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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Pandan Chiffon Cake

Pandan Chiffon Cake

Pandan chiffon cake is one of my comfort foods from Malaysia. The fragrance of pandan, the softness of the cake, the sweetness of the coconut milk are all very much a part of Malaysia to me. There's something wonderful about taking a bite of cake and having all these flavors and textures combine and then just as you're savoring it, you're left with only the memory of the light fragrant delight until the next bite, and the next.

First Failures

As a student in Hawaii, I missed pandan chiffon cake so much that I asked for a recipe and then proceeded to bake it with no experience and a very vague recipe. Of course, it didn't turn out. My failures with chiffons started with that first pandan chiffon cake.

When I was new to baking, I would look at recipes for chiffon cakes and sponge cakes and attempt them without any real understanding of what made them work. All my early attempts at both these cakes were dismal failures. They would rise really tall in the oven and then I'd get all excited. But when I opened the oven, they would fall flat!

I avoided making these cakes for a long time after that. As a matter of fact, I still have some aversion to making sponge cakes to this day (weird huh?). But after reading Beranbaum's Cake Bible and trying out the orange chiffon cake from that book, I've had great success and have been more confident of baking chiffon cakes since.

Chiffon Cake Tricks

The secret to chiffon cakes, as it turns out, is that they need a lot of volume. You have to make sure you beat the egg whites really well! Also, when you separate your egg yolks from the whites, be very sure that there is not even one bit of yolk in the whites. If that happens, your whites will not whip up to stiff peaks.

Whipped Egg Whites

Whipped Egg Whites

Some of the other tricks I learnt about baking chiffon cakes come from different books and magazines:

  • From America's Test Kitchen, I learnt that it's better to overbeat the whites than to underbeat. Really stiff egg whites will give chiffon cakes better volume.
  • From Beranbaum, I learnt that using more whites than yolks help with the structure of the cake.
  • I also learnt that inverting the cake as soon as it's done and leaving it to cool for several hours in that position helps the cake to hold its shape.
  • From my cooking forums, I learnt that you must not grease your chiffon cake pan (and yes, you need a chiffon cake pan, don't ask me how I know) so that the cake will not fall.

I hope that all that I've learnt will help you if you're new to baking chiffon cakes.

Try It Out

I adapted this recipe from Baking Mum and she has told me that she has another recipe that is better but I haven't had a chance to try that other one out so I will post on this one first. I did double her recipe as my chiffon cake pan is really large (plus it's so good that even doubled, my family wolfed it down in no time at all).

If you have never used pandan (screwpine leaves), you have to give it a try. The leaves don't really taste like much but the leaves impart a wonderful aroma and fragrance to whatever you cook or bake. The leaves are also used as food coloring (though the paste I use is artificially colored as pandan leaves will not turn that bright a green) in a lot of desserts in Malaysia.

Fresh pandan juice is normally the better choice for any application but being that it's so hard to get that here, I chose to use pandan paste instead. It's quite easy to find at most Asian grocery stores (and cheap to boot!).

Pandan Chiffon Cake

150g bleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
150 ml coconut cream/milk
8 egg yolks
10 egg white
200g castor sugar, separated
3 Tbsp corn oil (or vegetable oil)
1 tsp vanilla essence
a pinch of salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp pandan paste

1. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).
2. Sift flour and baking powder.
3. In your mixer, cream egg yolks and 140g sugar until it is creamy and thick.


