Setting up a steamer
There’s no need for specialist equipment – just put an upturned plate in a large stock pot to act as a trivet. Before you start, make sure the pudding basin fits into the pan with about 5cm to spare when covered with the lid, then top up the water during cooking as needed.
Tied up with string
Making a pleat in the baking paper and foil creates room for the sponge to rise as it cooks, so you’ll end up with a fluffy sponge that isn’t packed down into the basin as it expands. A string handle helps you easily and safely remove the hot basin from the pan. Spend a few minutes on both of these steps to make sure the sponge is secure, which will make serving a lot easier.
Save the egg whites
You’ll have four egg whites left over from this recipe. Freeze them in an airtight container and save for future meringues, soufflés or Japanese-style fluffy pancakes.
Not only is sponge and custard one of the most nostalgic and comforting combinations, there’s something really calming about a slow-cooked sponge simmering away on the hob as the kitchen windows steam up. You could also cook this in a slow cooker for 6-8 hours on low.
Making your own custard can be incredibly satisfying, as it slowly thickens while you stir, similar to a risotto. Custard needs constant attention and therapeutic rotations with a spatula but it’s worth it to see the result when it finally coats the back of a spoon. Use a heavy-based pan and make sure to stir right into the bottom of the pan so the custard doesn’t catch.
Golden syrup and a hint of lemon are the perfect combination in this classic steamed sponge. But if you fancy mixing it up to suit the season, swap the syrup in the basin for lemon curd, jam, marmalade or ginger syrup. You can also add spices to the batter, such as cinnamon, ground ginger or cardamom. Try a few fresh bay leaves, a cinnamon stick or grating of nutmeg in the custard for a twist.
- Total time 2 hours 20 minutes
- Difficulty Easy
- golden syrup 100g, plus extra to serve
- lemon 1, zested, plus 1 tbsp of juice
- soft light brown sugar 125g
- unsalted butter 175g, softened, plus extra for the basin
- eggs 3
- vanilla extract 1 tsp
- self-raising flour 175g
- whole milk 2-3 tbsp
- egg yolks (we used Burford Browns to give the custard a golden colour) 4
- golden caster sugar 50g
- cornflour 4 tbsp
- whole milk 600ml
- vanilla pod 1, seeds scraped out
Generously butter a 1-litre pudding basin. Pour half of the golden syrup into the base, then stir in the lemon juice.
Beat the remaining golden syrup in a bowl with the sugar and butter using an electric whisk until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the lemon zest and vanilla extract. Add the flour and a pinch of salt, and fold in with a large wooden spoon or spatula until just combined. Add just enough of the milk so the batter falls reluctantly from the spoon.
Spoon the batter over the syrup in the basin. Put a piece of baking paper over a sheet of foil, then fold a 5cm pleat in the centre. Use this to cover the basin, with the baking paper underneath, then secure around the rim using a piece of kitchen string. Use a second piece of sting to create a handle so you can easily remove the basin from the pan later.
Use a tiered steamer or put an upturned heatproof plate in a large stock pot that will comfortably fit the basin (the plate will act as a trivet). Lower in the basin, then pour just- boiled water from the kettle into the pot so it comes halfway up the sides of the basin. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer over a low-medium heat for 1 hour 30 minutes, topping up with water if needed throughout cooking.
Check the middle of the pudding is cooked through by removing the foil and paper, and inserting a skewer – if it comes out clean or with just a few damp crumbs, it’s cooked. If there is any raw batter, continue cooking
the pudding for a further 30 minutes.
To make the custard, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a heatproof bowl until well combined. Pour the milk into a pan, add the vanilla seeds and pod, and warm over a low heat until steaming but not boiling. Whisking continuously with a balloon whisk, carefully pour the hot infused milk over the egg yolk mixture in a thin, steady stream. Once all the milk has been incorporated, strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and return
to the pan. Cook over a low heat, stirring continuously (make sure to touch the bottom of the pan to prevent the custard from catching) for 6-8 minutes or until thickened to your liking.
Invert the pudding onto a serving dish and drizzle with more golden syrup, if you like. Serve warm with a generous portion of custard.
- kcals 501
- fat 25.7g
- saturates 14.5g
- carbs 57.6g
- sugars 34.5g
- fibre 1g
- protein 9g
- salt 0.5g