In last year’s Cookbook Challenge, I tried to make a pandan cake and failed spectacularly! It looked embarrassingly bad! That put me off trying to make it again, even though I had a lot of helpful readers give me links to recipes for pandan cakes that worked for them.
One night when I hosted a dinner at my house, Thanh brought over his famous alien green frosted pandan cake. It was so deliciously moorish, I couldn’t stop at just one piece. I decided I would try making pandan cake again using his recipe since it has been proven to work and I had tasted the results.
Thanh’s cake tasted great, but it was denser than the pandan chiffon cake I remember from my childhood. His recipe also called for only 100ml of coconut milk, but a small can of coconut milk is 165ml and I didn’t want to waste the rest of the can. I read a few other different pandan chiffon cake recipes online and decided to change some bits of Thanh’s recipe to the version below.
There are some challenges in making the perfect pandan cake. Firstly you have to beat the egg whites to really stiff peaks, but without taking it too far. Next you also have to beat the egg yolks and sugar long enough to produce a pale mixture. Lastly, you have to make sure you don’t put the cake in the oven too long, or you’ll dry it out and it won’t have the lovely light, moist texture. It is essential to use an ungreased ring tin, often called a sponge cake tin or angel cake tin.
I brought a pandan cake to work for a communal lunch and I think the green colour might have scared off some of the Australians who had never seen it before! I had to make a sign saying it was a pandan coconut chiffon cake and after that the cake disappeared in the blink of an eye! I kept getting questions of “What is PAN-DAN?” (as opposed to the proper pronunciation of “pun-dun”). I said it is a leaf that is used in Asian cooking, but later I realised I should have called it Asian vanilla!
Pandan Chiffon Cake
6 egg whites
125g caster sugar
6 egg yolks
80g caster sugar, extra
½ tsp vanilla essence
165ml coconut milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 ½ tsp pandan essence
120g plain flour (or 120g self raising flour and leave out the baking powder)
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1. Preheat oven to 160C (140C fan forced).
2. Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites for about 1 minute until foamy, then gradually add the caster sugar while whisking. Whisk until stiff peaks form (can take 5 minutes or more). If you turn the bowl over, the whites should not drop out. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl and using an electric mixer, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy, and tripled in size. This should take more than 5 minutes too.
4. While the eggs are whisking, in a separate small bowl, mix together the coconut milk, oil and pandan essence. Add it to the egg yolk mixture slowly while whisking at a low speed.
5. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt to the now green egg yolk mixture and fold gently to combine.
6. Add one third of the egg whites to the green mixture and fold to loosen up the batter. You do not need to be too gentle at this stage.
7. Add the remaining egg whites and fold extra gently as not to deflate the batter.
8. Pour the batter into an ungreased ring tin. Give the batter a few sharp blows by banging it on the table, which will help the air bubbles get to the top. Using a spoon, gently smooth the top of the batter.
9. Bake for 50 minutes or until set. If the top browns too quickly, put some aluminium foil over the top.
10. Once out of the oven, immediately invert the cake while still in the tin onto a wire rack and cool completely in the tin. It is best to use a sharp serrated knife to cut the cake as it will be very soft.
Results: This recipe produces perhaps one of the softest, fluffiest cakes you will ever taste! Someone described it as eating a cloud, or a marshmallow cake, but with better texture. It grows quite high when cooking but sinks a bit upon cooling, but I think cooling the cake in the tin upside down definitely helps keep its fluffiness.
Would I make it again? Yes, I have already made it multiple times. I would like to further tweak the recipe and see how different proportions of ingredients change the taste and texture, but this recipe is pretty good as it is now.
Over & Out, April xx