In the land of the half-lion, half-fish mutant, there's the half-cake, half-kueh: pandan kaya quake.
kueh + cake = kuake = quake
Using kueh as an icing makes perfect sense when you live in the tropics. There's no need to worry about the icing melting even when there's a heat wave. El Niño? Bring it on! No aircon? No problem!
The cake part of pandan kaya cake is quite straightforward. It's a sponge cake made with the separated egg method. If you follow the recipe and you know how to whisk egg whites to firm peak stage, your cake will be fluffy, moist and fragrant.
If you don't know what the hell firm peak stage is and you need instructions on how to follow instructions, please refer to my posts, Cake FAQ and Cake Dos and Don'ts.
The kaya part of pandan kaya cake is made with pandan juice, as well as pandan paste to boost the colour. There's coconut milk as well, pandan's best friend. These two are real buddies, you know? (Of course you do.) The two combined would make (almost) anything sweet taste good.
Turning pandan leaves into pulp is easy when you use a food processor or blender instead of mortar and pestle. (You knew that, of course.)
How to squeeze the hell outta pulverized pandan leaves, so that you get every drop of juice possible?
The hard way: with your bare hands. The easy way: with a potato ricer. (You know Archimedes' Law of the Lever . . . don't you?)
Besides coconut milk and pandan juice, there's also butter in cake kaya. The fat is absolutely necessary. It hides the floury taste of hun kwee flour.
Unlike its cousin that's spread on bread, cake kaya is made without eggs. Bread kaya is set with eggs but cake kaya is set with hun kwee flour (a starch made from mung beans) and agar-agar powder.
Hun kwee flour is available at most supermarts if you live where I live. If you're in the western/southern hemisphere, try Asia grocery stores. In the US, Amazon.com can deliver a pack to your doorstep.
Pandan kaya cake may be assembled upside down. IOW, you start with a layer of kaya and finish with a layer of cake on top. After the kaya is set, the cake is flipped right way up.
I prefer to assemble my cake right way up, starting with a layer of cake and finishing with a layer of kaya.
If you do it my way, make sure the kaya isn't too thin when you pour it on the first cake layer. If it's watery, it'll seep underneath the cake. What's the right consistency? Kind of like thick but pourable cream.
Kaya that's too thick is also problematic. If it's not thin enough to flow smoothly, the layers formed won't be even. How do you stop the kaya from becoming too thick?
1) Measure the ingredients accurately. 2) Use a pot that retains heat well. 3) Don't overcook the kaya. 4) Have your cake layers and pan (or cake ring) ready before cooking the kaya.
If you look at the written recipe below, you'll find it's rather long. That's because describing the process in detail requires a lot of words. Well, 1,000 words = 1 picture, right? If you watch the video, the recipe doesn't look too daunting. In fact, if you enjoy baking, it looks exactly like the kind of thing you'd want to do this weekend.
Repeat after me: "Baking is fun, not work! Baking is fun, not work! Baking is . . . ." (I'm sure you knew that.)
Pandan Layer Cake
Singaporean pandan kaya cake has an identical twin in Malaysia called pandan layer cake. How to tell the twins apart? The kaya in the Malaysian cake is like agar-agar/jelly. The Singaporean version, OTOH, is like kueh.
To make pandan layer cake, use 3/4-1 tsp of agar-agar powder instead of 1/2 tsp. More agar-agar powder makes the kaya set quickly, so you must be quick when you're assembling the cake or the kaya layers won't be smooth.