Pillowy soft, fluffy and fragrant pandan cake showcasing the best Asian flavours. This cake is not only airy and light, but also very moist and melts in your mouth. Including tips and tricks for making the perfect pandan chiffon cake every time!
Ever since I started baking, I have been on a quest to find the fluffiest cake in the world. Well, after years of searching – I have found it! Introducing the incredibly light and fluffy pandan cake, an airy chiffon cake that melts in your mouth.
Made with homemade pandan extract, this cake is naturally green and has a beautiful grassy sweet aroma. It can be a little bit technical to make, but trust me it’s so worth it!
Pandan is such a unique and aromatic flavour that it should be properly celebrated. A bit intimidated to start with a cake first? No worries, you can start exploring with my Vietnamese Pandan Waffle that is soft, fluffy and chewy.
What is pandan cake?
Pandan cake is a light and fluffy type of chiffon cake typically made in a chiffon pan, also known as a tube pan. It’s made with pandan extract and coconut milk, which give it a wonderful floral, fresh and tropical flavour.
Pandan chiffon cake is so popular in Southeast Asia that it was named Singapore and Malaysia’s national cake. It’s also incredibly popular in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, China and Hong Kong. Nowadays pandan cake is becoming more popular across the western world as well.
The most important characteristic of pandan chiffon is its airiness. Air bubbles are whipped in egg whites to make this cake incredibly light and fluffy. It’s very similar to angel food cake it terms of fluffiness, but it’s a much more moist cake. Unlike angel food cake, pandan chiffon also uses vegetable oil and egg yolks, which make this cake incredibly moist.
Pandan cake gets its name from the main ingredient – pandan. Originating from South and Southeast Asia, pandan is a tropical plant with long, thin leaves. These leaves are extremely fragrant and aromatic, which is why they’re used for a lot of Asian desserts. For more information, head over to my post on pandan and where to find it.
This pandan cake is flavoured with natural pandan extract, which can be either homemade or store-bought. Of course, homemade pandan essence is much more fragrant and natural, making it the best option. I only recommend using store-bought extract if you really cannot find any fresh pandan leaves.
This beautiful cake is characterised by a vibrant and bright green interior. The green colour comes from the pandan extract and can be enhanced with extra green food colouring or pandan paste.
What does it taste like?
Pandan has a very unique and fresh flavour, which I would describe as grassy or earthy vanilla. In a way, it tastes green – trust me, you’ll understand what I mean when you taste it!
The two main flavours in this chiffon cake are pandan and coconut. These flavours work perfectly together, as the subtle milky coconut makes pandan taste sweeter and more floral.
Since this is a very fluffy pandan chiffon cake, the flavours are very delicate and light. Overall, it makes for a very beautiful and fresh cake that’s just the right amount of sweetness.
No filling or frosting is used inside the pandan cake, but it’s still very moist and delicious. The only downside is you might just end up eating all of it at once!
Choosing the right cake pan
The key to this pandan chiffon cake recipe is using the right type of pan. I have tested this recipe with 4 different types of baking pans, with various levels of success. The chiffon needs to rise a lot while baking, in order for it to be an extra fluffy cake.
The best type of baking pan is a 6-inch (15 cm) aluminium tube chiffon cake pan with a removable base, like the ones used for angel food cake. The pan should NOT have non-stick coating, and needs to be aluminium. Extra points if it also has legs to hang the cake upside down when cooling.
Pro tip: Do not grease or line the pan. The cake needs to gently stick to the sides of the pan when baking, and any slippery surface will make it collapse.
Pro tip 2: For the recipe below, a 6-inch pan is needed. If using different sized pan, the recipe will need adjusting.
Different pan sizes
If you do not have a 6 inch tube pan, don’t worry. You can adjust the recipe for different pan sizes. You will still need to use an aluminium tube pan with NO non-stick coating.
For each size tube pan you will need the following ingredient quantities:
8-inch pan (20 cm)
Baking time: 50-55 minutes
- 5 eggs
- 1 cup cake flour (125 grams)
- ½ cup sugar (110 grams)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ cup coconut milk (100 grams)
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil (75 grams)
- ⅓ cup homemade pandan extract (80 grams)
10-inch pan (25 cm)
Baking time: 55-60 minutes
- 7 eggs
- 1 ⅓ cups cake flour (175 grams)
- ¾ cup sugar (150 grams)
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ⅔ cup coconut milk (140 grams)
- ½ cup vegetable oil (100 grams)
- ½ cup homemade pandan extract (110 grams)
Apart from the pandan extract or paste, all ingredients are easy to find in most supermarkets. Here’s what’s needed for this recipe:
- Eggs – large eggs are needed. They need to be separated into yolks and egg whites before starting the recipe. Ensure there is no yolk in the egg whites, as we need to whip them into a meringue.
