Pandan cake is probably my favourite ‘cake’ growing up in Singapore. As a kid, I loved my cakes airy and fluffy. It really wasn’t until I came to Montreal was I able to savour the more traditional idea of cake in the form of cute patisseries (which are too overpriced and cloyingly-sweet in Singapore anyway). When I returned to Singapore in 2012, I was rather underweight and that perhaps amplified my sweet tooth to an umpteenth degree so much that cakes and all sweet breads took on an addictive quality. I fell deeply in love with my aunt’s moist and sweetly aromatic pandan chiffon cake, a recipe she has kindly written down for me to share with you!
For those unfamiliar with South East Asian spices, pandan is very commonly used in desserts, or even curries and in rice (cooked together with coconut milk or chicken stock). Cooked in curries or rice, these leaves are tied into a knot to release their flavour. It’s very hard to describe the taste of pandan. It recalls for me earthy textures and childhood memories of humid evenings heavy with the swirl of different smells emitting from the nearby hawker centres. It is a taste that I find irresistible and comforting, and I can’t quite think of a taste that comes close to it.
We found pandan leaves in the local Vietnamese grocer (look for La Dua). If you cannot find fresh or frozen pandan leaves, look for pandan essence at your local Chinese supermarket. Substitute the pandan juice for 2-3 drops of pandan dissolved in 50g of water. Although this recipe calls for 7 pandan leaves, you can tie the remaining pandan into a knot and cook it with coconut milk to make coconut rice or put them into curries. You can even put them into crepes as my husband does. Really, anything goes.
Pandan chiffon cake
- 130g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 5 eggs, separate (70 g each)
- 50g pandan juice from 7 pandan leaves
- 90g coconut milk
- 160g caster sugar(30g to add to flour mixture and 130g to add to egg whites)
- 85g corn oil/sunflower oil
- Preheat oven at 180C.
- Cut 7 pandan leaves with scissors and add some water to blend in a blender. Squeeze the pandan juice out of the blended leaves and filter the solution. Add water if necessary to make 50g pandan juice.
- Sift plain flour, baking powder and salt together.
- Add egg yolks, pandan juice, coconut milk, sugar and oil to the flour mixture and whisk manually to get a smooth mixture.
- Set aside.
- Whisk whites in a mixer till foamy. Add the caster sugar and whisk till soft peak is formed.
- Scoop some whites and fold in the flour mixture. Then pour the flour mixture onto the rest of the beaten whites. Mix till well blended.
- Pour mixture into a 10 inch tube pan.
- Bake for about 50 min.
- Invert the pan once it is out of the oven.