Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


Baking cakes in a rice cooker

Hong Kong has many merits, but one thing it lacks is space. And that lack of space extends to one’s home and specifically, the kitchen. My kitchen is functional but small, very small and so rammed with equipment it’s a wonder I can actually cook. But the one thing I am missing, and I think I might have mentioned this before, is an oven. I admit, I probably wouldn’t use it enough to justify having one in the first place, but the absence of one makes me want one more. Sighhhh. So what are you supposed to do if you suddenly want to bake a cake, but have no oven? You turn to your rice-cooker, assuming you have one.


Peanut butter cake with Häagen-Dazs caramel biscuit ice-cream

Bake a cake in a RICE COOKER? What is this madness, I hear you cry! Stay with me guys, it’s the next best thing since sliced bread. (There’s a pun in there somewhere). I didn’t quite realise how useful the rice cooker (RC) could be until I began some research into using one for baking cakes. Several Buzzfeed articles and tonnes of links extolling the virtues of this humble appliance later, I decided ovens were annoying and my RC was the coolest thing on Earth. Experiments began in earnest- I even managed to roast a tiny chicken in my RC once(!). But cakes, ahhhh the sweet, sweet smell of cakes, that was my real triumph and it’s honestly very straightforward to do in the RC. But how do you know when the cake is ready- there’s no timer! This, my friend, is down to pure experimentation, taking slight liberties with timings that recipes recommend and popping the lid of the RC  every now and then to work out if the sponge is cooked through. If you have baked using an oven before, your baking know-how/ baking sixth sense will help you approximate how much time each particular cake needs- it all depends on the ratio of wet to dry ingredients.

The cakes produced using the RC are a combination of steamed and baked. The cake develops a lovely sort of baked exterior, whilst the inside is moist, light and fluffy. Ginger cake and Peanut Butter cake have become the firm favourites in the RC cake repertoire, but I’ve also quite liked a milo and peanut butter variation and a traditional banana cake. Will be trying a lemon cake soon, so watch this space! Recently I posted on Instagram a new cake I baked- coconut, Malteser spread and peanut butter, (yes, PB is a recurring theme, but it tastes so good in cakes). A few of you were asking for a recipe so I will post it below, together with my Ginger cake recipe, as that’s a real winner!

Some of you will wonder if I have a fancy rice cooker. I do not. It’s old now and I only know how to press ON/ KEEP WARM/ OFF. Lol. One press of the ON button is equal to approximately 20 minutes of cooking time. My cakes usually need 3- 4 cycles (around 60- 80 minutes) of cooking time, but you should use your judgement, sneak a peak and use a toothpick to test whether it’s done.


My humble Rice Cooker (excuse the terrible photo and lighting)

Ginger Cake


100g butter

100g muscovado sugar
100g golden syrup
1 large egg
150ml milk
150g plain flour
3tsp ground ginger
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1-2 tsp of grated fresh ginger (or however gingery you want it!)
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon
1) Melt butter, sugar and syrup in a pan over a gentle heat. Remove from the stove and cool mixture for 5- 10 minutes.
2) Stir egg and milk into the cooled mixture and sift in all the dry ingredients- flour, bicarb of soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ground and fresh ginger.
3) Mix thoroughly, ensuring there’s no lumps of flour floating around! The mixture will be quite runny.
4) Grease the rice cooker and then pour the mixture in.
This cake needs 60-80 mins in the RC- depends on how moist you want your cake!

Ginger cake with icing- this was a very slapdash icing!

Coconut, Malteser spread and Peanut Butter Cake
60g salted butter
120g sugar
1 large egg (beaten)
1 small can of coconut milk (160ml)
20ml milk
125g plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp Malteser spread (or equivalent chocolate spread- you can use Nutella!)
2 tbsp peanut butter
1) Melt all the wet ingredients together in a pan (same as for the Ginger cake).
2) Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.
3) Add the beaten egg and slowly sift the dry ingredients into the wet mixture.
4) Mix thoroughly and then pour into your greased rice cooker.
This cake needs 60 min, so approx 3 presses of the RC.

Coconut, Malteser and PB cake

And so there you go! Enjoy experimenting!

1 Comment

Too much cream? Nah..

