Pandan chiffon cake is an iconic sweet cake in South East Asia and a unique treat. Rich with Asian flavours of coconut milk and pandan juice, it is moist, creamy and 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’ve been putting aside time to update my most popular recipes on the blog, especially this pandan chiffon cake.
A unique and extraordinary cake, pandan chiffon is an iconic South-East Asian treat and hailed in Singapore as our national cake.
Now, I know this sweet treat resonates with many of you judging by the wonderful comments I’ve received on this recipe over the years. As pleased as I am with it, I just know that I can come up with an even better recipe.
My brilliant success with this chocolate chiffon cake encouraged me to perfect my pandan chiffon next. And I think you’ll find that this is my best, yet!
Why we love the pandan chiffon cake
For many of us, the pandan chiffon cake isn’t just another Asian dessert. It embodies the vibrant and diverse culinary heritage of South-East Asia.
By combining the Western technique known as the chiffon method in cake baking, with traditional Asian ingredients such as coconut milk and pandan juice, we get wonderfully bold and unique flavours.
A pandan chiffon cake is moistened and flavoured with coconut milk and pandan juice, giving the cake its rich and creamy flavours, lovely green hue, unmistakable fragrance and taste.
What you get in a pandan chiffon cake is a delicious confection with a super airy and fluffy crumb and a smooth, tender and velvety texture.
It’s as light as eating tiny pockets of air.
The flavours of coconut and pandan here is not too rich nor heavy on your palette, which makes it a delicious lower-calorie snack. This is simply how my family enjoys it.
If you prefer a richer-tasting cake, you can use pandan extract in place of pandan juice (tip on how to do that is included below), or increase the amount of pandan paste.
What is pandan?
Pandan refers to a herbaceous tropical plant native to South-East Asia. Its unique flavour and sweet fragrance makes it popular for cooking as well as baking purposes.
We use whole pandan leaves to infuse sweet soups with their fragrance and flavour. In Asian cooking, we wrap savoury foods like meat and sticky rice in it as well.
In this recipe, we use the juice 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 is a beaten mixture of egg whites with sugar, often stabilised with cream of tartar or vinegar.
The rest of the ingredients make up a thick yolk batter, namely, eggs yolks, liquids such as water, milk, juices or 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.
For a more distinct pandan flavour, use natural pandan extract, which is pandan juice in a more concentrated form. Here’s a recipe tip on how to do it:
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 distinct flavour.
For a vivid green tint, even bolder pandan flavour and fragrance, add between 1/4 – 1/2 tsp pandan paste.
- 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 the most important aspect when baking a chiffon cake. Whipping the meringue to the ideal stiffness is crucial to the final texture. Though it can feel a little tricky at times.
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. 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 it’s 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 countertop 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 its 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 the Perfect Pandan Chiffon Cake
No-Fail Pandan Chiffon CakeSave For Later Click the button to save for later!
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
Pandan Chiffon Cake (Updated Recipe)
For the pandan juice:
- 10 pandan leaves washed and cut into 2-cm lengths
- 5 – 6 tbsp water
For the batter:
- 5 egg yolks
- 45 g caster sugar
- 85 ml coconut milk I recommend KARA brand
- 3 tbsp plus 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp pandan juice
- ¼ – ½ tsp pandan paste
- 100 g cake flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
For the meringue:
- 5 egg whites
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- 55 g caster sugar
Make pandan juice:
- Place chopped pandan leaves into a blender or food processor and add water. Process to a pulp. Note: Depending on your blender, you may need to add 1 – 2 tbsp more of water to get the blades turning well enough to process.
- Place the pulp in a metal strainer. Press the back of a spoon against it to obtain the juice. Set aside 1 tbsp. The leftover can be kept chilled.
Make the batter:
- Preheat oven to 170°C (338°F). Position the oven rack on the lowest in the oven.
- Have a 20-cm (8-inch) chiffon tube pan ready. DO NOT GREASE.
- Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.
- In a separate, large mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until thick and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, oil, pandan juice and pandan paste. Stir with a whisk until until well combined.
- Add the sifted flour mixture in 2 additions. 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.
Make the meringue:
- Fit an electric mixer with a whisk attachment. In a dry, grease-free mixer bowl, pour in egg whites and sprinkle cream of tartar over.
- Whisk on medium speed (speed 4 on my Kitchen Aid). When the egg whites become frothy, add sugar bit by bit in a steady stream. Whip until stiff peaks form. This may take 5 to 7 minutes, depending on your mixer and speed.
Fold the meringue into the batter:
- Add ⅓ of meringue (whipped egg whites with sugar) to the batter. Fold in gently with a whisk until well incorporated.
- Add another ⅓ of the meringue and again, fold in gently.
- Add the remaining meringue and fold in gently. The final batter should feel light, and have no visible streaks of meringue.
- Pour into the chiffon tube pan from one place, and let the batter spread to fill the pan.
- Gently run a thin spatula in an ‘S’ motion throughout the batter to reduce large air pockets. Smooth and level the surface. Give the pan a few taps on the counter top to minimise air pockets.
Baking and cooling:
- Bake on the lowest rack in the oven 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 test if done. The cake is done when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Note: A bit of cracking on the surface of the cake as it bakes is perfectly alright!
- Immediately invert the pan over a bottle neck once it is removed from the oven. Allow it 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’.