As ovens are not common in Indonesian kitchens, these steamed cupcakes are the answer and they are really fun to make. You’ll find them in most markets, piled up in an often lurid array of multicolours to tempt children on their way home from school. I prefer a subtler, two-tone approach of chocolate with a whisper of nutmeg and vanilla. Hot steam causes the cakes to whoosh up, unfurling like blooming flowers, creating wonderful stripes and striations as they do so. The texture inside is soft and pillowy, with only a gentle sweetness.
For this recipe you’ll need eight large baking cups, the sturdy paper kind that don’t need a supporting tin. Line them with tulip paper liners if you like. You’ll also need a large pan with a steamer that will fit the baking cups in a single layer with some space around each (cook in batches if need be).
Bring water to the boil in the base of the steam pan so it is hot when you are ready to cook.
Using a stand mixer or whisk, beat the eggs, sugar and salt until very pale and thick and the mixture leaves a ribbon-like trail if you lift the whisk. Fold in one third of the flour and the baking powder, then half the sparkling water. Add another third of the flour followed by the remaining sparkling water. Finish with the remaining flour. The batter should be a soft dropping consistency. Remove half to another bowl, folding nutmeg and vanilla into one and cocoa powder into the other.
Dollop the batter into the baking cups, layering brown upon white in six to eight haphazard layers. They should be filled to the top.
Bring the water back to the boil. Wrap the lid with a clean tea towel - this will stop water dripping onto the cakes and create a tight seal. Put the baking cups into the top of the steamer, lower over the water and clamp on the lid. Keep the water boiling and don’t open the lid to peek. Steam for 15 minutes, or until the cakes are risen and ‘bloomed’. They should feel springy to the touch of a finger. Set on a rack to cool.
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