Friday, 5 March 2010

Who loves that green thing known as pandan cake?

If anyone's wondering why I haven't written for awhile, its coz I've been traveling (w/o my oven and baking tools naturally)! I was in Vals, Switzerland for a week learning how to snowboard (acquired a number of huge bruises whilst doing so but i won't bore anyone with written details about it)... and am writing this while spending a few days in my home country - clean and green Singapore!

Whenever I fly from Singapore to Hong Kong, I notice a large number of visitors from Hong Kong buying boxes and boxes of pandan cake from the Bengawan Solo outlet in Changi airport. It was a little amusing at first given I grew up having pandan cake easily available from most local bakeries. But, having lived the last few years in Hong Kong and at times suffering a little from cravings for the soft, melt-in-your-mouth pandan cake, I now totally understand why they do it and am more than happy to help friends in Hong Kong bring some of those delicious green stuff back - I'm jumping on the bandwagon and buying a few boxes this return trip for sure...

The Maxim's cake chain in Hong Kong recently started selling pandan cakes for HK$88 per cake. A rip off if you consider that Bengawan Solo has been selling it for years and prices theirs at S$8.80. (Disclaimer: I haven't taken a ruler to the cakes to find out if they are exactly the same size but they look the same size to the naked eye... hehehe) In addition, many local bakeries in Singapore sell it for much less than S$8.80. As mentioned in my previous posts, I'm not setting myself up as a food critic so would avoid passing any comments about whether the Maxim's version is up to par, but given the price difference and Bengawan Solo's many years of experience at it, I doubt the branch at Changi airport is suffering any decline in pandan cake sales as a result of Maxim's new offering. =P

Ok, back to what this blog is supposed to be about - home baking! There are tons and tons of pandan cake recipes available on the internet... lots of variations in recipes but the use of coconut milk, lots of eggs (white and yolk separated) and of course pandan juice / paste are common throughout. When I started baking furiously about half a year ago, I spent a good 2 weeks trying out various pandan cake recipes, determined to find one that I like and a method that I could execute with success each time - taste aside, getting the right soft and spongy texture was critical. Herr Scherrer was my poor guinea pig... my neighbors might have been happy though, coz the smell that comes out of the oven was yummy each time, even when the cake texture came out wrong!

Through trial and error, and modifying the recipes I found, I eventually settled on my favorite pandan cake recipe. As you can see from the photos, it produces a crust that is slightly thicker and of a darker brown than Bengawan Solo's, which is the way i like it. It also works with either pandan juice or pandan paste depending on what is available - pandan leaves are not always available in Hong Kong or if available ridiculously expensive. For this reason I always make sure I get some back-up pandan paste when I'm in Singapore, so if you are dying to make pandan cake in Hong Kong and can't find pandan leaves, ask to look into my kitchen cupboard!

Some critical tips I picked up during my learning process:
1. Its critical to beat the egg whites till the peaks are stiff. If not sure, its better to over-beat than under-beat the whites.
2. Keep the cake tin flipped over throughout the cooling process. Its during this "hanging" process that the soft & light spongy texture sets.
3. Do NOT grease or line your cake tin thinking its easier to remove the cake when its done - its supposed to stick to the base and sides so that the cake can "hang" during cooling.

I've dutifully documented my favorite pandan cake recipe below (adapted from Prima mostly), in case there are pandan cake lovers out there who also want to try it out at home!

100g plain flour, sifted with baking powder
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp pandan paste*
100 ml coconut milk
4 egg yolks
40 ml corn or sunflower oil
5 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
100g castor sugar (separated into 2x50g)
pinch of salt
(*bake king brand. if using a different brand, may need to adjust to taste. If using pandan juice, replace with 1 tbsp pandan juice & 1/4 tsp green colouring)
1. Add pandan paste (or pandan juice & colouring) to coconut milk, mix well.
2. Using a hand whisk, mix egg yolk, 50g sugar, oil, and salt together.
3. Add coconut milk mixture to egg yolk mixture and mix well.
4. Fold in flour and baking powder till smooth, then set aside.
5. Preheat oven to 170°C.
6. Beat egg whites and tartar at high speed until foamy.
7. Add remaining 50g sugar to egg whites and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
8. Fold in 1/3 of beaten egg white to the coconut milk & egg yolk mixture.
9. Add mixture in point 8 to remaining 2/3 beaten egg white and fold gently.
10. Pour mixture into an ungreased 8' or 9' chiffon tin and bake for about 50 to 55 mins.
11. Overturn cake tin on a rack and allow to cool completely before removing from tin.


  1. Kowloon City (i.e. Thai Town) has cheap Pandan leaves!

  2. Thanks! Good to know, though Kowloon City is a bit too far for me.

  3. hi gracie! this is diana... i'm a fellow Singaporean living in Hong Kong, and i love baking... so it's cool to find a blog like yours.

    just wondering, do you sell your desserts? plus, where do you find pandan leaves?

  4. I live in Taiwan and getting pandan leaves is almost imposible. So, whenever I go back to Singapore i will stock up on the paste and essence! Can't wait to try this recipe :)

  5. hi Diana, its always great to meet a fellow Singaporean, even better if its someone that is also a baking enthusiast!

    yes, i do cater to orders but usually only from friends and if i have time.

  6. Sweetcherryberry, i hope you have fun trying this one!



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