Has anyone ever told you that you can’t bake a cake if you do not have an oven? They lied. Improvisation is the name of the game and today we bake a cake using simple river sand as an oven.

River Sand

Step one, collect some sand. For me it was easy to send someone to get some from the river because I’m in the village and near a river. You could borrow some from a nearby mjengo contractor or you may have some left over from previous construction. You only need about one large tin about 2kg.

Preheat oven

Pre-heat oven. And by this I mean light a jiko, put the sand into a large sufuria and heat it up. The sufuria should be large enough to accommodate another small sufuria which we shall call the baking tin.

Cake Ingredients

As the ‘oven’ pre-heats, take out your cake ingredients and start mixing up. I’m using easy bake cake mix because I’m not in my usual surroundings. I’m in the village and shopping is not as straight forward as popping into junction and buying all the fancy cake ingredients in one go. I was even lucky to get this one in the nearby town and it was the last on the shelves.

Prestige Vanilla

I also bought a tab of Prestige Margarine enhanced with vanilla flavour. Cakes are all about flavour and vanilla has been used for ages to flavour them. Other than for baking, I’m loving it as a spread on bread too. The subtle vanilla taste is a good addition.

2 tablespoon prestige

The instructions on the box of the cake mix ask for 85g margarine. That is for the small packet. That is about 2 tablespoons. Mix that in and work it with your fingers till the margarine completely mixes in and leaves no lumps.

Add milk and eggs

For this measure of cake mix, you’ll need 2 eggs and 85ml milk. Add those into the well mixed cake mix and margarine and mix into a smooth paste.

Batter in baking tin

Apply a thin coating of margarine on the inside of the baking tin we spoke of earlier. In my case a small sufuria. Then pour the smoothly mixed cake batter. Your oven has been pre-heating and your cake mix is now ready. It’s time to bake!


Place the small sufuria with the cake mix into the larger one with sand, cover and leave to bake for 45 minutes. It is obviously not easy to regulate jiko fire but do not have it too hot. Keep a close eye on the progress of the baking so you judge when to remove a bit of charcoal or when to close the jiko door to reduce heat. You may test with a fork at around 30 minutes.

Ready cake

45 or less minutes in and voila! Your cake is ready. Remove from the sufuria and onto a flat plate and decorate.

I used chocolate flavoured cake mix because that is what was available where I was shopping. However I’ll try this again in more accommodating circumstances because I’d like to get the full flavour of the vanilla in the Prestige Vanilla margarine. The chocolate flavoured mix sort of overpowered the vanilla and that is understandable. So next time I’ll do my cake mix from scratch and leave enough room for the vanilla in the margarine to shine.