Pandan chiffon cake ranks high on the list of things that I miss when I’m away from Singapore, especially if you talking about Singapore desserts.
Like most Singaporeans, it is a cake that I grew up with. My eyes would brighten at the sight of that ubiquitous green cake; I would gobble down three or four slices at a go, with a glass of milk on hand. But judge me not for it is so soft, so light and so fluffy – it doesn’t fill you up though it brings you enjoyment aplenty.
I think I could go as far to say that pandan is one of my favourite Southeast Asian flavours.
Here’s the skinny on pandan for those of you who are unfamiliar with it: Pandan derives its flavour from its leaves (also known as screwpine leaves). It is fragrant and aromatic; it can be used in sweets and cakes or even be used to infuse savoury dishes – I would say that it works magically like vanilla bean though it doesn’t share the same flavours. Its unique flavour works brilliantly with coconut milk; you would rarely mention one without the other.
This chiffon cake celebrates the marriage of pandan leaves and coconut milk; the two provides the cake with its primary flavour. Even though you can probably choose to use a pandan extract/paste, the leaves are the real McCoy.
Back to the chiffon cake which needs no introduction. I think that a well-made chiffon is one that is soft like cotton, light as air and fluffy like clouds. It ought to remind you of a beautiful summer’s morning – blue skies, sunshine, green grass, enough to make your heart sing.
And this chiffon cake is every bit of that beautiful summer’s morning.
A chiffon cake perfection may seem hard to achieve. I, myself, know it all too well. My initial attempts were a mess. All too often they rise beautifully in the oven, only to deflate onto themselves when out of the oven.
After plenty of trial and error (and tears), I’ve found the secret to the perfect rise, every single time. The key lies in whisking the meringue to the perfect glossy stiff peaks, never to overwhisk nor underwhisk them. Then ensuring that you fold through the mixture gently, making sure that it is gentle yet thorough at the same time. An important tip is to bake it in an ungreased tin and never in a non-stick tin, though this may sound terribly unconventional. Lastly (also the most critical point), your cake would only be as good if you nail the baking temperature and baking time; the chiffon cake needs to be in the Goldilocks zone, not too hot, not too cold.
Mastering this cake would open the door to a whole new world of chiffon cakes – the sky is your only limit.
Despite all the exciting flavours of chiffon cake, the pandan chiffon cake would always have that special place in my heart.
Recipe: Classic pandan chiffon cake
Makes a 23 cm (9.5″) chiffon cake
A chiffon is as beautiful as a summer’s day when it is light as air and fluffy like clouds. Though the texture of this cake is feather-light, its flavours are unmistakably pronounced, in a good way. Pandan and coconut milk complement each other and its beautiful marriage can be tasted in this chiffon cake.
100g egg yolks (or approximately 5 yolks), room temperature
40ml corn oil (or any other neutral flavoured oil like canola or soybean)
about 12 fresh pandan leaves, washed thoroughly
160ml coconut milk# (UHT packet)
1/2 tsp pandan paste
120g cake flour+
3/4 tsp double acting baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
270g egg whites (or approximately 6 whites), room temperature
55g caster sugar
pinch of cream of tartar (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Have your chiffon cake tin mould ready. Do not grease it!
2. Whisk yolks with sugar until pale and light. Add in the corn oil and whisk until incorporated.
3. Prepare pandan coconut milk: Using a blender, place coconut milk, water and cut up pandan leaves and blitz. Pour mixture over a sieve and squeeze out the pandan coconut milk. Alternatively, you can use your hands (do wear disaposable gloves as pandan juice can cause your skin to itch) to squeeze out the pandan flavoured coconut milk. Discard the remaining pulp.
4. Mix the pandan coconut milk into your egg yolk mixture. Add in pandan paste and whisk in sifted dry ingredients. Whisk well until there are no lumps.
5. Prepare a meringue: Use group B ingredients to whisk a meringue to glossy, firm, just short of stiff peaks. Start by whisking egg whites until soft peaks before adding the caster sugar and whisk till glossy and firm, just short of stiff peaks. Do not overwhisk.
6. Add in 1/4 of the meringue to the egg yolk mixture. Whisk lightly to combine.
7. Add in 1/2 of the remaining meringue to the yolk mixture. Fold gently to incorporate before folding in the rest of the meringue. Make sure that the whites are folded into the mixture thoroughly.