4. Add in sifted flour and baking powder, vanilla essence, coconut milk, corn oil, and pandan paste into the egg yolk mixture. Mix well.
5. In another clean dry bowl, whisk egg whites (start on slow speed until foamy then increase speed to medium). When egg whites are whisked to soft peaks, add the remaining 60g sugar, cream of tartar and a pinch of salt. Continue to whisk until stiff peaks form.
6. Fold the egg whites into the flour mixture. Start by adding 1/3 egg whites into flour mixture and using a balloon whisk, incorporate it into mixture to lighten the mixture. Mix the remaining 2/3 egg whites in taking care to fold gently to keep volume. I find that using a balloon whisk to incorporate in a "sweep and knock out and turn bowl, repeat" method works best. (Does that make sense? I should've taken a time ok?)
7. Once incorporated, (don't worry if there are a few streaks of white left) pour into the chiffon cake pan and bake 45-65 mins, or until an inserted cake tester comes out clean.
8. When cake is baked, invert it immediately and cool down for 2-3 hours (I normally have a bottle of wine that I use as my holding "tool" for the inverted pan). Once cooled, use a knife to cut around the sides and bottom before removing.

Pandan Chiffon Cake

Pandan Chiffon Cake


Cheers, Annie

Hungry for more pandan recipes? Click below:

Pandan Kaya Bread

Barley with Fuchok and Gingko Nuts

Pandan Waffles

Nasi Lemak


Kana said...

This is my fave cake EVER!!!! I love pandan anything!!! Too bad you don't live in Westchester, New York..otherwise I would be knocking on your door!!!!

Jo said...

This is one of my "must do's" for 2009. Love the colours, so vibrant!

Single Guy Ben said...

Oooh, I grew up eating Orange Chiffon. Reading your post reminded me of getting that at King's Bakery in Honolulu. Remember that? :)

I learned about Pandan leaves in Vietnam. They are really fragrant. So you don't think anyone sells maybe frozen Pandan leaves in the Bay Area?

Anonymous said...

That looks like a lot of fun! The colors are brilliant!

Joie de vivre said...

What a pretty cake!

noobcook said...

looks fluffy, moist and beautiful ^o^

Unknown said...

Stop it! First the pineapple tarts, now this. You're killing me!! Sigh... ok, go ahead, kill me again please.

I lent D's former teacher my food scale. I guess it's time to get it back from her or else I will just have to live vicariously through your blog.

Got a pic of the pandan paste package and a general location of where in the store it can be found? I remember searching high and low at Lion's on Saratoga for lotus leaves, only to find them amidst the house slippers and kitchen wares. Huh??

Bits said...

Pandan Chiffon is one of my hubby and my favourites! This is lovely and the color is so fresh!

Anonymous said...

nice cake, I like the fluffiness. one of the easiest and cheapest cakes to get in Malaysia too.. a bakery won't be complete without it lol

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Maya - Can you get the pandan extract in Westchester?

@Jo - if you do try it, I'd love to hear how it turns out!

@Chef Ben - yes, I used to love the orange chiffon from King's Bakery. But since we lived in Nuuanu, we always used to go to Dee Lite Bakery in Liliha to get their guava chiffon cakes. Thanks for the taste memory!

We can find packets of frozen pandan leaves in the Asian grocery. (In fact, we have one in our freezer right now!) Sometimes you can even find a live pandan plant at the Asian malls.

@J - :D

Everyone should have a kitchen scale. You could either get yours back and tell the teacher to get their own, or get a new one for yourself and let the teacher keep the old one.

As far as what the pandan extract looks like, there's a picture of the bottle on our Pandan Kaya Bread post

You'll probably be able to find it in the baking section of the Asian grocery.

Anonymous said...

Pandan is an ingredient that's definitely not in pantry -- but maybe should be? I've never cooked or baked with it. Must look for it at my local Asian grocery store. What else can you make with it? Just for baking?

Chocolate Shavings said...

The color of that case is absolutely amazing, it sounds delicious!

Anonymous said...

What a coincidence. I was just reading about pandan last night and just made an angel food cake to write about a few days ago. Your cake looks really good!

I love the Cake Bible. If you haven't tried her Domingo Cake, do give it a go if you're a chocolate fan.

Indonesia Eats said...

Have you tried a recipe of pandan angel food cake?
love pandan so much

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's a very pretty looking cake. I've not heard of pandan before, was interesting to read about it.

Anonymous said...

Oooh, this looks yummy!

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Lydia - just search for pandan on our site and you'll find a few more recipes.

