Daring Bakers April 2010: Steamed Pudding

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

Golden, pretty and rhubarby!
Golden, pretty and rhubarby!

I wasn’t terribly excited about this challenge at first, and didn’t bother with the whole suet thing, choosing instead to substitute butter (of course). But once I got the idea to use rhubarb, just about the only local-ish source of pastry inspiration that’s in season at the moment, I started to get a little more interested in it. And in spite of the tempting steamed rhubarb pie concept, I decided to go with a much easier sponge pudding.

I love the girly pinkishness of rhubarb.
I love the girly pinkishness of rhubarb.

At first I wasn’t really sure how I’d rig up a steamer system, but I ended up just using one Pyrex container inside of another, with my oven on a low temperature. This worked beautifully and I ended up with a very moist, sponge-like cakey thing, studded with crags of lovely pink rhubarb.

No roses actually came into play in this recipe...they just looked pretty.
No roses actually came into play in this recipe...they just looked pretty.

It reminded me of tea parties and little girls’ birthday parties, so I fancied it up with some dried rosebuds for pictures. But the recipe itself I kept simple, only adding a bit of vanilla extract to flavor it.

I didn’t have regular breadcrumbs, only Panko, so I crushed it in a plastic bag and it worked just fine, even though I couldn’t get it crushed uniformly.

How lovely.
How lovely.

Since I was making a spongy pudding, I decided to use my second rhubarb stalk to make a nice sauce to pour over the cake. I just cut it up into small pieces and tossed them with a few tablespoons of sugar, then added just enough water to cover and brought to a boil, then simmered on low until the rhubarb disintegrated into the sauce.

I love the golden edge.
I love the golden edge.

I wanted to play up the bright tartness of rhubarb in the sauce so I added a couple pinches of crushed dried hibiscus to the rhubarb before cooking. They added even more vibrant pink flavor and chewy little bursts of acidic sourness.

Nice and warm and moist.
Nice and warm and moist.

With both the cake and the sauce served warmed through, I found the entire thing to be both springy and comforting. Not too sweet; a very simple, humble little cake. I’m really glad I participated this month.

So craggy and perfectly spongy.
So craggy and perfectly spongy.

This cake would be just as lovely with nothing added in the batter, as a base for any kind of cooked fruit. Any berry would be amazing slightly stewed and poured over a thick slice of this sponge, as would stewed stone fruits or really anything juicy and summery.


Rhubarb Pudding

  1. 100g AP flour
  2. 1/4 tsp salt
  3. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  4. 100g breadcrumbs
  5. 75g sugar
  6. 75g butter
  7. 1 egg
  8. 7 Tbsp cold milk
  9. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  10. 1 medium rhubarb stalk, chopped into small pieces, tossed with enough sugar to coat

Generously butter a 4 quart Pyrex dish and place inside a larger, more shallow Pyrex dish. Preheat the oven to 250F.

Sift together the first three ingredients. Add the breadcrumbs, sugar and butter and beat to a thick paste. Add the egg, milk and vanilla and beat to a soft batter, then gently mix in the rhubarb. Turn out into the buttered dish and cover it tightly with aluminum foil. Boil some water and pour it into the larger dish, around the smaller one, being careful not to splash any water into the batter. Steam in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until the top edges are golden but not browned. Cool for a few minutes before inverting onto a plate. Serve warm (this reheats in the microwave beautifully).

I’m really glad I participated in this challenge. I had been wanting to experiment with steamed cakes after eating cloudlike eggy cupcakes from a bakery (steamery?) in Chinatown and noting that some of the desserts at work are steamed to make things extra moist. Stay tuned for more steamy adventures…


  1. Steamed cakes are big in Japan too – they’re called mushi-pan and I loved them as a kid – so pretty with rhubabrb though we never had that in back in the day ;P I did a more trad sticky date pud for DB but it was cold and rainy here in Austria yesterday so just as well…

  2. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this since you mentioned on twitter that you had used rhubarb. I love rhubarb in cakes, particularly when combined with vanilla, and am intrigued by the combination of hibiscus. I might have to look into that further – thanks for the inspiration!

  3. I’m so jealous of everyone’s beautiful pinky rhubarb desserts! Yours looks so delish!

    This may sound funny, but I’m making the recipe from the DB you hosted last Christmas. I needed gingerbread for a structural recipe I’m working on. It feels a little weird to be making it this time of year.

    But thank you very much for the recipe (lol).

  4. Mm, I’m liking the sound of rhubarb in a sponge – the bite of the rhubarb must go brilliantly with the soft sponge. Really interesting with the hibiscus too. I’d love to try that.

    Your pudding looks lovely – really pretty!

  5. Oh, I’d pick butter over suet any day! Heck, can one even find suet that easily? Moreover, would one even want to have such a thing so easily accessible??! ;)

  6. Wow – that’s something. Job well done! I’ve never made a dessert like that in my life – I quite like it! Love your blog… Cheers! Petra :)

  7. Your style is so unique in comparison tto other folks I’ve read stuff from.
    Many thanks for posting when you hace the
    opportunity, Guess I will jusxt bookmark this blog.

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