An iconic sweet cake in South East Asia, pandan chiffon cake is a unique treat! Rich with Asian flavours of coconut milk and pandan juice, it is moist, creamy and just perfectly sweet! It has the cotton-soft, smooth, light and fluffy texture of Asian-style chiffon cakes!
While we’re into this circuit breaker, I really started getting into my chiffon cake recipes! I’d always been looking to put aside some time to update some of the most popular ones on the blog, especially this pandan chiffon. Not only is it an iconic South-East Asian sweet cake, pandan chiffon cake is hailed as Singapore’s national cake!
In my humble opinion, the pandan chiffon cake is truly unique and extraordinary. And I know this sweet treat resonates with so many of you from the wonderful comments I’ve received over the years. As pleased as I was with how well that recipe was received, I just knew it could be even better!
Having been extremely encouraged by my success with my chocolate chiffon cake recipe adjustment a couple of days ago, I was ready to put forward my updated pandan chiffon cake! And I think you’ll find that this is my best ever, yet!
Why the pandan chiffon cake is so loved
For many of us, the pandan chiffon cake isn’t just one of a repertoire of Asian desserts. It is endearing in its appeal because it embodies the vibrant and diverse culinary heritage of South-East Asia.
It is a result of combining the Western technique that we have come to know of as the chiffon method in cake baking, with the rich and bold flavours of traditional Asian ingredients.
Pandan chiffon cake is moistened and flavoured with coconut milk and pandan juice. These render the cake its rich and creamy flavours, unmistakable green hue, as well as a unique aroma and taste.
So, what you have in pandan chiffon cake is a wonderfully delicious confection with an ultra airy and fluffy crumb, and an extremely tender and smooth, velvety texture.
As a chiffon cake, it is really light! You are literally eating tiny pockets of air! Pandan chiffon cake is my favourite, delicious lower-calorie snack.
I have to say that the flavours of coconut and pandan in this version is not too rich, nor heavy on your palette. This is simply how my family enjoys it.
If you like your pandan chiffon cake tasting richer, you can use pandan extract in place of pandan juice.
Also, the pandan paste can be increased a tad, but not too much, bearing in mind that the colour will also be much more saturated.
What is pandan?
Pandan refers to a herbaceous tropical plant native to South-East Asia. We love it for its unique flavour and sweet fragrance, which makes it popular for cooking as well as baking purposes.
Whole pandan leaves can be used to infuse liquids such as sweet soups with its fragrance and flavour. In cooking, we use it also to wrap savoury foods like meat and sticky rice in Asian cuisine.
For this recipe, we’re using the juices of the pandan leaves to infuse the chiffon cake with its beautiful greenish hues, flavour and aroma.
Ingredients for pandan chiffon cake
Chiffon cakes have two parts to making the batter. The meringue which is a stiffly beaten mixture of egg whites with sugar, and often (though not always) stabilised with cream of tartar.
Then, there’s the rest of the ingredients that make up a thick batter made with eggs yolks, liquids (water / milk / juices / extracts), sugars, oil and flour.
Here’s what you need for the meringue
- Egg whites
- Cream of tartar
Here’s what you need for the pandan batter
- Cake flour (Don’t have any? You can easily make cake flour from scratch!)
- Baking powder
- Egg yolks
- Coconut milk (I highly recommend KARA brand)
- Pandan juice (or pandan extract)
- Pandan paste (added to infuse colour and bolder pandan flavour)
Step-by-step: How to bake pandan chiffon cake
Part 1: How to extract pandan juice (pandan extract)
- Cut cleaned pandan leaves into 2-cm (1-inch) sections.
- Place into a blender or food processor and add water.
- Process into a fine pulp.
- Scoop out the pulp into a metal sieve, placed over a bowl to catch the juices.
- Press against the pulp, with the back of a metal spoon to strain the juices.
- Set aside the amount needed. Store the rest in an air-tight jar and keep chilled for up to 5 days.
If you want a more distinct pandan flavour, you can use pandan juice in a concentrated form by rendering natural pandan extract. Here’s how:
After extracting pandan juice, store in a jar with an air-tight lid. Let it sit overnight, or for at least 18 to 20 hours. The water will separate from the darker green, heavier sediment at the bottom.
Without disturbing the sediment, simply scoop out or pour away the water, leaving behind the natural pandan extract. Just be sure that when pouring away the water, you leave behind enough for the recipe in mind.
Use pandan extract in place of pandan juice in the recipe for a more distinct flavour. For a more vivid green tint, even bolder pandan flavour and fragrance, add between 1/4 – 1/2 tsp pandan paste.
Part 2: Make the batter
- Step 1: In a large mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until thick and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Step 2: Stir in the coconut milk, oil, pandan juice and pandan paste. Stir with a whisk until until well combined.
- Steps 3 & 4: Add the sifted flour mixture in 2 additions.
- Steps 5 & 6: Stir with a whisk until all the flour is incorporated and no streaks of flour are visible. The mixture should be thick, smooth and free of lumps.
Part 3: Whip up the meringue
When whipping up meringue, make sure your mixer bowl is dry and grease-free.
The meringue is probably the most important aspect when baking a chiffon cake. In fact, getting the meringue at the ideal stiffness is crucial to the final texture. And it can sometimes feel a little tricky.