8. Gently pour the pandan cake batter into the chiffon tin. Using a spatula, level and smooth out the top of the cake batter and gently tap the chiffon cake tin against the kitchen counter twice to remove any large air bubbles.
9. Bake at 180 degrees celcius for about 1 hr. The top of the cake should be lightly browned and springs back to touch when it is done. At about 25 minutes into the baking, check on your chiffon cake. If the top starts to brown or crack, cover the top with a aluminium foil before continuing with the baking. You can turn down the temperature slightly as well to about 170-175 degrees celcius.
10. Remove the ready cake from the oven, place a funnel into the center hole of the tin and invert the cake to cool on a cooling rack. Only attempt to unmould the pandan cake from its tin when it is cooled fully.
*Storage tip: The chiffon cake should be stored in the refrigerator once it is cooled completely.
#If using fresh coconut milk, you need not dilute it with water. Use only 180ml of fresh coconut milk instead.
*I’ve used minimal amount of sugar in this cake for a cake that is less sweet so that it is suitable for older folks to consume. It can do with more sugar so do feel free to adjust the amount of sugar to your preference.
+Ran out of cake flour? Make your own by using a cup of plain flour with 2 tbsp of corn flour. Whisk to combine and sift this mixture twice. Then measure out the amount you need for the recipe.
Some of the common problems with chiffon cakes include
– Chiffon cake rising then collapsing when taking out of the oven
– Chiffon cake not risen well
Tips for baking a chiffon cake:
1. The best tin to use is a stainless steel removable base chiffon cake tin, especially for an Asian chiffon cake like this one. Do not use a non-stick tin and do not grease it as the structure of the chiffon cake is very delicate. It needs to cling on the sides and center of the tin for support as it rises or it will collapse.
2. Do not attempt to substitue recipe into smaller/larger chiffon cake tins or loaf pans. It does not work.
Whisking of the egg whites
3. Always start with room temperature egg whites as they are better able to whisk better and attain more volume quicker. You can add in cream of tar tar as it acts as a stabliser for egg whites.
4. Always use castor sugar when making meringues as the finer granules dissolve in the egg whites better than granulated sugar.
5. Whisk the egg whites to firm, glossy peaks, slightly under stiff peaks. This means that the peaks are still able to hold its form and not fall over itself but they do not stay upright like stiff peaks.
Baking and oven temperature
6. Make sure your oven is at the right temperature. Do use an oven thermometer. This is very crucial when baking a chiffon cake. Too hot, the cake will start to crack. Too cool, the cake would not rise properly.
7. Check your pandan cake when it is in the oven at the mid-way of baking (about 20-25 minutes into the baking). When the cake begins to crack, cover the top of the chiffon tin with aluminum foil. You can also lower the oven temperature slightly to 170-175 degrees celcius. Or choose to move the chiffon cake to the lower third of the oven.
8. The cake is ready in approximately 60 minutes. You should see the cake shrink slightly away from the sides of the tin. Also, it should spring back upon touch.
Cooling the cake inverted (to prevent the chiffon cake from collapsing)
9. After you remove the ready cake from the oven, invert it over a funnel while it cools. This elevation helps air to circulate underneath the cake and will prevent condensation from forming on the cake. It is very important to cool the cake inverted so that it will not collapse on its own weight.
10. Only attempt to remove the chiffon cake when its cooled completely as the cake has a very delicate and fragile structure when it is still warm and may fall apart if you try to do so.
11. To remove the cake after it is cooled, run a palette knife against the sides of the cake tin. Turn it out gently onto a cake board. The base of the cake tin would now be on top. Run a palette knife in one swift motion against the base of the tin. Allow the chiffon cake to gently fall onto the cake board.
I so so so want to have a slice of your pandan chiffon cake!!! =D
I have never tried this beauty…but you wrote so beautifully and nostalgically about it, I feel conpelled to try it if only to experience even 1/10 of what you described 🙂
Thanks! hope you get to try a slice some time so you knnow what I’m talking about =) would very much love to send over a slice for you..
Oh, how I love this
That green interior is fabulous. Many steps to the finale looks like it was worth it.