Sorry guys for my blogging hiatus, have been recovering from a horrendous cough which was exacerbated by my refusal to stop eating BBQ’d  slabs of meat and all things fried.

However, during my “recovery”, my friend W threw an impromptu dinner party at the J residence in the aptly named “Party Room” on the top floor and I was able to chow down on W’s scrumptious 2 course dinner.

W is somewhat of a cooking master in our circle of friends and that evening she had decided to cook a delightful main course of pan-fried duck with sweet potato gratin dauphinois and green beans. Dessert was an amazing melting chocolate pudding, a recipe created by none other than the Queen of British cooking, Delia Smith.

W and I are cream obsessives and the sweet potato dauphinois recipe demands quite a lot of that- yum! It took 5 of us to peel and slice several pounds of sweet potato during which R managed to throw in an extra ingredient- a slice of her nail, which we never recovered in the pile. Lovely.

Traditional Gratin Dauphinois usually requires one to slice the potatoes very thinly, arrange layers of them in a gratin dish, seasoning with some crushed garlic and salt and pepper as you go, and then pouring a mixture of double cream and milk over the potatoes. Finally you season with a little nutmeg and add flecks of butter on top. You can also add extra cheese on top for an added richness.

For this sweet potato dauphinois recipe, you first need to slice the sweet potatoes and some onions thinly and add to a large pot. Then you soften them over a gentle heat and add crushed garlic, salt and pepper and the double cream and milk mixture. Once you are satisfied that the potatoes and onions are soft enough, add a few sprigs of rosemary and then transfer the mixture to a large gratin dish. Finally top with a layer of parmesan cheese and pop it into the oven at 150°C for 45mins- 1 hour.

W pan-fried the duck breasts and stuck them into the oven for a few minutes while she prepared the cherry sauce and the green beans. The resulting main course was a rich palette flavours- the sweet yet tart flavour of the cherries against the red meat of the duck and the cheesy creamy texture of the sweet potatoes- absolutely delicious!!

My favourite part of the evening had to be the preparation and consequent eating of the melting chocolate pud. Aahhh, there’s nothing like the smell of butter and chocolate melting together.

To make this wonderful Delia Smith recipe, here’s what you need:


7 oz (200g) dark chocolate broken into pieces (75% cocoa solids)

7oz (200g) butter, diced

4oz (110g) golden caster sugar

4 large eggs and 4 large egg yolks

1 ½ tsp of vanilla extract

2 ½oz (60g) of plain flour

To serve: A generous dollop of cream

1)      Place the broken-up chocolate pieces and the butter in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

2)      Keeping the heat at its lowest, allow the chocolate and butter to melt slowly; it should take 6-7 minutes. Then remove it from the heat and give it a good stir until smooth and glossy.

3)      While the chocolate is melting, place the sugar, whole eggs, yolks and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl, then whisk on a high speed until the mixture has doubled in volume. You should end up with a thick, mousse-like mixture.

4)      Now pour the melted chocolate mixture around the edge of the bowl and then sift the flour over the mixture. Using a large metal spoon, carefully but thoroughly fold everything together.

5)      Divide the mixture between the pudding basins (it should come to just below the top of each one) and line them up on a baking tray. If you like, the puddings can now be covered with cling-film and kept in the fridge or freezer until you need them. When you’re ready to bake the puddings, pre-heat the oven 200°C.

6)      Remove the cling-film and bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 14 minutes if they have been chilled first. If not, bake for 12 minutes only. The puddings should have risen and feel fairly firm to the touch, although the insides should still be melting.

7)      Leave to stand for 1 minute before sliding a palette knife around each pudding and turning out on to individual serving plates. If you’re cooking these puddings from frozen, give them about 15 minutes’ cooking time and allow them to stand for 2 minutes before turning out.

8)      Serve immediately with some chilled cream. As the puddings cool, the melted chocolate inside will continue to set, so they can be served cold instead as a fudge-centred chocolate cake with whipped cream.

When we ate the puddings, the centre was no longer melting but it was still absolutely gorgeous and chocolately. I’d defintely recommend everyone to try and bake this at home, I guarantee your family and friends will  love you for it! 🙂