The ideal stiff peak stage is somewhere between medium and firm stiffness. When you lift some meringue with the whisk (flick away excess), it should hold a firm shape from the base towards the tip, and droop over just a bit. Basically, it looks a bit like a small hook at the tip.
A finger test is equally effective. Use your index finger and tap the meringue in a couple of places. You’ll see the same half-curl or hook at the tip if its at the ideal stiffness (see photo #4 below).
- Step 1: In an electric mixer fited with a whisk attachment, pour in egg whites and sprinkle cream of tartar over.
- Step 2: Whisk on medium speed until the whites start to turn frothy.
- Step 3: Add sugar bit by bit in a steady stream.
- Step 4: Whip until stiff peaks form. This may take 5 to 7 minutes, depending on your mixer and speed.
Part 4: Folding the meringue into the batter
- Steps 1 & 2: Add ⅓ of meringue (whipped egg whites with sugar) to the batter. Fold in gently with a whisk until well incorporated.
- Steps 3 & 4: Add another ⅓ of the meringue and again, fold in gently in a uniform and consistent motion.
- Steps 5 & 6: Add the remaining meringue and fold in gently. The final batter should feel light, and have no visible streaks of meringue.
Part 5: Baking and cooling
Filling the pan
Pour into the chiffon tube pan from one place, and let the batter spread to fill the pan. Gently running a thin spatula in an ‘S’ motion throughout the batter helps reduce large air pockets.
Then smooth and level the surface. Finally, give the pan a few taps on the counter top to minimise air pockets.
Bake on the lowest rack in an oven preheated to 170°C (338°F) for 45 to 50 minutes, or until done. DO NOT open the oven door.
Only do so about 5 minutes before the end of baking, to check if the cake is done. When a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, the cake is baked through.
Note: A bit of cracking on the surface of the cake as it bakes is perfectly alright!
Once the cake is taken out of the oven, immediately invert the pan with it’s funnel over the neck of a bottle.
If your tube pan has ‘feet’ like the one I use, simply invert over a cooling rack. Chiffon cakes need to ‘hang’ until completely cooled.
To release the cake, run an offset spatula gently around the sides of the pan, pressing against the pan as much as possible. Then invert the pan again so that the bottom is now facing up.
Gently tap or push the pan’s base to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Then run the spatula around the base to release the funnel.
Chiffon cake is served ‘upside-down’.
How to store pandan chiffon cake
Pandan chiffon cake will keep well at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, including the day it is baked. Due to the coconut milk content, this cake is best kept in an air-tight container and chilled to extend its freshness.
Have it out at room temperature 20 minutes before, though it’s also really enjoyable when eaten chilled!
Chiffon cakes, in general, are suited to freezing for up to two months. To freeze, allow the cake to cool completely. Wrap it loosely, but completely sealed, in several layers of cling wrap so as not to damage its shape. Then, wrap in a final layer of aluminium foil, and place it in the freezer.
When you’re ready to tuck into it, thaw out the frozen cake at room temperature for 2-3 hours, or until it comes to room temperature.
Tips for Making Perfect Chiffon Cake
1. Use the right pan
Chiffon cakes are best baked in a chiffon tube pan without non-stick coating. This is because the batter needs to cling to the sides of the pan as it rises, which is what gives the cake its height and airy crumb. The best pans are made of aluminium with a removable base.
Baking in dark-tinted pans will give you a darker cake crust, while non-tinted or light-tinted pans will yield a lighter crust, in general. Be careful as dark-tinted pans could also be non-stick, so avoid these for chiffon cakes.
Do not grease the pan, for the same reasons that you would not bake in a non-stick cake pan.
2. Use the appropriate pan size
In order for the cake to rise proud and tall, use the appropriate sized pan. When filled with batter, the pan should not be more than 3/4 full.
3. Have ingredients at room temperature, including eggs
Cold egg whites do not whip up as well, so it won’t trap as much air as egg whites at room temperature.
4. Whip meringue to the ideal stiffness
An under-whipped meringue will lack volume and not rise as much, producing a cake with a denser crumb. On the other hand, if over-whipped, the meringue will form clumps when you try folding into the batter, and is harder to break down.
Because it takes more effort to incorporate, there’s a tendency to over fold. This can result in an over-worked batter, causing the meringue to lose volume. Thus, resulting in a denser cake as well.
In fact, even if you manage to fold without losing too much air, an over-whipped meringue is one of the most common reasons why chiffon cakes turn out dry.
5. Sift powdered ingredients together
Mix powdered ingredients like flour, baking soda or baking powder (or both) and salt. Then sift together. This will give you a smoother and finer cake crumb and enable the cake to rise evenly and uniformly.
Remember the cream of tartar is for whipping up the meringue, so do not add it here.
6. Do all your mixing, stirring and folding with a whisk
I strongly recommend folding with a whisk. In baking school, we were encouraged to fold all our meringues with whisks!
The whisk helps incorporate meringue more easily and thoroughly, with minimal loss of volume due to the inherent shape and structure of the whisk. At the same time, it helps to reduce air pockets in the batter, so big gaping holes in your chiffon cake can be avoided.
7. Invert the chiffon pan once out of the oven
Remember, chiffon cakes need to ‘hang’ in an inverted position until completely cooled.
Here are more recipes to inspire you:
- Homemade Nonya Kaya (Coconut Jam)
- Sweet Mung Bean Soup with Sago Pearls
- Pandan Raisin Bread with Crumble Topping
- Coffee Chiffon Cake