Gyp room Baking: The Basics

Rachel Rees Middleton 22 November 2016

Near the end of my first term, I remember having a conversation with a couple of friends about what had changed most about our eating since coming to Cambridge. Everyone else talked about all the new things they had tried since coming here, like hummus, halloumi, and guinea fowl. When my turn came, I said sniffily that I’d started eating shop-bought soup (rather than homemade) and I'd had much less cake than usual. I come from a family of keen bakers, and one of the things I miss most during term-time is the absence of regular fresh, warm biscuits and buns. But anyone can moan about this – how do we fix it?

I hear those in Murray Edwards have the joy of an oven in their accommodation. But the likelihood is that you’re stuck with just a microwave, toaster and hob at best – they’re gyp rooms, remember, not kitchens. So, there are two options: either you make a tray bake which you can set, or you try out the microwave.

First up: tray bakes. You probably know the drill for these. We’re talking millionaire’s shortbread, chocolate biscuit cake and rice krispie squares. If you lack a tray, there’s also a myriad of recipes on the internet for set biscuits (essentially, you roll them into balls and leave them on a plate to set in the fridge). I must confess using this method myself for much of last year: it mostly worked fine, but if I was storing something particularly garlicky in the fridge, the flavours did have a tendency to mingle, which was quite unpleasant. The tray bake is handy, but be on your guard.

Onto the microwave: microwave cakes have been doing the rounds on the internet over last few years, and although I’m not sure Mary and Paul would think much of them, they do the trick when you’re in the mood for something sweet, fatty and warm. Of those I’ve tried, I favour the chocolate pudding option. A chocolatey buttery sugary thing on high for ninety seconds makes for a rich yummy goo. Now that the weather is getting colder, I definitely recommend trying out the recipe below.

The microwave gives you another option too. If you’re lucky enough to have one of the newer ones, you may or may not be aware that they have combi-ovens. That’s right – an oven inside a microwave. But approach this with care. First of all, if you share one microwave between a lot of people, there’s a chance that some of them won’t be happy at you hogging it for a couple of hours. Don’t decide to bake around the time most people want dinner. Second, combi-ovens are notoriously fickle, and they often choose not to obey. My latest venture emerged from the oven soft, moist and well-risen. Within ten minutes it had become a little dry. After a couple of hours, it was too solid to cut through. You don’t need a combi-oven specific recipe – go with a regular one, but do be warned that combi-oven cakes seem to have more trouble rising and staying moist and fresh. I’ve discovered over time that loaf cakes are best.

Gyp room baking is tricky, and requires practice and careful monitoring to make it successful. But grab a couple of friends to experiment with you, and you’ll enjoy yourself regardless of how your bakes work out. 

Microwave chocolate pudding recipe

Makes 2 small puddings, although I find it’s more satisfying to double the mixture and split it between 3 mugs.


  • 4 tbsp dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 egg


1. Melt the dark chocolate and the butter in the microwave. Stir to mix together.

2. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar with the plain flour and a beaten egg.

3. Add the chocolate mix to this and stir to combine.

4. Divide the mixture between two mugs, put both in the microwave, and put them on high for a minute and a half.

You can make the recipe vegan by replacing butter with the same amount sunflower or coconut oil, and the egg with a ‘flax egg’ (1 ½ tbsp. ground flax seed with 3 tbsp water, left to stand for 15 minutes). Make it more melt-in-the-mouth (and gluten free) by replacing the flour with ground almonds.