59. Pandan Chiffon Cake – South East Asia & Gluten Free

Huge and Fluffy Pandan Cake

Huge and Fluffy Pandan Cake

Searching for a suitably exotic and challenging recipe I remembered a wonderful recipe I was given by a fellow cake clubber. Her family recipe for Pandan Cake.  Not to be confused with Panda cake. Although a Panda Pandan Cake would be immense.

The Great Reveal! (Probably not the best photo that I could have got of the delicate Pandan Chiffon Cake but it shows how brightly coloured it is on the inside!)

The Great Reveal! (Probably not the best photo that I could have got of the delicate Pandan Chiffon Cake but it shows how brightly coloured it is on the inside!)

Pandan is a traditional flavouring used in South East Asia. (You might find Pandan Cake in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.) It comes from the leaves of the Pandan plant. It is also used to help flavour dishes such as jasmine sticky rice.  If you can get a hold of some Pandan leaves you can make your own extract by boiling the leaves in a small amount of water. Pandan cake is usually green because of the chlorophyll from the leaves  but as the leaves aren’t readily available everywhere most Pandan essences contain some bright food colouring to help recreate the glorious green sponge at home.

Gloriously Green Pandan Essence and Pandan infused Glutinous Rice flour

Gloriously Green Pandan Essence and Pandan infused Glutinous Rice flour

In search for Pandan paste I found Pandan essence and Pandanus Glutinous Rice flour which contained the elusive Pandan extract.  As rice flour behaves in a slightly different way to normal plain flour I had to modify my recipe to accommodate the changes. You don’t have to use the green flour if you can’t find it. You can use self raising or plain. But if you prefer gluten free go for rice flour.  Glutinous rice flour (despite it’s name) is gluten free. The glutinous bit means the rice belongs to the sticky rice family.

The Pandan Chiffon Cake in amongst the stunning array of Clandestine Cakes

The Pandan Chiffon Cake in amongst the stunning array of Clandestine Cakes

Now upon extra research I realised that this is a chiffon cake. Those Great British Bake off fans will remember this as one of the technical challenges that was a bit tricky to bake! And considering my oven’s unpredictability this may not be the best choice to bake for our first Clandestine Cake Club gathering of 2014. But I do like a challenge!

Whisk 8 eggs yolks with the sugar

Whisk 8 eggs yolks with the sugar

This has a lot of eggs in it so you will need 2 big bowls but doesn’t take as long to make as you might think. (Only if you stop to take photos along the way does this take a long time! ). Whisk 8 egg yolks with 100g of sugar until light and fluffy

Whisk in the coconut milk and oil

Whisk in the coconut milk and oil

Whisk in the coconut milk along with the pandan essence/paste/extract.  If you’re worried it’s not going to be green enough add a dot of green food colouring gel.  It will soon become a frothy fluid batter with a green tinge to it.

Adding the Pandan Essence

Adding the fluorescent Pandan Essence

Sift in the flour ( whatever type you prefer) along with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.  If using self raising flour you will not need as much raising agent.  Whisk a third of the flour into the batter followed by a third of the oil. Repeat until it’s all combined.

Whisking in the glutinous rice flour - How bright is the batter!

Whisking in the glutinous rice flour – How bright is the batter!

Whisk the egg whites until frothy. Then gradually add 100g of sugar and continue to whisk on high until stiff peaks form.

Whisk the egg whites (adding the sugar gradually) until stiff peaks are formed

Whisk the egg whites (adding the sugar gradually) until stiff peaks are formed

Fold a dollop of egg whites into the green batter to loosen the mix and then carefully fold the egg whites in to preserve the air in the mix and help the cake rise evenly.

Carefully fold in the egg whites

Carefully fold in the egg whites – Love how green the batter is!

As uncomfortable as this seems (it screams against all baking experience)  pour the mix into a NON GREASED tube pan (looks like a flat topped Bundt tin). Apparently chiffon cakes need to cool upside down and grip the sides of the tin so they slowly slide out of the tin as they cool. If removed straight away the cake will concertina up and end up as a dense pancake.  Greasing the tin would make the cake slip out too quickly so try not to grease it

Chiffon batter ready to bake in it's un greased tube pan

Chiffon batter ready to bake in it’s un greased tube pan

Now with all that wonderful air in the cake the sponge springs up magnificently in the oven almost escaping the tin. With the hole in the middle the cake will cook quicker and more evenly which can only be a bonus in my oven.

The enormous Pandan Chiffon Cake!

The enormous Pandan Chiffon Cake!

