Mum’s cookbook: Pandan chiffon cake

Pandan cake
Pandan cake: Green on the inside, brown and caramelized on the outside

Making pandan chiffon cake is an art in itself. My mum uses the same recipe, same mould and same ingredients for the past 20 years, but every time the results would vary wildly. Baking it is almost like playing Russian roulette, sometimes it would rise gloriously to the occasion but at other times, it will end with my mum wailing about the failed product.

But this chiffon cake remains a favorite amongst most of my family members because it is light, fluffy and most importantly, the smell is absolutely divine, thanks to the pandan leaves, which also gives it its unique color.

Pandan is a bush-like plant typically found in Southeast Asia that spots a bright green color and a distinctive smell that is believed to help deter pests like cockroaches. The plant is widely used in local cooking to help enhance the taste of the food, though never directly consumed.

In this post, I am sharing my mum’s trustworthy recipe she has been using throughout all these years. You will need a chiffon cake mould for this. Despite the simplicity of ingredients, pandan cake is tricky to make because it is so light inside that makes the cake structure delicate and difficult to stand tall.

When mixing, try to retain as much air in the cake batter as possible, particularly when folding the mixture in. So without adieu, here is the recipe:

Chiffon Pandan cake
160g fine sugar
8 egg white
8 egg yolk
85g plain flour
60ml oil
240ml fresh or packet coconut milk
6 stalks of pandan leaves
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp cream of tartar

1. Separate egg yolks from egg white.
2. Add some water (about 10g) to the pandan leaves and blend them finely.
3. Squeeze mixture till juice is extracted. You want to extract a nice green color and flavoring to create pandan water.
4. Mix the flour, half portion of sugar, baking powder, oil, coconut milk, pandan water and egg yolks together. Stir them well.

That's my camera-shy mum hand mixing the batter
That’s my camera-shy mum hand mixing the batter

5. Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and remaining sugar together until it is stiff and smooth as seen in picture below. Do not overbeat because batter will turn watery.

Beat till stiff and fluffy6. Mix both parts together and pour into chiffon cake mould.
7. Bake at 180 degree Celsius for 45 mins to an hour till top caramelizes.
(NOTE: Overbaking at this stage will cause the cake to sink like a submarine. Underbake it and the cake will not rise. A good estimate will be to gently press the cake and if it springs back, it’s good)
8. Flip cake over to lean on the funnel or on a stand once removing from the oven.
(NOTE: Do not attempt to take it out from the mould because this cake is too delicate to stand when hot. Flipping it over will prevent the cake from sinking back into the mould.)
9. Once cooled, run a knife around the sides of the cake to loosen it from the mould.

pandan cake slice
If you cannot find fresh pandan leaves, try buying bottled pandan essence from your nearest Asian supermarket. If pandan leaves and essence are both not available, substitute it with other ingredients such as cocoa and orange.

This cake is best eaten within a day or two before it comes too dry.

Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments box below and I will sure try my best to answer them!

“Mum’s Cookbook” is an ongoing effort by me to record down the recipes of mouthwatering dishes that my mother makes in bid to record down a part of my heritage and some interesting kitchen larder tales. For other fantastic recipes from my “Mum’s Cookbook” project, CLICK HERE.

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