Steamed Lemon Honey Cranberry Sponge Cake with Lemon and Ginger Syrup (Aspiring Bakers # 25)

Posted: November 24, 2012 in Aspiring Bakers, Cake, Dessert, Feel-Good, Leisure, Steamed Bread/ Bun, Sweet
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When I moved to Belgium in the autumn of 1995, one of the things I brought with me was a cookbook. I knew it was going to be of good use and I was right.  Look at the condition of the cookbook today.  Curled up corners and scribbles here and there inside the book 😀

By the way, I have tried the Kajang satay recipe and it was great!  The simple steps in making the Hainanese Chicken Rice turned out – always – perfect.  I have adapted the recipe by adding more aromatic herbs and spices over the years, but preserving the method.  The recipe is a definite keeper 😉

What I like about the Cookbook is the 5-part origins: Malay, Chinese, Indian, Nyonya and Eurasian. A perfect one-stop reference if you want to make a plate of Nasi Lemak one day and Braised Chicken in Ginger Wine, or Chicken Biryani or Bubur Cha Cha or Curry Kapitan the next day. I have leafed through the pages millions of times, and just last week, I was trying to look for a steamed cake recipe – and quite urgently, actually.  The plot thickens as you continue reading…

It was almost ZILCH on each origin, except for the Chinese chapter.  Only two steamed cake recipes 😦

Oh great! The idea was there, anyway, but I needed to pep up the dull looking steamed cake a bit more, hence, the quest continued.…

Chinese and Steaming

I have never steamed sweet cakes before (Steamed savoury cakes, yes); hence, I was pressed with a challenge that kept my adrenaline going.

What is it about Chinese and steaming? Which reminded me of a Chinese colleague, who relocated to Belgium in 2007 for a 3-year work contract.  During the years he was in Belgium, he rented an apartment somewhere in Brussels. His apartment was fully furnished.  His small kitchen was fully equipped with a glass-ceramic cooking stove, kitchen cabinets, pots, pans, utensils, dishwasher and oven.  Yes, oven!

My other colleagues liked to tease him.  From one conversation to another, we ended – one day – talking about cakes!  It all started when a Russian colleague brought to work a delicious homemade Poppy Seed Cake on her birthday. It was a delicious treat, without a doubt.  Okay, she baked the cake. She lived in an apartment somewhere in Brussels.  She had an oven.

And the Chinese colleague?  Well, his oven was immaculate and impeccably clean. He showed us some pictures of his apartment.

Russian colleague to Chinese colleague: “You have a nice oven, so when are you going to bake us a homemade cake?”

Chinese colleague: “Erm… I’ve never used my oven”

Russian colleague: “What? You rented a fully furnished apartment with a built-in kitchen, and you never used your oven? What if you want to eat something homemade – a home-baked cake, for instance?”

Chinese colleague: “In China, if we want to eat a cake, we go to a shop or a bakery or even a roadside hawker to buy that”

Belgian colleague: “Huh? Have you never baked a cake then?”

Chinese colleague: “Never.  In China, we do not eat a lot of cakes, and if we do, we eat steamed cakes, hence, an oven is not necessary.”

There you go!  Steamed cake is synonymous to Chinese, and the statement came directly from the mouth of a Chinese.  I did not make it up. 🙂

Oh by the way, yesterday, I steamed a cake – for the first time ever – in my 2-month old electric steamer!  I was amazed with the result and I would like to share with you my maiden experience in steaming a sponge cake. I was surprised how easy it was, and I recommend this to all busy Mums (like me ;-)) who are craving for something not too sweet, and yet light and ready in a jiffy.

I got the recipe from this book:  500 Chinese Recipes [paperback] – Jenni Fleetwood (Contributing Editor)/ page 242 with some adaptations.  I made some lemon and fresh ginger syrup to drizzle on top of the cake, as the cake on its own was quite dry. I was not at all disappointed with the result. My three guys were impressed. 😀

(Serves 8)
175 g / 1.5 cups plain flour (I used self-raising flour)
5 ml / 1 tsp baking powder (I used 1.25 tsp baking powder)
1.5 ml / ¼ tsp baking soda (I did not use this, but instead increased my count of baking powder)
3 large eggs
115 g / 2/3 cup soft light brown sugar (I used Cassonade Graeffe light brown sugar – sifted to remove lumps)
45 ml / 3 Tbsp walnut oil (I used corn oil)
30 ml / 2 Tbsp golden syrup (I used MELI runny honey)
5 ml / 1 tsp vanilla extract (I used Vahiné vanilla powder)
Zest of 1 lemon (this was not in the recipe)
¼ cup dried cranberries – roughly chopped (this was not in the recipe)
Syrup (own recipe) –
3 cm knob fresh ginger (crushed)
Lemon (zest and juice from one lemon)
Ground seeds from 5 cardamom pods
2/3 cup water
¾ cup unrefined raw cane sugar (organic)
1.5 tsp cornflour dissolved in 2 Tbsp water

Method –

1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Brush some vegetable oil inside the cake pan/ dish.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar until thick and frothy.  Beat in the corn oil and honey, and then set the mixture aside for about 30 minutes.

