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Welcome to my first recipe post on my new site! :)
In honor of yesterday's CNN article declaring the Pandan Chiffon Cake one of the world's most delicious national cakes, I felt it only right that I kick off my recipe section with one of the most beloved and most beautifully green of all Malaysian/Singaporean treats. I first shared this on my old blog in 2009, based on a recipe from an aunt that I tweaked to my liking, and over the years this has never failed to produce the perfect light yet moist sponge that makes this cake the classic it is. I have now added some shortcuts to make the process even easier, and I hope it will serve you well too!
Coconut milk and pandan (screwpine leaves) essence are what make this cake deliciously aromatic, and the secret to its characteristic fluffy texture comes from whipping the egg whites very well and not being too heavy handed when folding them in at the end. As with any chiffon cake, you must also invert the pan immediately onto its three "legs" once removed from the oven, so the sponge can stretch and retain its airy volume whilst cooling upside down. Don't worry, the cake will stick and not fall out :)
I use pandan paste (a mix of essence and green coloring) which is easily available in any Asian shop. If you can be bothered, feel free to blend fresh pandan leaves with water and extract the natural juice.
Make sure to use a chiffon/angel food cake tube pan (pictured below) and not a regular tin- the hollow tube in the centre is essential for the correct circulation of heat.
Last tip: the terms "beat", "whisk" and "whip" are used interchangeably here to mean the same thing.
Malaysian Pandan Chiffon Cake
Fits a 9"/23cm pan
*If you prefer an even drier and less moist crumb, try omitting one yolk or reducing the amount of oil or sugar slightly
1) Preheat your oven to 350 F/180 C.
2) Separate 6 eggs into two large bowls. Make sure the bowl for the egg whites is completely dry, clean and grease-free, otherwise your meringue won't whip properly. *Tip: Separating eggs is easier to do when they are cold from the fridge.
3) Add 3/4 cup (170g) sugar to the bowl of yolks.
4) Add slightly less than 1/2 cup (90g) sugar to the bowl of whites. Squeeze a few drops of lemon juice into the whites.
5) Start beating the whites first so you don't have to wash your whisk in between. Using a KitchenAid or handheld electric mixer, whip the egg whites on maximum speed for a good 5-8 minutes (less if you have a KitchenAid) until a thick white meringue with soft peaks forms. To test, you should be able to turn the entire bowl upside down without the meringue falling out. Set the bowl aside.
6) Now do the yolks. Without needing to wash your whisk, stick it into the yolks bowl and beat for a few minutes until pale and thickened.
7) Briefly whisk in 50ml vegetable oil, 100ml thin coconut milk and 1 tsp pandan paste until evenly green.
8) Sift in 1 1/2 cups (190g) plain flour, 2 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp salt. Fold until combined.
Fold two tablespoons of the meringue into the pandan batter. Add the rest and fold thoroughly until well-combined. Pour into a dry ungreased chiffon pan and bake for 1 hour.
Remove from the oven and invert immediately (if your pan comes without the protuding tabs to support it upside down, invert the pan and insert the neck of a bottle or a metal funnel into the inner tube to balance). Leave to cool in this position and do not unmold cake until completely cold.
To remove, scrape all around the sides with a thin spatula and let the cake slip out gently of the pan. Loosen the center tube by running a small toothpick around the edges. Scrape the bottom to remove the base/tube.
If the top of your cake is a bit rounded and you want them flat to sit on, feel free to cheat and slice them off before unmolding.
Cut with a non-serrated knife. Enjoy with hot coffee or tea!