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Pandan Chiffon Cake has a light and airy texture reminiscent to Angel food cake, which gets its unique flavour from pandan extract and coconut milk. Known as Kueh Pandan in Singapore, it holds a rich history that can be traced back to the fusion of Dutch cake-making techniques with locally grown pandan leaves and coconut.
How to eat Pandan Chiffon Cake
Traditionally served undecorated, it has been a cherished morning or afternoon tea snack. However, for special occasions, a touch of fresh cream and fruit adds an extra layer of indulgence.
This beloved cake is enjoyed year-round in Southeast Asia, particularly during Chinese New Year. As someone who grew up in Singapore, I have fond memories of indulging in this fragrant and delicious treat from my favourite bakery, Bengawan Solo. The aroma, flavour and fluffy texture bring back great memories so naturally I was delighted when I found pandan leaves and essence easily here in Austria.
What is pandan?
Pandan is the extract derived from the long, green pandan leaves, Pandanus amaryllifolius, or Screwpine, grown locally in most Southeast Asian countries.
It’s known as the “Asian vanilla” and once bruised or pounded, it imparts a unique sweet flavour to cakes, desserts, savoury dishes and drinks. When combined with coconut, as is done in this recipe, it borders between vanilla, banana and almond in flavour. The flavour seems to differ between people’s taste buds but everyone would agree it is unique and delicious.
When added as an extract to cakes and desserts, it turns the batter into an attractive green colour. Whereas in savoury dishes, the pandan leaf is tied in a knot and added to flavour rice or curries without colouring the dish.
What is better, fresh extract or store-bought pandan essence?
If you can easily purchase fresh or frozen pandan leaves, making the extract involves blitzing the leaves with water in a blender, then passing it through a lined sieve and allowing it to settle in a glass jar for 24 hours to separate the concentrated extract from the pandan juice.
Store-bought pandan essence is convenient to use, but it tends to contain additives, colouring and is usually synthetic (ie chemically produced). Use it sparingly as the colouring can be on the intense side compared to the freshly made pandan extract.
Here you can see the colour difference between the two pandan flavourings. The first photo of the decorated cake used a few drops of store-bought essence, while the second photo of the undecorated cake used only freshly made extract. Although the shades of green differed, the flavours were the same. Children tend to love the brighter, more vibrant green.
What pan should be used to bake Pandan Chiffon Cake?
The classic pan used is a springform tube pan that has small feet at the base. The feet allow the cake to cool down while suspended after baking. It is important to not grease the tube pan as this delicate cake needs the surface to cling to during baking and cooling.
If you already have an Angel food cake tin, this is suitable to use instead of a tube pan with feet. When cooling down in this tin, make sure to have the tin suspended over a wire mesh or rack.
Ingredients needed to make Pandan Chiffon Cake
Did you know that the Dutch are crazy about Pandan chiffon cake? It gained popularity in the Netherlands due to its historical link to Indonesia.
Gluten-Free Pandan Chiffon Cake
Fresh Pandan Extract (optional)
- 50 g fresh pandan leaves
- 100 ml water
Pandan Chiffon Cake
- 5 eggs, separated, at room temperature
- 140 g fine white sugar
- 90 ml neutral oil e.g. vegetable or sunflower
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 90 ml coconut milk
- ½ tsp store-bought pandan essence if not using fresh pandan extract
- 1-2 drops green food dye optional, only add if you like your cake extra green in colour or if your extract is too light.
- 75 g store-bought or homemade gluten-free self-raising flour
- ¾ tsp cream of tartar
- 150 ml fresh cream
- 5 strawberries, cut in half
- 1 kiwi, peeled and sliced thinly
- 10 blueberries
- 7 whole mint leaves
- Fresh pandan leaves, tied in a knot optional
FRESH PANDAN EXTRACT (OPTIONAL)
Preparing the fresh pandan extract
- Wash the leaves thoroughly under running water and pat the leaves dry with a tea towel.
- Remove any hard, white stems with scissors.
- Snip the leaves into small pieces, discarding any brown pieces.
- Weigh the leaves and add them to a food processor with the water.
Extracting the juice
- Blitz the leaves and water for 30 seconds, scraping down the sides. Continue blending until it appears semi-smooth.
- Transfer the pulp mixture to a sieve lined with a cheesecloth or clean tea towel while resting over a bowl.
- Using a spoon, press down on the pulp to release as much juice as possible.
- Followed by twisting the ends of the cheesecloth and squeezing by hand to release the remaining juice.
- Pour the pandan juice into a small jar and cover it. Place the jar in the fridge to settle for 24 hours without disturbing the jar.
Removing the extract the next day
- The pandan extract will settle and separate from the liquid at the bottom of the jar.
- To remove the extract, spoon the juice* out of the jar into a bowl and stop when you have reached the dark layer of extract. There will be a very thin layer but as it is so concentrated, a teaspoon or two will flavour and colour the cake light to bright green.
- Any remaining extract and juice can be stored in the refrigerator for one week.
- TIP: The juice* is delicious when added together with coconut milk to Singaporean, Malaysian or Indonesian curries and rice. Chill or freeze if not used immediately.
PANDAN CHIFFON CAKE
Preparing the cake
- Separate the eggs using three bowls. One to hold the egg whites, the second one to hold the egg yolks and the third one to separate the eggs one at a time to prevent any accidental egg yolk from dripping into the egg white.
- In a stand mixer or medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar, oil and vanilla extract for 5 mins until light and creamy.
- In a small bowl, whisk the coconut milk and pandan extract or essence together.
- Add the coconut milk to the egg yolks, beating well.
- Using a balloon whisk, mix the flour into the egg yolk mixture in two batches. Set aside.
- Whisk the egg whites in a large glass or ceramic bowl until frothy and add the cream of tartar.
- Continue whisking until stiff peaks form.
- Gently whisk the egg whites in several batches in the egg yolk mixture, using the balloon whisk.
- Transfer the cake batter to an ungreased tube pan. The cake will rise and climb up the ungreased sides of the pan.
- Drag a skewer or small spatula throughout the mixture to release any bubbles and tap the pan on the countertop several times.
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/335°F.
- Bake on the second lowest shelf for 50-55 mins or until the cake feels springy to the touch.
- Remove from the oven and immediately flip it over a wire rack.
- Leave it to cool down in this position. The cake will slowly leave the sides of the pan while cooling down.
- Once completely cooled down, run a knife or spatula around the pan's outer sides, inner sides and top part to release the cake onto a serving platter.
- Whip the cream until firm peaks form.
- Slice the fruit and set aside on a small plate.
- Spread the cream only on the top part of the cake.
- Decorate the cream-topped cake with the pre-cut fruit and mint.
- Serve immediately or store in the fridge until serving time.
- Using a serrated knife, slice gently and slowly. When serving with cream and fruit, the cake may be top-heavy when sliced, therefore I recommend placing the cake on its side to prevent it from toppling over.
- Undecorated cake keeps at room temperature in a plastic container for 2 days.
- Best eaten on the same day if decorated and any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for the rest of the day.
- Undecorated slices are suitable to freeze providing they are wrapped well in plastic and stored in a freezer-safe container.