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The Kitchn: Light-as-air pandan chiffon cake is fluffy perfection

Perry Santanachote, on

Pandan — a tropical plant with long, spear-like leaves — infuses this light and fluffy cake with its distinctive herbal flavor, jasmine-like aroma, and light green color. This variation of the chiffon cake is popular in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, where pandan is plentiful and found in many desserts and drinks.

In the United States, frozen pandan leaves are easier to find than fresh (in most Asian supermarkets). They can also be easier to work with. To extract the juice, give it a quick blitz in a food processor and wring it through a cheesecloth. The fresh stuff is so much more fragrant than bottled pandan extract, which is missing the juice’s delicate herbal flavor.

The cake is fantastic on its own or topped with freshly whipped cream and fruit. For extra credit, use the extra egg yolks and leftover coconut milk to make pandan kaya custard, another popular Southeast Asian treat. A few dollops of this stuff on the pandan cake is heaven.

What does pandan cake taste like?

The cake itself is a basic chiffon cake with a soft and pillowy texture. The star of pandan cake, however, is pandan, a dark green and fragrant leaf known as screwpine. The aromatic, slightly grassy extract of this plant is used in desserts and drinks all over Southeast Asia in a similar way that vanilla is used in the West.

Key ingredients in pandan cake


There are a handful of essential ingredients that go into making pandan cake.

Cake flour. This low-protein flour gives pandan cake its super-soft and light-as-air crumb. If you don’t have it and don’t want to buy any, it’s easy enough to hack using all-purpose flour and cornstarch. For every cup of flour, substitute 2 tablespoons with cornstarch and sift together well.

Eggs. There are 10 eggs in this recipe. And while the yolks provide a good amount of richness and flavor, the whites do most of the heavy lifting. Whipping the egg whites into a meringue and folding it into the batter is the secret to the cake’s spongey texture and sky-high height.

Pandan juice. Blitz pandan leaves with a little water to extract its aromatic and gorgeous green color. Doing this yourself, rather than using store-bought extract, ensures a lovely, fresh aroma and light-green hue in the cake, whereas the premade stuff has often lost its smell and has added dye and possibly other artificial flavorings.


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