Yes it’s definitely worth it! i know green looks strange for a cake but it’s good!
Oh, I love pandan chiffon, grow up eating this for breakfast/noon snacks. Your cake looks very soft and delicious , I love the fact that you are using the coconut milk in the recipe, I am a sucker of everything with coconut milk, pandan and palm sugar.
I’ve heard so much about how hard it is to bake a chiffon cake but thanks to you and your hard work testing it, I have the lowdown on how to perfect one! I find the flavour of pandan really hard to describe-someone once asked me and I was at a loss although like you, I adore it! 🙂
A chiffon cake!! I haven’t had one of these in way too long. I love the color and just wonder what that pandan must taste like!
Such a perfect lightness and colour 😀
Choc Chip Uru
Pandan chiffon cake is one of my favorite cakes and I’ve been searching for a good recipe for a while. I will have to purchase a tin and give this a go.
that’s good to know! let me know how it goes!
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HELP ME I’ve baked pandan chiffon cake once. It rises beautifully in the oven. But i got a problem whilst cooling it. I put a narrow tip bottle into the hole and let it cool upside down. And suddenly i heard a ‘bamm’ and the cake fell down whilst it still hot. It deflated. I got no other option and just put it on the serving plate and ate it. Its delishcious but ugly. Now how do i get tht cake to cling longer onto the chiffon cake pan? Thank you 🙂
Hi Dina, Just to check with you what sort of chiffon cake pan are you using? Is it a non stick one?
the pandan cake should cling on if you are using a normal stainless steel mould but it will probably fall out if using a non-stick one.
and also, do not grease the cake tin as you would with other cakes.
I noted you had removed the cake tin leaving the base while cooling in the above pictures. Does it matter if I leave the cake tin on while cooling?
I have tried using a removable pan before as i do not have tube pan. Right after baking, I remove the tin and also the base and I realised the base is slightly wet. Not sure why this happen? is it because I remove the base? because i have thought the base will make the cake wet due to condensation but apprarently, I have read many sites to remove the cake only after the cake has cooled down completely.
Not sure if you can help me.
I did not remove the tin while cooling the cake. There are two photos. The one on the left is when it’s cooling ( still with the tin on) and the one on the right is when the tin has been removed after it has cooled completely.
I think you should leave the tin on while cooling as suggested by the other websites. By propping the cake on a funnel, there is a gap between the cake and the wire rack and there won’t be a problem with condensation.
The cake may have a wet bottom because of under baking or lack of heat from the bottom of the oven. There are many factors that may have caused this. How is the structure of the rest of the cake?
The cake is soft, except the base slight wet. I think it could be because of the temperature. The bottom of my oven has a big tray that I didn’t took out during baking and think this is the cause. Thanks for your advice. It really helps.
Yes. I think that is a very possible reason. the tray would shield the bottom of your pandan cake from the heat it needs.
Glad to be of some help. 😉
Tried your recipe a few days ago. It turns out ok. But it has a strong egg taste. Can I know how can I improve this….
I made like 6-7 attempts with your recipe. Everything seems well except it’s not soft, light and fluffy but wet and heavy. Any idea what is likely the problem?
I’m sorry to hear that your pandan cakes haven’t been turning out quite right.
Just a few qns: Does the cake rise up to a good height when it is in the oven? and does it stay at that height after taking out from the oven.
I can’t exactly say what went wrong. But a few reasons that may have caused a dense and wet cake:
1. Temp of the oven
Temp may not be stable or too low so the cake doesn’t rise to its optimum height and the center is dense and wet. Do you use a separate oven thermometer when baking? Home oven temp tends to fluctuate and sometimes they are not at the temp that you set ( my oven tends to be about 25 deg cel higher than the temp I set. So I have to adjust accordingly.)
2. The egg whites may be underwhisked or overwhisked.
It needs to be whisked till glossy firm peaks, just under stiff peaks.
Also, when you are folding in the egg whites, take care not to deflate too much air in the egg whites.
hope this helps!
If I remember correctly, it did sink a tiny bit after removing from the oven.
1. I am not sure if it has risen to the optimum height but it looks beautiful on the outside when i remove it from the pan. I do not have a separate oven thermometer (will try to get one). Will temp higher than 180 result in dense and wet center or lower temp?
