Monday, 12 March 2012

Treacle Sponges

Recipe Number One Hundred & Seventy:  Page 346.

I am beginning to wonder if I am the only person who has never made a steamed pudding. It seems that most fellow bakers have already been there, done that, got the T-shirt! It seems to be considered a simple if not easy pudding to make. So why does just the mere thought fill me with terror?! Making the sponges doesn't worry me but the steaming part most certainly does. I've thought about making steamed puddings before. However, as soon as I've read about placing pleated foil over the pudding basin and constructing a makeshift handle out of string, I've turned the page and moved on to another and less faffy recipe! This time, though, I couldn’t turn the page; these treacle sponges had to be made. I would have to learn to embrace the foil and string!

I'd had to buy four pudding basins for this recipe. I could only purchase three ceramic basins in the correct size; the fourth had to be plastic with an accompanying lid. It was going to be interesting to see how they compared. First of all I simply needed to mix a large quantity of golden syrup with a little lemon juice. My first mistake was to spoon the lemony syrup straight into a basin without greasing it first. I soon realised the error of my ways, hurriedly greased the remaining three basins and carried on!

As predicted, the making of the actual sponges was very straightforward. At the end of a day it is just an all in one sponge. I grated the zest from the lemon into a mixing bowl and then measured in the butter and sugar in equal quantities. I cracked in a couple of eggs and lost a substantial amount of shell into the mixture. Code Red!! I think I managed to locate and extract all of the shell but, if not, it was only us going to be eating it!! Lastly I tipped in the flour and baking powder and that was it. Mary says to mix for two minutes or until well blended. Two minutes seems an awfully long time to whisk but, as usual, it really did take that long. I suspect Mary must have someone timing her with a stop watch whilst she tests her recipes! I carefully spooned the smooth mixture on top of the lemony syrup. I watched in horror as the sponge mixture rapidly sank into the gooey syrup! I told myself that this was meant to happen!

Next came the dreaded part of covering the basins. Although it did take a while to place a pleated layer of greaseproof paper AND foil over each basin (apart from the plastic one), it wasn't as fiddly as I had feared. The word string is not mentioned, so I didn't have to worry about that – hooray! Unfortunately, I do not own a steamer or a giant saucepan. I could only comfortably fit one basin in my largest saucepan. I tried not to panic. I ended up using my deep frying pan and a separate saucepan! I boiled as much water as the kettle would hold and then poured it around the basins until it came half way up the sides.

I followed the tip of repeatedly topping up the boiling water, but it wasn't until half way through the cooking time that I realised my error. Mary suggests placing the basins on top of an upturned saucer to keep them off the bottom of the pan. Uh – oh! I suspected that burnt sponges might lie ahead! The cooking time of forty five minutes seemed to last an eternity. I didn't dare leave the room in case of an explosion. There were lots of strange noises and, on one of my regular checks, I noticed a sizeable piece of greaseproof paper had broken free and was performing a merry dance in the bubbling water! One difficulty was knowing if and when the sponges were cooked. It isn't the same as peering through an oven door.

After the suggested cooking time, the pudding in the plastic container was nowhere near cooked. However, the three puddings in the ceramic basins were almost there. Checking on these little sponges proved to be a dangerous business when a drop of boiling water leapt from the pan and viciously scolded my cheek – ouch!

Finally the three puddings in the ceramic basins were thoroughly cooked; I gave up on the plastic container. The sponge in it was still raw after over an hour! I tipped the puddings out onto three plates, one for each of us. Funny how Isaac's turned out to be the biggest! The treacle sponges don't look maddeningly exciting when served up on a plate. They don't show the time that has gone into making them, not to mention the element of fear!

The sponges were light and beautifully moist. Mary suggests serving with more warmed syrup but I preferred mine without. I found the syrup a bit much, but Neil loved it and added even more! Isaac's went down a treat. However, I thought his portion was a bit on the generous side, so he had half and saved the rest for the following day.

Next time I come across a recipe for a steamed pudding I won't be in such a hurry to turn the page. They aren't as scary as I had perceived. However, I think it might be easier to cook it in one big basin. That means only one thing to worry about rather than four!
Isaac did well getting the best one!


  1. Mmmmm...treacle sponge must be everyone's favourite! Looks great!

  2. I have always been daunted by the prospect of steamed pudding too; yours really do look wonderful though, and I very pleased to hear that Issac enjoyed his sticky treat :) xx

  3. well done you. Perfect little pudds for your first time. You'll be trying different flavours all the time now you've got your little basins. Hope you dolloped some custard on top as well xxx Dor

  4. They look great :-) reminds me typical home cooking and perfect for after a Sunday lunch. xx

  5. Ahh thank you Laura :-)

    steamed pudding are daunting at first but not so bad in reality! Isaac enjoyed his helping!! xx

    That's very kind of you Dor - thank you. I'll have to try out different flavours and ideas. I'm sure it could get quite addictive. Got to have custard! xxx

    Thank you Miss Cakeaholic. Yes, perfect for after a Sunday lunc :-) xx