Pandan Chiffon Cake - 1st Attempt

One of my favorite cakes from Singapore is Bengawan Solo's Pandan Chiffon Cake. Its light, fluffy, airy texture makes it easy to consume the entire cake in one sitting and they're not small by any means! No, it's not at all like angel food cake. That to me is like a cake version of cotton candy and you can feel the sugar when you eat it. Pandan Chiffon Cake is still cake-y but light. Like a sponge.

Pandan, or screwpine leaf, is a fragrant green leaf used to make a juice or an essence by boiling, used for cooking and baking. It has a light, sugary flavor that's distinct and all its own. Pandan is seen in tons of Singaporean and Malaysian dessert both for its flavor and color.

I've been dying to try my hand at making this cake but held back mostly because I don't know where to find screwpine leaves in town. I did find a teeny bottle of Pandan "aroma" which is a gel form of essence. Today I couldn't take it any longer and I found a recipe that didn't seem very intimidating, I gathered the ingredients (which luckily I had on hand) and went at it, screwpine leaves be damned.

Turns out, I don't exactly NEED them but I think the flavor would have been so much closer to the real thing if I did but it was a minimal loss and the cake still tastes great.

Pandan Chiffon Cake (Recipe adapted from Christine's Recipes)

Batter

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 20 gm caster sugar*
  • 100 gm cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100 ml coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp pure vanilla essence (Originally calls for 2 Tbsp of pandan juice)
  • 1 tsp pandan essence/paste
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil

Meringue

  • 5 egg whites
  • 60 gm caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

If you decide to make pandan juice

  • Tell me where you found the leaves
  • 10 pandan leaves, fresh or frozen
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp water

Preheat your oven to 338˚F. Prepare an ungreased 8" tube pan with a removable bottom.

For the batter:

Whisk egg yolks and add 20g caster sugar. Stir in coconut milk, pandan juice, and a few drops of pandan paste (if desired). Combine well.

In three parts, sift in the cake flour and baking powder, mixing well after each addition. When properly mixed, add in the olive oil. Set the bowl aside.

Meringue:

With your mixer on high, beat the egg whites till they start to get frothy. Add cream of tartar and mix well. Add the caster sugar in three parts, beating well between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure you get everything.

Whisk until it turns a glossy white and stiff peaks form.

Combining batter and meringue:

Use a spatula and, going in thirds, fold the meringue gently into batter. Add another third, fold, and add the last bit and fold till JUST combined.

Pour the mixture into the cake pan. Bake for 30 - 45 minutes till the cake is browned and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. If the cake starts to brown a lot halfway into the bake time, lower the heat to 300˚F and continue baking.

When the cake is done, remove from the oven and immediately flip the pan over. Let the cake cool completely before removing it from the pan.

NOTES:

Next time, I may place parchment paper at the bottom of the pan for easier removal. Maybe not, we'll see.

My cake didn't rise as much as I'd like it to and I still think it's not as fluffy as it's supposed to be but it tasted pretty close to the real thing. I'll be trying again another day. May have been a case of me over mixing or maybe my cake pan is too large. I'll just have to make another one and send it off with people when I do.

* In case you're wondering, caster sugar is superfine sugar but not confectioner's sugar. Confused yet? It's like confectioner's sugar but without the starch added. So it's pure sugar. I didn't have any but I used a coffee grinder (cleaned the heck out of it) and ground granulated sugar. Did the trick.

For how to make pandan juice see Christine's Recipes.