Making cakes and other sweets by steaming them was originally a necessity in many parts of Asia. These days, even though domestic ovens are more common, it’s become a preference. The technique ensures a very moist, tender result that baking can’t match. Steaming many individual cakes on a stovetop can be difficult to manage, though, so we’ve baked these banana cakes in a steam bath in the oven. Traditionally eaten plain, we’ve also added a caramel topping and creamy, coconut custard.






Skill level

Average: 3.7 (163 votes)


  • 200 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 200 g brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 350 g (about 3) mashed bananas
  • 200 g (1⅓ cups) self-raising flour
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda



  • 150 g brown sugar
  • 2 bananas, thickly sliced into 24


Coconut custard

  • 300 ml thickened cream
  • 300 ml coconut milk
  • 110 g (½ cup) caster sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


To make coconut custard, place cream and coconut milk in a saucepan over medium–high heat and bring to just below boiling point. Place caster sugar, egg yolks and vanilla in a bowl, whisking to combine. Slowly add cream mixture, whisking constantly, then pour into a clean saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Cool to room temperature, then cover surface with plastic wrap and chill until needed.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease 8 x 250 ml ovenproof moulds. To make topping, place brown sugar and 1 tbsp water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring to dissolve. Divide among prepared moulds, then arrange 3 banana slices in base of each. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in mashed bananas, then fold in flour and bicarbonate of soda. Divide batter among prepared moulds, then cover each with greased baking paper and a pleated sheet of foil, securing with kitchen string. Place moulds in a deep baking dish and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up sides of moulds. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in centre comes out clean. Turn out and serve with coconut custard.


Photography Chris Chen