Saturday, 21 June 2008

Steamed Sponge Cake with Fruit

I'm a little embarrassed to say that I still had 2 duck eggs from my trip to Stone Meadow Farm in my fridge... when was that again!? Still, they were fine, having been super-fresh when I got them. I used them, along with one extra-large chicken egg, and called it equivalent to 4 eggs. I had read that duck eggs were suberb for baking, and I really saw that here. They beat up so stiff and so sturdy, that they were strong enough to be taken as a cake batter all by themselves.

This is an adaptation of a traditional Chinese (Hong Kong) dim sum. Normally, it's just a plain steamed sponge cake, sweet and eggy. I've always liked it, but I thought it could do with some fruit to give it some tartness and zip. It worked very well. However, I would note that it would normally be cooked in a bamboo steamer lined with paper, and I think that would be better. My glass dishes worked fine, but the cake got a tad soggy around the edges. A bamboo steamer would keep it a little drier, I think.

I used rhubarb - definitely zippy - in one of my two cakes, and frozen raspberries in the other. The raspberry one was a little moist, although tasty. I wouldn't use more than a cup of them. This is something you could make all year round, using frozen fruit.

8 to 12 servings
30 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Steamed Sponge Cake with Fruit
4 extra- large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange or vanilla extract
1 cup pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 1/2 cups fruit pieces

Set up your steamer - a large pot with two racks in it. If using 2 bamboo steamers, line them with buttered parchment paper. Alternately, use 2 4-cup glass baking dishes, lightly buttered. Add water to come up to the bottom rack, or about 6 cups, whichever is less.

Beat the eggs with an electric mixer until they are pale yellow and foamy, and form ribbons when you lift the beaters. Slowly beat in the sugar, a little at a time. Expect this process to take at least 5 minutes. Beat in the flavouring extract.

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt, and sift them into the eggs. Fold them gently but thoroughly into the egg mixture with a spatula, keeping it as light and fluffy as possible.

Turn the heat on under the steamer to bring the water to a boil.

Divide the batter between the 2 prepared steaming dishes. Sprinkle the fruit over the top, and don't press it in, if using berries such as raspberries, blueberries or strawberries. For fruit in pieces, such as rhubarb, apples, peaches, etc, stick them into the batter in a fairly upright way. They won't likely stay that way, but try.

Steam the cakes for 20 minutes. Check after 15 minutes; you may need to add a little more boiling water to the steamer. Test the cakes with a toothpick; if it comes out clean, they are done, otherwise give them another 5 minutes steaming. Cool on a rack and serve at room temperature.

Last year at this time: Pasta with Mushrooms, Bacon & Onion, and Strawberries in Mint Syrup.

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