- Sugar – regular granulated sugar is needed.
- Pandan extract – I highly recommend using homemade pandan essence for the freshest flavour. You can also use store-bought extract, but it can taste more artificial. Alternatively, pandan paste is a good option too if you cannot find fresh pandan leaves.
- Vegetable oil – Use an odourless and flavourless oil, such as sunflower or canola oil. I do NOT recommend using butter instead of oil.
- Coconut milk – Any type of canned coconut milk will work. You can also use coconut cream if desired (just make sure it’s not too thick).
- Flour – For this recipe it’s crucial you use cake flour. This type of flour has less protein, which make a much softer and finer cake. Nowadays cake flour can be found in most baking isles in supermarkets. I do not recommend using all purpose flour for this recipe.
- Baking powder – helps the pandan cake rise. Cannot be substituted with baking soda.
- Optional: food colouring – If using homemade pandan juice, the colour of the pandan cake batter might not be very intense. For a vibrant green colour you can use either pandan paste (also adds flavour) or gel food colouring.
How to make pandan chiffon cake
Before starting this pandan cake recipe, you need to prepare the pandan juice or extract. I recommend following my detailed recipe on How to make pandan extract from scratch. If using store-bought extract, skip this step.
For ease, let’s divide this recipe into two parts: making the cake batter and making the meringue.
Making the cake batter
- In a medium bowl whip the egg yolks with a pinch of salt until fluffy.
- Add in the pandan extract and mix again.
- Pour in the remaining wet ingredients and mix well.
- Lastly, sift in the flour and baking soda into the egg yolk mixture. Mix until just combined, ensuring there are no lumps.
Making the meringue
- In a separate bowl, whip up the egg whites using an electric mixer. When frothy, start pouring in sugar little by little.
- Keep whipping until medium to stiff peaks form.
- Fold the meringue into the wet batter.
- Pour batter into tube cake pan and bake.
Pro tip 1: Once baked, immediately turn the pan upside down and let the cake cool down upside down. This ensures it remains fluffy and tall.
Pro tip 2: To release it, once cooled run a thin cake spatula along the edges to help it unstick. Do it gently to not cut into the actual cake.
Success Tips & Tricks
- Use real pandan - For the most fragrant pandan cake, using real pandan leaves is a must. Although they can only be found in Asian supermarkets, it’s so worth getting them. Artificial pandan doesn’t even come close to the flavour of real pandan.
- Choose the right pan – Even if the recipe is executed perfectly, the wrong pan can ruin your pandan chiffon cake. You will need an aluminium tube pan (bundt pan) with NO non-stick coating. Ideally choose a pan that also has three little legs at the top, which are great for cooling the cake upside down. This recipe is for a 6-inch pan, but check out this section on how to adjust the recipe for different size pans.
- Room temperature ingredients – Ensure all ingredients are left at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before. This way the batter will mix smoothly, without any splitting or lumps.
- Perfect meringue – It’s crucial to ensure there is no egg yolk or grease in the egg whites. Use either a glass or metal mixing bowl, as plastic bowls can absorb grease and can ruin the meringue. Add the sugar in stages whilst whipping the egg whites to avoid deflating them. The meringue needs to reach medium stiff peaks that holds its shape without being too stiff.
- Sift the flour – This is the best way to avoid getting lumps in the batter. Sift the flour and baking powder to get a smooth batter.
- No overmixing – When mixing in the flour into the wet ingredients, only mix until the flour is fully incorporated. Do not overmix, as this can result in a dense cake.
- Fold in the meringue - Use a spatula to fold in the meringue into the batter. Use gentle sweeping motions, folding the batter in on itself. The batter should be fully combined, but still airy and fluffy.
- Do not grease the pan – We actually want this cake to stick slightly to the sides of the tube pan. Sticking helps it rise and remain tall, so do not grease the pan and do not use any parchment paper either. Slippery surfaces (like parchment paper or grease) will make the batter slide and deflate whilst baking, resulting in an uneven cake.
- Do not open the oven door – No matter how tempted you might be, DO NOT open the oven door once the cake is in. The hot air and steam make sure it rises well. Letting cold air into the oven can make the pandan cake deflate.
- Cool cake upside down – As soon as the cake has come out of the oven, turn the tube pan upside down and let it cool inverted. This is why it’s important to have the tube pan with legs. Cooling it upside down will help it retain its height and stay extra fluffy.
- Unstick the sides – Once fully cooled, use a small cake spatula to gently unstick the sides of the cake from the pan. Be gentle, as you don’t want to cut into its sides.
How to serve
You can serve plain pandan chiffon cake without any filling alongside a cup of tea or coffee. It’s the perfect texture and flavour to go with a good drink. I recommend trying it with a cup of Wintermelon Milk Tea (add a little pandan extract to enhance the flavour) or Tiger Milk Tea. In fact, it goes really well with any type of Milk Tea.
