Pandan is a type of plant known as a screwpine, whose leaves are a staple ingredient in Southeast Asian cooking. The leaves have a sweet, slightly grassy vanilla flavour, and are occasionally referred to as ‘vanilla grass’. The pandan plant is sterile, and can only be propagated using cuttings, but its popularity as a sweet flavouring and green food colouring means that it is widely cultivated throughout Southeast Asia.
There are several ways to use pandan. The leaves can be used whole, either fresh or dried, or they can be ground down to make a bright green paste or powder. It is a popular ingredient in sweet and savoury dishes alike, and is commonly used to flavour rice dishes, sweet drinks, desserts and cakes.
Pandan cake - also known as pandan chiffon cake - is a much-loved delicacy throughout Southeast Asia, and is particularly popular in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. A light, delicate sponge with a vivid green colouring and sweet pandan flavour, this soft, fragrant cake is an instantly-recognisable icon of Asian cuisine.
Pandan and palm sugar chiffon cake
Fresh pandan leaves,
Granulated palm sugar,
Place one of your oven racks at the bottom of the oven, and preheat to 325°F.
Mix the palm sugar and coconut milk together in a medium-sized bowl until the sugar has fully dissolved.
Separate the eggs and add the yolks to the mixture. Set the whites aside for later.
Mix the pandan leaves and water together in a blender, then strain out any excess liquid using a fine mesh sieve. Measure out 12g of the resulting paste and add to the egg yolk mixture. Put the rest of the paste in the fridge to use in future recipes.
Whisk the sweetened milk, egg yolks and pandan paste together until fully combined, and set aside.
Add the coconut oil to a small pan and heat on medium until it begins to shimmer.
Add the flour and mix into a smooth paste using a flexible spatula.
Add the coconut oil paste to the pandan mixture. Mix together until fully combined, and set aside.
Add the salt and confectioner’s sugar to the egg whites and beat using either a whisk or a stand mixer with whisk attachments, until they form stiff peaks.
Fold ¼ of the meringue into the pandan mixture, then pour the resulting mixture back into the bowl with the rest of the meringue and mix it all together to make a smooth batter.
Place a wire rack inside a large baking dish and add a shallow layer of warm water, to make a water bath.
Take a small cake tin that will fit inside your makeshift water bath and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Pour the batter into the cake tin and bang it on the counter a few times to get rid of air bubbles.
Place the cake tin on the wire rack inside the water bath and transfer the whole thing to the lowest rack in your oven.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, then remove from the oven and stand it on a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes.
Remove the cake from the tin and place it back inside the oven for 15 minutes, with the heat turned off, to dry out.
Remove the cake from the oven again and leave it to cool completely before serving.