KitchenTigress: Pandan Chiffon Cake (I)

Pandan Chiffon Cake (I)

I'm on the hunt for a good pandan chiffon recipe. I start by comparing recipes from Epicurative, The Best of Singapore Cooking, The Raffles Hotel Cookbook, and the four featured by ieat.

I put everything in Excel with the amount of flour in every recipe standardized to 100 g. All the other ingredients adjusted proportionately. (Yup, I'm a geek, and proud of it.) Here's the spreadsheet:

Once I'm comparing apples and apples, it's obvious The Best of Singapore Cooking has heap loads of everything, from coconut milk to oil, egg whites, egg yolks, and especially sugar and baking powder. Every . . . single . . . thing!

Hmm, doesn't seem right. BSC – out!

Epicurative and Raffles Hotel share practically the same oil-less ingredients, but the mixing methods are different. The latter whisks only the egg whites, and all of the sugar bar 10 g is added to unwhisked yolks. I don't like the method because whisked egg whites with only 10 g of sugar may be unstable, and unwhisked yolks doesn't have much volume.

Raffles Hotel – out!

I decide to try Epicurative's recipe, splitting the sugar between the whites and yolks, then whisking each lot separately. I bake the cake for 40 minutes, which is plenty for a 21-cm chiffon. The crust is brown, but the inside is still wet whilst the cooked part is dry. As the cake cools down, it shrinks badly since it isn't cooked through. There's probably too much coconut milk in the recipe. 

Epicurative – out!

So, I'm left with ieat's four recipes.

Hmm, Asianbakes seriously stinges on yolks, whites, sugar and oil. Out!

Anna Chan's is an oil-less recipe. My experience with Epicurative's oil-less chiffon hasn't been good. Out!

Of the remaining two, ieat recommends the one "with more egg whites" from Kiamniangwong. Actually, the recipe has less whites than Prima's, per 100 g of flour. But it has more in absolute number because it's for a bigger cake. See? A spreadsheet helps!

I take the doctor's order since he has clinically tested his prescription. My verdict? I'm very impressed by the cake's texture which is as soft as Bengawan Solo's. But the taste, using pandan essence/paste, leaves much to be desired, not to mention the hideous colour.

How to make pandan juice?

Epicurative soaks finely ground stones leaves in water overnight, strains, then lets the mixture settle, and finally skims off the excess water floating above the juice.

After trying her method, my verdict is: it takes way too long, and it's difficult getting rid of the excess water, so the juice is too diluted.

I decide to adapt Epicurative's method. Ground pandan is mixed with coconut milk instead of water. Bingo! The coconut milk turns from virginal white to Martian green. All I have to do is get rid of the fibrous pulp with a strainer.

Two hours later, I'm chomping on pandan cake that's full of the aroma of real pandan. It's light as air, soft as cotton, and green as a Martian – as good as Bengawan Solo's but baked by yours truly!

How to make pandan chiffon cake

Step-by-step guide

The gold standard for pandan chiffon cake is Bengawan Solo's version. This recipe is just as good if you use freshly squeezed coconut milk and pandan juice.

pandan chiffon cake
(For one 21cm cake)
  • 100 g pandan leaves – use only young, light green leaves
  • 70 g freshly squeezed coconut milk, undiluted

  • 180 g egg whites
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • 50 g sugar

  • 60 g egg yolks
  • 50 g sugar
  • 60 g vegetable oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 100 g cake flour, sift with baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
Related post: More tips for baking pandan chiffon cake.

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.

  2. Wash and roughly chop pandan leaves. Blend with coconut milk and 1 tbsp water. Strain, pressing leaves hard to yield 95 g. Set liquid aside. Discard pulp.

  3. Whisk egg whites with sugar and cream of tartar till just reaching stiff peaks. Set aside.

  4. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar till pale, thick and creamy (ribbon stage). Add green coconut milk, then vegetable oil, whisking till evenly mixed. Gradually add flour mixture, along with salt, again whisking till just evenly mixed. Add egg whites in 3 batches, whisking gently by hand in electric whisk's direction. Scrape down with spatula before mixing last batch of egg whites.

  5. Bang mixing bowl against worktop 2-3 times to remove air bubbles. Pour batter into 21 cm 2-piece chiffon tin that's not non-stick, slowly so that air bubbles still trapped in the batter are released. Run a chopstick round side of tin to remove more air bubbles. Level and smooth top.

  6. Bake cake in bottom of oven till risen and almost level with top of tin, about 15 minutes. Cake should now be very slightly brown and not cracked. Place baking tray in top of oven to block top heat. Continue baking till inserted skewer comes out clean, 20 minutes or so. Cake should now be slightly cracked. Remove tray from top of oven. Continue baking till top of cake is dry and medium-brown, another 5-10 minutes (7½ minutes for my oven).

  7. Remove cake from oven. Invert and leave till cool, an hour or so. Cut cake out of tin. Serve.