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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
- 100g AP flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 100g breadcrumbs
- 75g sugar
- 75g butter
- 1 egg
- 7 Tbsp cold milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 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…