Pandan cake is a traditional Southeast Asian dessert made with a light, fluffy chiffon cake infused with pandan flavoring. The cake is incredibly soft, fluffy, and tastes delicious with a fresh whipped cream topping. If you've never made a chiffon cake, this post has everything you need to know plus plenty of step-by-step pictures to help you along the way.
What is Pandan?
Pandan (pandanus amaryllifolius) is a tropical plant grown widely throughout South and Southeast Asia. The plant's leaves are very common in Southeast Asian cooking, both for savory dishes and desserts. The leaves themselves are not edible, but are often cooked along with soups, stews, rice, or used as a wrap for grilling meat, all which add delicious depth of flavor. In baking, pandan extract is used similar to the way vanilla extract is used in western cultures. The flavor is very pleasant, mild, slightly sweet, warm, earthy, and tastes great in pretty much any dessert recipe. You can find pandan leaves at some Asian markets, but the easiest way to get it is to order it online.
Pandan Cake Ingredients
For the cake batter:
- Cake flour: Cake flour makes the most soft and tender cake.
- In a pinch, you can substitute cake flour with a mixture of all-purpose flour and cornstarch. For every 1 cup of cake flour, subtract 2 tablespoons and replace it with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. So for 1 and ½ cups of cake flour, you'll need 1 cup + 5 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and 3 tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift them together a couple of times to get a lighter texture.
- Granulated sugar: There is 1 cup of sugar in the cake batter, you'll also need more for making the meringue.
- Baking powder: A chiffon cake relies on the meringue to lift the cake up during baking, but just in case it's not enough, baking powder is used for extra rising insurance.
- Egg yolks: 6 large egg yolks. Reserve the whites for making the meringue.
- Vegetable oil
- Coconut milk: Coconut pairs well with the flavor of pandan, you can also use whole milk.
- Pandan flavoring: This is what I used.
For the meringue:
- Egg whites: 6 large egg whites, room temperature.
- Cream of tartar: Cream of tartar stabilizes the egg whites and helps them whip to stiff peaks.
- Granulated sugar: Or castor sugar, sifted. Sugar is what gives the meringue structure.
How to Make Pandan Cake
Separate the eggs while they're cold and then set the egg whites aside to come to room temperature. Make sure you don't get any yolk in the bowl with the whites or you won't be able to whip them to stiff peaks. Tip: Separate the egg whites one at a time into a small, separate bowl before adding them to the bowl with the rest of the egg whites. That way, if you accidentally get some of the yolk in the bowl you don't have to start over.
Set your oven rack to the lowest position and preheat your oven to 325° F.
Make the Cake Batter: In a medium bowl, whisk the cake flour, 1 cup of granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a very large bowl, add the egg yolks, vegetable oil, coconut milk, and pandan flavoring. Whisk vigorously to combine. Add the dry ingredients and whisk well until the batter is completely smooth.
Make the Meringue:
Add the egg whites to a completely clean and dry, very large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer (recommended).
Use an electric mixer or the whisk attachment in the stand mixer and begin whipping the egg whites. After about 30 seconds, add the cream of tartar, and keep mixing until the egg whites start to thicken and turn frothy.
Start adding the sifted granulated sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, and mix for about 20 seconds between each addition.
Once all of the sugar is added, mix until the meringue reaches medium-stiff peaks, about 3-5 minutes. It should be thick, glossy, and when you lift the mixer up and turn it upside down there should be a peak that sticks up with a very slight curl at the tip.
Use a large balloon whisk to very gently mix the meringue into the cake batter until evenly combined. Try not to deflate too much air as you mix. Pour the batter into an ungreased tube pan. Make sure the pan you're using is not non-stick or the cake won't rise.
Bang the pan on your counter a few times to release some of the trapped air bubbles.
Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 55-65 minutes. It should have risen up with a light golden, crackly top, and a cake tester or toothpick should come out clean.
Take the cake out of the oven and very carefully flip the tube pan upside down. Keep the pan upside down and let the cake cool completely at room temperature. Cooling the cake upside down prevents it from deflating, since you didn't grease the pan, the cake will be stuck to the sides and won't fall out.