3. Add the sifted flour and baking powder to the egg mixture with the vanilla powder, and beat rapidly with an electric whisk to form a thick batter that is free from lumps.

4. Add the lemon zest and chopped dried cranberries and fold these in the batter.

5. Pour the batter into the greased cake pan/ dish. Set the timer on for 30 minutes. The cake is cooked when the sponge springs back when gently pressed with a finger. Leave to cool for a few minutes before serving.

6. Making the syrup: Place sugar, ground cardamom seeds and crushed ginger knob in a pan with 2/3 cup water. Heat gently until the sugar dissolved.  Add lemon zest and juice of one lemon.  Bring to boil and cook for 3 minutes. Mix 1.5 tsp cornflour with 2 Tbsp water and whisk into the syrup. Simmer for a few minutes until the syrup thickens slightly.  Done!


Why I made this steamed sponge cake

A blogger friend has invited me to participate in a contest two weeks ago. I have never entered in one before, let alone, a culinary contest.  I was not sure if I had the time or even, imagination to venture into this world of steaming hot cakes. Well, as you have read my post this far, I was wrong, because my imagination went wild and I had that one hour to spare 😉

Therefore, Miss B, I am submitting this entry to the Aspiring Bakers #25 – Steaming Hot Cakes (Nov 2012) which you are hosting this month.

Small Small Baker/Aspiring Baker


Related posts –


  1. Miss B says:

    Thank you so much for taking up the challenge! Actually this event is just a blog hop and not really a contest. 🙂

    Glad that you are not disappointed by the results of your steamed cake. It is a beautiful cake, very chinese indeed, what with the various chinese ingredients. I would love to try it!

    Is that a SEB steam cooker which you are using? I am also eyeing one, but wonder if it is big enough for my cake pan. Did u use a container which came along with the steamer to steam the cake? You know what happened to my cheapo bought-in-chinatown aluminium steamer, the bottom was so “corroded” that it hardly works on my new vitro-ceramic stove, and now I’m not using the bottom part, I’m just using the stacked compartments with holes, . which I stacked it on top of another stainless steel pot!

    Is your cake sweet enough? I also used cassonade graeffe for my pumpkin huat kuehs and I find that they are not too sweet. :p

  2. Miss B says:

    Don’t forget to submit your entry via inlinkz , and share with other bloggers =)

  3. Nasifriet says:

    Hi Miss B,
    Contest or no contest, this was a real contest to me! If you had not “push” me, I would not have ventured into steaming cakes and I would not know what I had missed 🙂 Now that I know I could steam cakes, that’s not going to be my first and last. It’s a much healthier version than baking (at least I want to think so…) Thanks for the challenge. Much appreciated 🙂 Actually my hubs and boys are no fans of steamed cakes. When I asked them how it was? “Quite nice, actually” , “Niet slecht”, “Valt mee”… As you can see, I’ve converted them. So, on the contrary, I am not at all disappointed.

    No, it’s not SEB steam cooker. It’s from ALDI !!! It’s a 3-tier steamer. So far so good. Problem is indeed the size. You will not be able to put in a baking tin or dish size bigger than the steamer compartment. Yes, indeed, I used the container which came along with the electric steamer.

    BTW, the cake was just nice, not too sweet, which I like. As steamed cakes always turned out quite dry when they’re cooled down, hence the syrup is highly recommended! 3 out of 3 (from my husband and 2 boys) responded that the steamed sponge cake WITH the lemon ginger syrup tasted much better than eating on its own. For an Asian (like me), with or without the syrup, the cake tastes great!! 😛

  4. Miss B says:

    Do you have an automatic rice cooker? Then you can try my rice cooker cakes, hehe…

  5. Nasifriet says:

    Yes, I do have an automatic rice cooker (17-yr old National). Not sure if the result will be the same…

  6. melharry says:

    Perhaps you can also make atiparek steam cake made from pruns and kismis….one of my fav.local malay cake. Che nang tu’keng angai misiek. Good luck on your entry.


    Oh ya belated birthday to my bro in law.

  7. Nasifriet says:

    Thanks, Da. If u have the recipe, lok angai akeu try out. Send that over. If it goes out on my blog, that means it’s a success. Actually, this is not a real contest contest, but more so, to get readers – family, friends, bloggers to hop from one blog to another :-). My first time submitting such entry. I’m glad I did ‘cos otherwise I’d not know how easy or difficult steaming cakes can be. LOL!

    M says “kam sia”… Meleu keman pizzas un. Debei masa bak misiek…

  8. Chris says:

    Happy New Year! The steam cake looks scrumptious! 😀

  9. Nasifriet says:

    Hi Chris.

    Happy New Year!!!! Sorry for my tardiness in replying. Have been soooooo busy at work of late. Still to hop over to your blog and leave my comments. Will do so. Promise 🙂

  10. […] I thought I could take a longer break from steaming more buns.  I had not the clue when I posted my last post Bakpao in Mini Cupcake Cases when Miss B from Everybody eats well in Flanders came ‘knocking’ at my blog wall and invited me to take up yet another challenge in the world of steaming hot buns!!  The last challenge I took up was here. […]

  11. […] Steamed Lemon Honey Cranberry Sponge Cake with Lemon and Ginger Syrup (Aspiring Bakers # 25) […]

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