2. Pardon my ignorance, what’s the big diff between glossy firm peaks and stiff peaks? How do i tell? – I am going to re-read your blog for the 101th time. 8-(
What do you mean by “not to deflate to much air in the egg whites”? I tend to fold quite thoroughly to avoid white streaks. Is that a problem?
Appreciate your advice.
Sorry for replying late.
Do you invert your cake when cooling it. You should do that once you remove the cake from the oven to prevent it from sinking/ collapsing on its own weight.
1. I would still strongly recommend getting an oven thermometer. It is cheap and essential for something as finicky as a chiffon cake or macarons for that matter.
A lower temperature would be the likely cause of a cake with a dense and wet center.. Or, you may not have baked the cake long enough. It can be either reason or both.
2. I’ve written about glossy, firm peaks and stiff peaks in the chocolate chiffon cake link below:
basically, glossy firm peaks are reached just before stiff peaks. The peaks will hold but the tip will fall back slightly onto itself.
you can also check out this link on the whipping of whites and its different stages in pictorial format:
3. I use a rubber spatula to fold the egg whites and I use the below method (see link below). I do fold it thoroughly as well to prevent clumps of egg whites in the chiffon cake mixture.
This link may help: http://baking911.com/quick-guide/how-to-az/mixing-method-folding
Hope this answers your questions. 🙂
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Greatt!! Gonna try this soon !! Thanks a lot for the recipe and tips ^^
Thanks Evelyn! hope your chiffon cake turns out well!
I’m reading the recipe and I have a problem with the amount of egg whites. What size of eggs are you using for the recipe?
If I refer for exeample to large eggs then 270g will bee approximately 9 egg whites and not 6, am I wrong?
Yes, the eggs I use are very large.
That’s why I prefer to use the weight of the egg/egg whites when I put it in a recipe.
The amt, 270g of egg whites, is correct. Just follow the weight instead of the no. of eggs. Hope this clarifies.
Firstly, thank you for the great analysis on chiffon cakes.
So I’ve tried your recipe a couple of times and the cake cracked both times after it started rising in the oven. What could be causing this?
I think your oven may be too hot. Do you use an external oven thermometer to monitor yr oven’s temp?
You can cover the chiffon cake with a sheet of aluminium foil midway through the baking to insulate it from the heat but do take note not to open the oven before that.
Hope this helps.
Is it necessary to use pandan leaves or is it okay if I were to use Pandan flavoring? If i were to use the flavoring, how would the recipe differ from the one you presented?
Pandan leaves give it a stronger and more natural flavour. I would definitely advocate using pandan leaves. If it’s too much of a trouble, you can use pandan extract.
Use 1 tsp in place of the pandan leaves, you can add it straight to the coconut milk and into the yolk mixture. Hope this helps you.
Hi! I’m keen to try this soon, but am confused by the last mixing step. Do you not use all the merengue? You say to use 1/4 for thinning the egg yolk mixture and 1/2 of the remainder after that, but that still leaves about a third of the merengue. Do I add that in last? Why the need for so much extra otherwise? Thanks!
Oh nvm I just read that step in more detail and see you do mention to incorporate the rest. 🙂
Hello! This cake looks so yummy! I’ve been looking for a perfect pandan cake recipe and I can’t wait to try this! I don’t have pandan leaves now though, just pandan paste. Can I omit the leaves and stick with the paste instead? If so, how do I adjust the measurement of pandan paste/coconut milk? Also, I came across a couple of chiffon recipes without baking powder and salt. What are your thoughts on that?
Thank you in advance! 🙂
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can i use all purpose flour instead of cake flour?
Yes you can. Although cake flour would give the cake a more tender crumb. You can make your own cake flour from all purpose/plain flour (just with a combination of AP flour + cornflour).
Hi Jo, thanks so much for such detailed tuturial on making pandan cake. I just tried this evening! It is not too bad but still didn’t get the ideal result I want. It is not as fluffy as I would like and I noticed the bottom of it is still a bit wet.Can you tell me what is the possible reason for this?
it sounds like the cake was underbaked and needed a little more time in the oven if the temp of your oven is correct.
Did you test it when you were about to take it out? A cake tester should come out clean and it should spring back upon touch. You can try giving it a little more time the next time you bake it..perhaps start with 5 -10 mins more, depending on how wet it is.
hope this helps!