You will need to keep an eye on the cake to make sure it doesn’t burn.  Bake it for 50 mins at 160 degrees c ( fan) but if it is cooked through sooner take it out (or leave it longer if it needs it.) I made the mistake of sticking cocktail sticks into the cake too often to check that it was cooked. This meant I deflated the cake slighty. Also pausing to mess around taking photos of the cake meant that I didn’t invert the cake tin quick enough and to my horror saw the cake sag down inside the tin. You can see on the cooled cake that it has a little ridge around the bottom of the cake (a bit like a muffin top over spilling someone’s jeans). Note to self: check it’s cooked and tip the tin upside down immediately when taking it out of the oven!

Despite it's saggy ridge the Pandan Chiffon Cake was amazing!

Despite it’s slightly saggy ridge the Pandan Chiffon Cake was amazing!

Once the cake cooled completely I found that it didn’t slide out of the tin as easily as I had hoped, as the cake was clinging on a little too tightly to the tin. I coaxed it gently out of the tin using a sharp knife and running it around the edge of the tin, allowing gravity to do the rest of the job. This meant that the cake didn’t have a shiny finish to it, but  I think this is how it’s supposed to look.

The Magnificent Pandan Chiffon Cake

The Magnificent Pandan Chiffon Cake

What a magnificent cake the Pandan Chiffon Cake is! It is extremely light and soft to the touch, more like a tasty pillow than a cake. I’ve never eaten a cake that actually melted in my mouth before until now. It’s moist and airy and keeps for at least 3 days after baking it. (That’s as long as I managed to save my final piece until.) It’s worth slicing the cake with the sharpest knife that you have to preserve it’s shape as much as possible as it is very delicate. (I may have been a tad heavy handed when slicing it up as I squished it slightly.)

A slightly squashed slice of Pandan Chiffon Cake

A slightly squashed slice of Pandan Chiffon Cake

Pandan is an unusual flavour. It perfumes the air whilst managing to taste both sweet and savoury at the same time. It’s similar to Green Tea (Matcha) cakes but like nothing else that I’ve ever tasted before. I will surely be baking this again. It really doesn’t take as long as you might think, perhaps 30 minutes to prepare and as it doesn’t need any dressing up, you don’t need to spend time decorating the cake. Icing would be overkill. It’s a deceptive cake. It looks rather plain and boring from the outside, but that first slice releases the pandan perfume and the glorious green chiffon . It’s a much more complex and interesting cake than you might initially think. If you’re going to attempt an exotic cake I can’t recommend the Pandan Chiffon Cake enough!

An empty plate speaks for itself!

An empty plate speaks for itself! – The Pandan Chiffon Cake disappeared very quickly

Things I used to make my Pandan Chiffon Cake

Batter

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 100g sugar
  • 140ml coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 170g pandan flavoured glutinous rice flour (you can use plain rice flour if you prefer)
  • 3 tsp pandan essence (1tsp paste)
  • 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • (Green food colouring if you wish)

Egg whites

  • 8 egg whites
  • 100g sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Method

  1. Whisk the eggs yolks with the sugar until light and fluffy
  2. Whisk in the coconut milk, pandan essence (and a splash of green food colouring if you would like it extra bright)
  3. Sift the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder and flour together
  4. Whisk in a third of the flour mixture followed by a third of the oil until it’s all incorporated
  5. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until frothy, then gradually add the sugar and cream of tartar
  6. Beat until the eggs whites are they reach stiff peaks
  7. Fold the egg whites into the batter gently
  8. Pour into a non greased tube pan
  9. Bake at 160 degrees c fan for 50 minutes
  10. When fully cooked invert the tin immediately over a cooling rack and allow the cake to slide gently out of the tin as it cools
  11. Slice with a very sharp knife and store in an airtight container
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47. A Thousand Layer Cake – Indonesian Spekkoek Spice Cake

Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake

Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake

I’ve had my eye on this gorgeous Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake (Spekkoek) for quite some time. With it’s perfectly symmetrical stripes of spice interwoven with ribbons of vanilla. Spekkoek or lapis legit is a rich layered cake and is very expensive to buy due to the amount of time it takes to create it, so it’s normally eaten at special occasions and celebrations such as Christmas, weddings or festivals in Indonesian.

Layers and layers and layers

Layers and layers and layers

It requires a bit of planning and preparation and a lot of hitting the pause button if you choose to watch a film whilst trying to bake it, as each layer is baked individually for 11 minutes precisely. But it’s well worth the effort.

Most recipes for a Thousand Layer cake ask for up to 30 eggs! I thought this was a bit extreme and not the most healthy of cakes so scaled it back to a mere 10 eggs. Much more affordable too. It’s definitely a special cake lavished with lots of love and attention it had to taste wonderful.