@Ella - thanks for the recommendation on the Domingo Cake!

Food For Tots said...

Thanks for all the useful tips. I will bookmark this recipe as my next project. Your cake looks so fluffy and delicious!

Marie said...

That is a delicious looking cake. I love the color of it. I will definitely have to look for pandan so I can experience the flavor too. I have never had it before.

DK said...

OMG! This is perfect. I am so making this. Bookmarked. Thanks for the recipe and also for foodbuzz add :)

Nicole said...

Wow! That is beautiful. What color.

Anonymous said...

Omigod - I LOVE Pandan!

Anonymous said...

I made this TODAY! It turns out very good. Just one tiny flaw. My wonderfully structured chiffon was sorely lacking of the pandan aroma and taste. The pandan leaves which I got from a fried were actually baked in her car for one whole day becoz she forgot. So the juice itself was somewhat flat. But the texture, having followed your recipe closely, was great. WIll attempt this again with freshest pandan leaves I can get. THanks for sharing!!

Bonnie, KL.

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Bonnie - thanks for the report on your attempt! We haven't tried it with fresh pandan juice before. Would be interested to see how you make it to include in the cake recipe.

Anonymous said...

I had to try your recipe when I came across it. It was not till after midnight I tried my fisrt slice of pandan cake. Yummy.. Your recipe is really good.I just have a slight problem where the bottom part of the cake would be stuck..any ideas why this is happening?

Alima Bell said...

Look yummy... I am eager to see your recipe at ur blogspot. This is the first pandan chiffon cake that I have made in the past years that tastes really so good. It was perfect on the first try. Excellent. This is a die must try recipe. I am looking for a recipe that uses evaporated milk instead of coconut milk healthier baking. Anyone have such a recipe. My mummy loves to eat pandan chiffon cake and my whole family loves it. Thanks for a lovely share.

Prim and Proper said...

Hi! My Dad loves pandan cake, as do I. Do you know what icing would go well with it? I want to ice it just so it'll take a nice photograph for his birthday :p



Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Anonymous - sorry, I don't have enough information to answer that. Are you still having that issue?

@Alima - you're very welcome! Thanks for the kind words.

@Jasmine - I suppose a light cream frosting would do. Post a pic when you're done!

Anonymous said...


Hope this is not a silly qn. How do I get pandan juice from pandan leaves? Pound it and squeeze out the juice?


Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Es - you puree pandan leaves with some water, then strain out the leaves.

Lalitha said...

Hi!!!I have been trying to find pandan chiffon cake recipe for soooo long and I am so glad u hv it.I will try it asap.I miss Singapore so much n i cant get our cakes in Gold Coast.Thank u :))

c said...

I have the same question...pandan grows in abundance in the Phils and it is really fragrant. May I know how many leaves and how much water to make the puree? Would love to try it soon.

Annie said...

Hi Anonymous--I just saw your comment. Actually, chiffon cakes always stick to the bottom of the pan. This is normal. You just use a sharp knife to cut around the bottom of the cake to life it out. The first time I made a chiffon cake, I made such a mess cutting the cake out of the pan. You'll get better with practice!

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@c - a commenter left a recipe for making pandan extract on our "What to do with Pandan" post

Lalitha said...


I love this cake very much. Everytime I go back home to Singapore, I indulge myself. I would like to try this out but I have a question about the temperature.I checked my landlord's oven and it goes up to 250 C only. Is that ok?Can I bake it for longer?

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@lalitha--I was puzzled by your comment until I checked my post again. I had mixed up the F and C. It's actually 350 F and 175 C so your oven is fine. My bad! Thanks for the comment, at least now it's fixed.

Anonymous said...

If I am using fresh pandan juice, what is the volume to add? Thanks!

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@anonymous - try it with 2 Tbsp pandan juice. Let us know how it turns out for you!

poreiz said...

Thanks for the recipe :) May I know what's the size of your chiffon tray?

B's yummy~cottage said...

Need some advise. My chiffon slide/lope sided at d bottom when I took it fr the tin.