How long did you whip the meringue ? I just made a failed pandan chiffon (not your recipe) and I think it may be from not whipping enough. I was whipping for 15 minutes and it still won’t form a stiff peak *sigh*
Hi there, did you whisk the egg whites by hand or by machine? You need to observe the state of the egg whites rather than to follow a fixed amount of time of whisking.
Also, it makes a difference if you whisk by hand and machine. It does take longer if you choose to do it by hand but not impossible.
You need to whisk it to the firm peak stage – The whites should look glossy and when the whisk is lifted, the peaks will hold but the tip will fall back slightly onto itself.
You may wish to refer to my blog post for a visual reference: https://jothetartqueen.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/back-to-basics-how-to-make-the-perfect-chiffon-cake/
Hope this helps!
Hi, i made this yesterday and it tastes awesome! But i have a problem, it rises beautifully but after cooling down it deflates. And when i cut it, it is too soft it didn’t even “bounce” back. I made various chiffon cake using your recipe but this pandan chiffon is not turning out well. Can u help me point out what is my mistake? Could it be the meringue where i beat it to stiff instead of firm glossy peak?
Just to check with you: you didn’t have problems making the other chiffon cake recipes on my blog?
If you have made chiffon cakes successfully before, I don’t see why you have problems with this one.
When you took the cake out of the oven, has it risen to the top? Secondly, does it spring back upon touch?
The problem may be due to over-whisking your egg whites (you should whisk it to firm, glossy peaks) and/or perhaps you have under-baked the cake slightly this time. So it doesn’t have the structure to hold and deflates when cooled.
hope this helps! I’m sure your second attempt would turn out well.
Thanks a lot for replying. Really appreciate it. 🙂
Yes, so far i have made chiffon cakes all based on your recipe and haven’t had any problem until my 1st try on pandan chiffon.
When i took it out from the oven it deflates a bit even though it rised perfectly in the oven. It still have the springy feel though.
Yes, i think maybe i over beat the meringue this time. Definitely trying it again soon since it tastes awesome!
I’ll keep in mind to whip the egg just nice and the baking time. Hopefully it turned out beautiful as yours! 🙂
You’re welcome, Nurul.
Yes, it is easy to overmix the meringue. It happened to me before while I left the meringue on the mixer for too long!
Do try this again and I hope that the cake turns out beautifully this time. Good luck!
Your chiffon cakes are pretty and looks tasty. I want to try your pandan chiffon cake but not sure if I could just use Wilton aluminum pans. I don’t have stainless steel pan. I hope to hear from you soon. Thank you!
Hi, could I have the measurements in cups for the ingredients? Thanks
I,m living in a cool country. Room temperature is less than 20c, is a bit cold.
Should I just open the oven door to cool down the cake in the oven instead take it out into the cold environment and get the temperature shock! And it collapsed.
It is a must to invert the cake pan once out rom oven, otherwise, the cake will collapse!
I hv just baked a Pandan Chiffon (not your recipe) but the whole base concave!
It look just like a volcano crater. I checked the base of the tin. It has the same brown colour crumbs stuck on it as the side of the pan. That means it is not caused by air pocket. Right?
I chanced upon your website while trying to get some answers to my weird baking outcome. Appreciate it if you can shed some light into this strange phenomenon. Many thanks!
I am wondering, in your other chiffon cake recipes you use 5 egg yolks with 5 egg whites; in this one it is 6 egg whites instead, what is the reason for this?
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I’ve managed to buy natural pandan powder from Malacca. Since it is in powder form, can you use the measurements listed under your chocolate chiffon? The pandan powder will replace the cocoa powder and fresh milk with the coconut milk? Hope to hear from you soon!
Hi Jo .. thank you so much for your awesome recipe and tips. I’ve baked this recipe over 50 times and still try to perfect it. The taste is excellent, moist and soft. But my problem is that the cake falls and creates huge cracks at the top so it creates holes at the bottom of the cake when you invert it (just doesn’t look pretty). I’ve tried to cover the top of the tin with aluminum foil and lowering the temperature but it still is the same. I’m also careful to beat the meringue just short of stiff peaks. Any ideas?
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