed flour mixture along with the citrus zest, sugar and ginger syrup. Mix thoroughly to combine the crack the eggs into the mixture. Beat the eggs lightly then stir into the mix to combine thoroughly.

Now grease your pudding bowl (it should be about 1.5l) and arrange the orange segments in a fan pattern on the base. Carefully spoon half the cake batter on top then scatter the fruit over the batter. Now add the remaining cake batter to the bowl.

Place either a lid or a sheet of waxed paper over the bowl then cover everything with a double layer of aluminium foil before placing the pudding basin on top of an upturned saucer in a large pan. Add boiling water so that it comes half way up the pudding basin and bring everything to a boil. Secure a tightly-fitting lid on top (if it's loose add a folded kitchen towel) and steam for 2 hours. Check the water level every half hour or and top-up as needed.

After two hours' cooking time carefully take the pudding basin out of the pan and turn off the heat. Set aside to cool a little then remove the foil wrapping and carefully invert the cake out onto a plate (you may need to shake everything up and down a few times if the cake is reluctant to emerge).

This dish can be served hot, but is best if allowed to cool before being stored in an air-tight tin over night and served with tea or coffee the following day as this allows the flavours a chance to develop properly.

I hope that this recipe has shown you just how easy it is to create a basic cake by steaming and that you are now ready to try a few more steamed cake recipes.

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About The Author, Gwydion
Dyfed Lloyd Evans is the creator of the Celtnet Free Recipes collection website where you can find many more Steamed Foods Recipes as well as hundreds of Cake and Baking Recipes.