Whipped Cream Topping
A layer of fresh homemade whipped cream is the best way to top this cake. In order for the whipped cream to hold its shape, I prefer using stabilized whipped cream, which is just regular whipped cream with a bit of unflavored gelatin mixed in. You won't be able to tell any difference in the taste or texture of the whipped cream, but it pipes onto the cake perfectly and won't start to melt at all like regular whipped cream.
To add the whipped cream onto the cake, use a piping bag with the tip cut off and pipe it all over the top and sides of the cake, then use an offset spatula to even it out. You can let that set in the fridge and top with a second coat, if necessary.
Add some sliced berries to garnish before serving. The cake tastes best the same day once assembled, store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Pandan Chiffon Cake
- electric or stand mixer
- 10-inch tube pan with removable bottom (not non-stick)
- 1 and ½ cups cake flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 and ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 6 large egg yolks
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- ⅔ cup coconut milk or whole milk
- 1 tablespoon Pandan flavoring
- 6 large egg whites, room temperature
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup granulated or castor sugar, sifted
(Stabilized) Whipped Cream Topping:
- ½ teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder
- 2 teaspoons cold water
- 1 and ½ cups cold heavy whipping cream
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract or pandan extract, optional
- Separate the eggs first while they're cold and set the egg whites aside to come to room temperature.
- Arrange your oven rack to the bottom position and preheat your oven to 325°F.
Make the Pandan Cake Batter:
- Dry ingredients: In a medium bowl, whisk the cake flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In a very large bowl, vigorously whisk the egg yolks, vegetable oil, coconut (or whole) milk, and pandan flavoring. Add the dry ingredients and whisk well until the batter is smooth with no lumps.
Make the Meringue:
- In a very large, completely clean and dry bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, use an electric mixer or the whisk attachment and start mixing the egg whites. After about 30 seconds, add the cream of tartar and keep mixing until the egg whites are starting to thicken and turn frothy. See post for visual.
- Start adding the sifted granulated (or castor) sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, and mix for a full 20 seconds between each addition.
- Once all of the sugar is added, keep mixing the meringue until medium-stiff, glossy peaks form. When you lift the whisk and flip it upside down there should be a peak that sticks straight up with a slight curl at the tip.
- Use a large balloon whisk to very gently mix the meringue into the pandan cake batter. Be careful not to deflate the meringue and mix just until the batter is evenly combined. Use a rubber spatula to wipe around the bottom and sides of the bowl.
- Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Make sure the pan is not non-stick and don't grease the pan or line it with parchment paper or the cake won't work.
- Bake the cake for 55-60 minutes. It should have risen up with a golden brown, crackly top. A cake tester or toothpick should come out clean.
- Take the pan out of the oven and very carefully flip the pan upside down. Since you didn't grease the pan and the pan is not non-stick, the cake will stick to the sides and won't fall out. Keep the pan upside down and let the cake cool completely at room temperature. Cooling the cake upside down prevents it from deflating.
- Once the cake has cooled, run a knife around the edges of the pan to remove the sides.
Make the Whipped Cream Topping:
- Add the unflavored gelatin powder and cold water to a small bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes to bloom the gelatin.
- Add the cold heavy whipping cream to a large glass bowl and use an electric mixer to whip until starting to thicken, about 30 seconds. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla or pandan extract (if using), and whip for another 10-20 seconds or until very soft peaks form.
- Microwave the bowl of bloomed gelatin for 5-7 seconds to dissolve the granules.
- Slowly pour the liquid gelatin mixture into the bowl of whipped cream while continuing to mix on low speed. Add the vanilla or pandan extract (if using) and mix until thick and billowy, about 10 seconds. Switch to a whisk and mix by hand towards the end so you don't over whip the cream. If you do over whip it and it starts to get too thick, you can fix it by mixing in a little more cold heavy whipping cream to get the right consistency.
- To add the whipped cream onto the cake, use a piping bag with the tip cut off and pipe it all over the top and sides of the cake, then use an offset spatula to even it out. Let that set in the fridge for about 30 minutes before adding a second layer of whipped cream, if needed.
- The cake is best served the same day once assembled and can be kept out at room temperature for several hours, or stored in the fridge for a few days.