If you’re going to attempt this cake I recommend

  • You own an electric whisk – this would be quite an ordeal to whisk by hand!
  • You have at least 2 large bowls to whisk the eggs in
  • You add lots of spice!
Beat the egg yolks and 100g sugar together

Beat the egg yolks and 100g sugar together

I’m lucky that I own a Kitchenaid and it could take the strain of whisking the egg whites for me whilst I busied myself whisking the yolks. But you could do it in 3 separate stages if you like. You don’t have to multi task to the extreme if you don’t want to. Me, I enjoy adding a bit of danger to my bakes. Doing everything at once. I’ll balance my bowls on top of many ingredients on the work surfaces and hope for the best, like spinning plates, but in my case it’s batter.

Whilst whisking the egg whites with about 100g of the sugar with a hand held electric whisk I set the Kitchenaid away to whisk the egg whites until fluffy.

Whisking the egg whites until they start to stiffen

Whisking the egg whites until they start to stiffen

Once the whites start to stiffen add 100g of sugar (bit by bit) and continue to whisk until they reach stiff peaks and look glossy.

Beat together the butter, vanilla and sugar

Beat together the butter, vanilla and sugar

Then as if you’re not busy enough, beat together the remaining sugar, with the butter and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.

Mix together the butter and egg yolk mixtures in one large bowl

Mix together the butter and egg yolk mixtures in one large bowl

You’re going to need the biggest bowl that you own to incorporate all of the ingredients together. Start with mixing the egg yolk batter and the butter/sugar paste together.

All together now - butter, sugar, and egg yolks batter

Butter, sugar, and egg yolks batter all together

Once all of the ingredients are mixed well (I used my electric hand whisk) the delicate process of folding in the egg whites to the batter can begin. Using a metal spoon fold in gently the egg whites to preserve the air in the batter.

There's a lot of egg whites to fold in!

There’s a lot of egg whites to fold in!

It will start to look like scrambled eggs but persevere until the batter looks smooth.

Yum scrambled eggs!

Yum scrambled eggs! Keep going with the folding

Next up is the relatively small amount of plain flour considering how much egg and butter is in this cake! It also needs to be folded in carefully to the batter with a metal spoon.

Fold in the flour

Fold in the flour

To achieve the two tone and two flavour effect half of the batter needs to be flavoured with spices and the other half left to be as it is, with a hint of vanilla.

Fold in a vast quantity of spice

Fold in a vast quantity of spice to half the batter

Split the batter in half (you’re going to need yet another bowl here!) and fold the spices into half of the batter.

Leave the other half of the batter as it is in a separate bowl

Vanilla batter – Leave the other half of the batter as it is in a separate bowl

The spiced batter should look slightly browner in colour. this will help you to remember which layer you’re up to when it comes to cooking the cake!

Spiced batter

Spiced batter

With your two bowls of batter ready, it’s time to spoon a thin layer (about 5mm) into greased and lined baking tin. I used my new extra long German loaf tin 30cm x 10cm. Make sure you push the batter into all of the corners and smooth it down. Give it a very gentle tap on the worksurface to remove any air bubbles and pop it in the oven for 11 minutes. Some recipes say to follow this bake with a minute under the grill, however my oven doesn’t have a separate grill and oven.  The grill would have to be warmed up each time which to me seemed a bit too laborious. Instead I added an extra minute to the baking time to compensate for the lack of grilling and it worked a treat.

The first layer in the extra long loaf tin

The first vanilla batter layer in the extra long loaf tin

It’s a bit tricky to get the first layer into all of the corners as the batter is quite stiff. I wiped the inside edges of the tin round with a clean finger to remove any extra batter to avoid any smudging of the layers later on. The last thing you want is a smear of burnt batter up the sides your beautiful layer cake.

The first baked layer in the extra long loaf tin

The first baked layer in the extra long loaf tin

After 11 minutes in the oven the first layer should be slightly golden brown and evenly baked. Ready for the addition of the next layer straight on top of the hot cake. The heat from the first layer helps to melt the butter and spread the batter evenly around the tin. Remember to alternate your batters! One layer vanilla, one layer spice and repeat.

Raw spiced batter straight on top of the cooked cake below

Raw spiced batter straight on top of the cooked cake below

As your cake bakes it will probably shrink back from the sides of the tin a little, so don’t be alarmed if some of the raw batter disappears down the sides of the cake and into the layer below. A liberal dusting of icing sugar hides all manner of mishaps to a finished cake!

