Also known as “screwpine,” Pandan is most often used to flavor rice dishes and puddings, but it is also used as a delicate flavoring for pastries.
By Marissa Sertich
I wanted to stick my entire face into the pot to breathe in the pandan’s sweet steam. Subtly floral and slightly grassy, it is considered the vanilla bean of Southeast Asia, yet in the United States the name is tragically unknown. Although, I’d seen the pale, green pastries in all of the bakeries during my travels throughout Singapore, this was the first experimentation of my own – I was infusing coconut milk with pandan for steamed cakes.
Also known as “screwpine,” Pandan is most often used to flavor rice dishes and puddings, but it is also used as a delicate flavoring for pastries. Pandan chiffon cakes can be found in most all Singaporean bakeries. While the majority of the cakes come in familiar angel food cake-like rings, varieties in more cosmopolitan areas of town surprise diners with elegant and imaginative presentations. Even the world class, Raffles Hotel, known for creating the signature “Singapore Sling,” cocktail, carries several versions of the pandan cake.
My fascination with pandan does not just stem with its exquisite flavor. In Singapore, practically every grocery store carries fresh pandan leaves, as well as several varieties of extract. While so many Asian dishes and ingredients have managed to migrate west, many remain domestically bound and wait to be re-discovered my the hungry palettes of travelers.
The newness of the pandan’s gentle flavor has sparked my imagination as a pastry cook. I already have pandan-coconut milk steeping the refrigerator, pandan vodka in the works, and pandan ice cream is on the back burner.
In the U.S., many Asian supermarkets carry pandan extract, but beware of its concentrated potency. The flavor of the fresh leaves is more desirable, but they are incredibly difficult to find.Print
Steamed Pandan Cakes
Pandan cakes are a simple application of asian steaming techniques that showcase the subtle flavor of the Southeast Asian screwpine.
- Author: Karen Tan
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 10 mins
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 8 1x
- 3 eggs
- 150g sugar
- 150g all-pupose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 100g coconut milk
- 2 tsp pandan extract
- Using an electric mixer, whip together the eggs and sugar on high speed for at least five minutes, or until they become extremely light an fluffy.
- In a separate bowl mix together the flour, coconut milk, baking powder and pandan flavoring.
- Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the eggs and sugar to create a smooth batter.
- Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and place the muffin cups into a steamer or steam basket.
- Steam at high heat for 8-10 minutes until the cakes spring back to the touch.
- Cool and serve.
Marissa Sertich Velie is a New York based pastry chef and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. She passionately documents her adventures of baking and eating her way through the fascinating (and sometimes nutty) underbelly of the American pie. Velie has a Master's degree in Food Studies from NYU.
Another practice we can find in Singapore (particularly in taxis driven by the older generation) is leaving a bunch of fresh pandan leaves in the back window of the car. The tropical heat dries it up and the whole car gets wonderfully scented. The best part is that it is a cockroach deterrent as well.
Oh, and one more thing, Nasi Lemak, coconut flavoured rice, is a breakfast favourite here. And an essential part of the recipe for the rice is a huge bunch of fresh pandan leaves tied into a knot and cooked together with the rice. The fragrance is heaven.
I tried this recipe twice. The taste is nice but the cake shrink to very small size when time up and open the cover. Even, I tried to let it cool down in the steamer, it also shrink. May I know what happen?
This recipe was a fail!!!!!
Don’t try it!
The instructions were almost impossible, especially the part where you are expected to mix the flour and dry ingredients in coconut milk.
THIS CAUSED LUMPS IN THE BATTER AND THEY ENDED UP BEING LUMPS OF UNCOOKED FLOUR AFTER BEING STEAMED.The texture is horrible!
DO NOT TRY THIS RECIPE.
Ps. my cakes also shrunk.
I would recommend using a whisk incorporating the coconut milk into the flour. Press out any lumps on the side of the bowl using a spatula before adding it to the whipped egg…Lumps will not magically disappear in the cooking process, unless they are fat based.
I’m not sure why they are shrinking. Perhaps try reducing the cook time and be sure not to grease the cupcake containers before steaming. Also in the first step, whip the eggs to full volume.
Unlike the unfavourable comments here, I had great success with this recipe. The cakes turned out soft and fluffy with a great fragrance of pandan extract that I made my own. I love it!! A great light dessert for tea!
Try substitute fresh milk instead of coconut milk. I already try this.
Well im not yet try this recipe. But from the ingredient composition, you could make a success one from it. If your cakes deflate although you used all the ingredient on room temperature and on good condition, you maybe do one or two things: 1. Instead mixed it little by little (step 3), you put it all in one go. 2. Because the coconut flour batter isnt smooth when you adding them, you try to smoothe them while you already mixed it with egg batter. This behavior have big chance flatten the batter although you use the right technic for stirring them.
By any chance is there a video of someone making this.I got a little confused over the steps when i was doing this at home.my first attempt was ok but it looked more like bread.my second attempt was worse,the bottom was not cooked enough but the top felt fluffy and looked nice,it tasted good too.