"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Solar baked Christmas cake

Last Saturday was predicted to be sunny and warm, so I woke up all keen and eager to make my (belated) Solar Christmas Cakes in the solar oven.  The weather in Cape Town has not been conducive to solar oven use apart from the one hot sunny day we had a week or so ago.  A windy, cloudy and sometimes wet Spring is lingering, and summer is still hovering in the sidelines.

But, on Saturday morning everything went well - I even had all the necessary ingredients on hand LOL  I awoke to a blue sky, and ignoring the wind, for that doesn't affect the performance of the solar oven, I got down to making the cakes. I tripled the recipe...
... and I scored 6 more egg shells in which to plant seeds...
In order to use the empty egg shells as
seed trays, the trick is to open the egg
shells as close to the  pointed end as
possible - that will allow for more sand in
the empty egg shell :)
... and found a small patch of sunlight on our wooden deck where I could place my solar oven to preheat.  In winter this deck is in complete shade.
Check out that little patch of sky at the
back - it looks promising, doesn't it :)
The cakes merrily baked away - this is after 20 minutes.
But, I think I got excited too soon.  One-and-a-half hours into the baking the clouds rolled over!  I gave the cakes a prick test, and there was still wet dough in the centre.  Damn!  What am I going to do now?  Can I afford to waste all these ingredients, and start again on another day...?

Or, should I switch on my (electric) oven and complete the baking process in that?

I decided on the latter.  But, idiot me, I placed the cakes in the oven whilst it was warming up - I didn't want to lose any heat from the mixture during the oven heating stage.  And I clean forgot that the oven heats from the bottom element and the top grill element - guess it is a year-and-a-half since I last used my oven - I can forgive myself for making such a stupid mistake.  But the result was that the tops of the cakes were burnt - some worse than others.  I tried waiting for the cake to cool down and "slicing" off the worst of the burn - and again forgot that fruit cakes need maturation time in order to mature and firm up.  Crumble, crumble, crumble... :)

Drat!  And I wasted 3/4 - 1 hour of electricity trying to salvage my cakes.

So I had to toddle off to the shops early yesterday morning in order to purchase more ingredients so that I could make a new batch of Christmas cakes - I'm also baking one for NGirl to take home with her, for RSon and for our two staff members as well.
I scored another six eggs shells - plus RMans
shell from his breakfast :)  From RMans shell
you can easily see how close to the top I break
the shell
I had a clear blue sky - and the photo below shows the cakes in their final hour of baking.  It was 26oC outside and 160 - 170oC in the oven.  Perfect:)

The other cakes won't be wasted though.  We don't normally make (or eat) Christmas pudding, but there is nothing to stop me from using one from the 1st disastrous batch in a fruit cake trifle :)

Here are the cakes as they continue their baking without their lids...

And here are the finished products :)
Now I'm happy.

And I am even more (if possible) convinced that my solar oven is the only way to cook!
Moist, heavenly smelling and perfectly baked :)
And serious solar cooking is once again on the menu in Cape Town - YAY!

Now, the rest of my Christmas preparations will have to wait until we get to the farm...


Elephant's Eye said...

I'll pass the green hat on to you. A solar oven is too green for my comfort zone. The second lot looks perfect!

tami said...

The cake looks amazing...Recipe please?

Dani said...

Diana - Thanks :) Btw, the "green" comfort zone you talk about is actually far easier than the grid path you are following. You don't have to watch a solar oven LOL

Tami - Thanks :) The recipe is here http://ecofootprintsa.blogspot.com/p/solar-oven-recipes.html ;)

farmer said...

That cake looks fantastic!
I'm in awe at your commitment,inspiring.

Dani said...

farmer - Thank you and Welcome :)

Jane said...

The cakes look good! Isnt that the way it goes. At least you finally got them baked and a whole batch to snack on:)

Mrs. Mac said...

Your cakes look amazing. We live in a very low solar zone .. but I'm sure the solar oven would work during our summer months. I even bet the fruitcake trifle will taste delicious!! If I could re-design my kitchen, I'd have a wood cook stove inside .. and a summer kitchen on a porch.

Dani said...

JAne - It smells and feels even better than it looks :)

Snacking - I am trying to rid myself of the spare tyre I developed this winter - snacking won't help me there LOL

Mrs Mac - I cannot advocate solar oven enough - they are absolutely brilliant.

On the farm my Dover stove is my winter wood burning cooking apparatus, and, in summer, it's mainly my solar oven, with a barbecue thrown in now and then for good measure and RMan's pleasure :)

Linda said...

Those cakes looks beautiful. And I love your perseverance!

Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

Oh no! At least you were able to salvage it in the end. I fascinated with the idea of a solar oven but with our weather this would seriously happen to me every time! lol

Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

I'M fascinated...jeez ;)

Dani said...

Linda - I had to persevere LOL My electric oven has been mothballed.

Tanya - Using the solar oven is an absolute pleasure - easy-peasy LOL All you need is sunlight.

Deb said...

Hi Lovely,
Your cakes look delish. Ive only managed to use our solar oven twice as we have been having such a wet spring. It officially summer now but so far not enough sun. Hopefully soon. :)

Dani said...

Deb - Thank you. Yes, we are also having a weird spring / early summer. I can't use my solar oven as much as I'd like to - yet :)