The second spiced layer

The second spiced layer, smooth and ready for the oven

Keep alternating the batters. Repeating the layering, spreading, baking and even more layering until you’ve no more batter left. This process is not for the time restricted or feint hearted. Baking the cake took at least 4 hours, but it’s almost like a work out, leaping up off the sofa to take the cake out of the oven every 11 minutes.

I grilled the final layer a bit for extra authenticity... It looks a bit burnt but tasted good!

I grilled the final layer a bit for extra authenticity… It looks a bit burnt but tasted good!

Let the cake cool in the tin for about 2o minutes before gently loosening the cake from the tin with a palette knife and attempting to remove it from the tin. I grilled the final layer a bit for extra authenticity… It looks a bit burnt but tasted good!

The final long layered cake out of it's tin

The final long layered cake out of it’s tin

I must admit I was a tad alarmed at how dark the cake was when I removed it from the tin. I did wonder how the initial layers would hold up after being baked time and time again. Would they be burnt and tough? I baked at least 18 layers into my cake, that’s a whole lot of oven time for the first few cms of the cake.

Indonesian Layer Cake

Indonesian Layer Cake

The liquid batter did seep under the greaseproof paper inside the tin. The cake had baked around the paper which made it a his made it a bit difficult remove, but not impossible. However this meant the top was a little uneven, so I trimmed it slightly and dusted it with icing sugar! (shh no one will know!)

Trimmed and dusted to reveal the lovely layers inside

Trimmed and dusted to reveal the lovely layers inside

The white icing sugar gave the layers an extra lift against the contrasting spice. I baked my Indonesian Thousand  Layer Cake for a special Clandestine Cake Club ‘Here comes the sun’ themed event. I was hurrying along to the cakey gathering but just had enough time to slice up some homemade candied orange and lemon citrus peel (Thank you Sharyn at The Kale Chronicles for the how to!) in long thin strips to create my very own sunburst effect, adding a trio of star anise (one of the key spices in the cake) to bring the summery spicey cake to life. As Mary Berry always says, you should include a bit of what’s inside the cake, outside the cake to whet people’s appetites.

Here comes the sun - Indonesian Layer Cake

Here comes the sun – Indonesian Layer Cake

As the tin that I used is supposed to be for bread, I don’t own a cake stand or plate big enough to house such a lengthy cake. I resorted to carrying the cake ,open topped on a chopping board instead. Note to self, icing sugar sitting on a cake will not stay there for long on a windy day. Precariously seated on my passenger seat and me also liberally coated in icing sugar we made our way to the Clandestine Cake Club!

Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake

Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake

I’m so pleased I took the time to attempt the Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake cake although technically not exactly 1000 layers it feels close enough! A challenge of the patience and my washing up ability it may be but this cake promises so much more than a frustrating time in the kitchen. It is such an unusual tasting cake, quite delicate and surprisingly light, I guess due to the sparse amount of flour and the endless whisking.

Layers and layers and layers

Layers and layers and layers

This cake is magic. There must be something in the enormous amounts of eggs that go into the batter that prevent the layers from burning or drying up to a miserable shrivelled mess. It’s moist, spicy and sweet, although not too sweet. It’s a proper grown up cake, sophisticated in it’s beautiful layers and exotic taste. It also improves with age. I had half a piece left from the Cake Club which I shared with Chris 4 days after baking it and it was delicious not dry in the slightest. I think spice cake always deepens in flavour with time. If you want to savour the cake you can even peel each individual layer and eat them separately. I enjoyed devouring it with a strong coffee. I will be baking this again when I have an afternoon to spare and maybe attempting more stripey cakes in the future. I think I’m hooked!

Things I used to make my Indonesian Layer Cake

  • 375g sugar (100g added to egg whites, 100g added to egg yolks, and 175g added to butter mixture)
  • 10 egg whites
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cassia bark
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground star anise
  • 1/4 of a grated fresh nutmeg
  • 250g butter
  • 185g plain flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. In separate bowl – Whisk egg whites til fluffy add 100g sugar gradually. Whisk til shiny and stiff
  2. In separate bowl – Cream 175g sugar and the butter together til light and fluffy
  3. In separate bowl – Whisk egg yolks and 100g sugar together til fluffy
  4. In a big bowl – Whisk egg mixture and butter mixture together
  5. Fold in egg whites
  6. Fold in flour
  7. Split the batter in half
  8. Fold the spices into one half of the batter
  9. Pour a thin 5mm layer of vanilla batter into tin
  10. Bake for 11 minutes at 160 degrees C.
  11. Pour a thin layer of spiced batter onto cooked layer
  12. Bake
  13. Repeat alternating the batters until all the batter is cooked.
  14. Cool, remove from tin, decorate and eat!