If you’re feeling fancy, you can decorate the pandan cake with some silky smooth White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. Add a little pandan extract in the frosting to flavour it and make it green. Decorate with extra fresh berries and fruit.
How to store
Plain pandan cake can be stored at room temperature. Place in an airtight container in a dry place for up to 2-3 days.
If you’ve decorated the pandan cake with any fresh fruit or frostings, it needs to be stored in the fridge in an airtight container.
Frequently asked questions
The main reason this happens is because the cake is not cooked all the way through or you use the wrong cake pan. When the middle of the cake is still uncooked, it can collapse and the top becomes uneven. To avoid this from happening, try this:
Oven temperature – try calibrating your oven to ensure it’s at the correct temperature. Also, don’t place the pan too close to the top of the oven. This can brown the top too quickly and leave the bottom uncooked. Place the pan in the middle of the oven.
Right cake pan - use an aluminium tube pan with NO non-stick coating. The cake needs to actually stick to the sides of the pan in order to rise. Having a non-stick coating causes the batter to slip become uneven when baking. See the section above on Choosing the right cake pan.
Don’t overfill – Adding too much cake batter into the pan means the batter has no more room to rise. Only fill to about ¾ of the way from the top.
Chiffon cakes typically crack on top when the oven is too hot. Ensure your oven is properly calibrated or reduce the temperature slightly and bake for longer. However, in the case of this recipe it doesn’t really matter if the cake cracks on top. Pandan cake is served upside down, so the crack won’t be visible at all.
This can happen when you use the wrong cake pan or when the meringue isn’t quite right. Here’s how to get the perfect cake rise for this recipe:
Cake pan – use an aluminium tube pan like the ones for angel food cake. It should NOT have any non-stick coating. See the section above on Choosing the right cake pan.
Do not grease or line – there should not be any grease or parchment paper on the pan. The cake needs to stick to the sides in order to get a good rise.
Meringue – it’s important the meringue is whipped up correctly until medium stiff peaks. Ensure the sugar in incorporated slowly.
Fold the batter – the batter needs to have as much air incorporated into it as possible. When folding in the meringue, use a spatula and do it gently. Try not to deflate too much air when folding.
This could happen when the eggs are overbeaten or the cake is overcooked. To avoid this try the following:
Medium stiff peaks - only beat the meringue up to medium stiff peaks. The meringue should hold its shape without being too hard.
Fold the meringue – be careful when folding the meringue into the cake batter. Use a spatula and fold gently, as you want to preserve the air you’ve whipped into the meringue.
Perfectly baked cake – ensure your oven is calibrated to the correct temperature. Use an oven thermometer if needed.
This happens when the meringue is either too soft or too hard. The meringue should reach medium stiff peaks and be able to hold its shape. To test it, dip a spatula into your meringue and take it out. The meringue should make a peak upwards, without dropping sideways too much. Also, it should still look silky and smooth, not like dry foam.
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Pandan Cake Recipe
- 6-inch aluminium tube pan (see post for more details)
- hand mixer
- silicone spatula
Homemade panndan extract
- 5 pandan leaves, fresh or frozen
- ¼ cup water
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- ¾ cup cake flour (100 grams)
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar (70 grams)
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- ⅓ cup coconut milk (80 grams)
- ¼ cup vegetable oil (50 grams)
- ¼ cup homemade pandan extract (50 grams)
- ½ teaspoon pandan paste
Homemade pandan extract
- Wash and cut the pandan leaves into small 1-inch pieces. Place them in the blender with water and blend until fully pulverised.
- Use a fine sieve or cheese cloth to remove the leaf pulp. The remaining liquid is the pandan extract.
- Pre-heat the oven to 170°C (350°F). Do not grease or line the cake pan.
- In a medium bowl add cake flour and baking powder, mixing well to combine.
- Separate the egg whites and yolks from and place the egg yolks into a large bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar into the yolks, then use a hand mixer to mix until pale and frothy.
- Pour the coconut milk, vegetable oil and pandan extract into the egg yolks, mixing well to combine.
- Sift the flour and baking powder mixture into the pandan mixture, then use a whisk to combine.
- In a separate clean metal or glass bowl, add the egg whites and a pinch of salt. Start whipping until frothy, then slowly start adding in the sugar. Keep whipping while adding the sugar and mix until the meringue reaches medium stiff peaks.
- Add ⅓ of the meringue into the pandan batter and fold it in slowly. Add the remaining meringue and use a spatula to fold it in gently, without deflating any air. The batter needs to be very aerated and fluffy.
- Pour the batter into the cake pan, about ¾ of the way to the top. Level the top with a spatula if needed. Tap the pan onto the work surface gently to release any large air bubbles.
- Bake for 25 minutes at 170°C (350°F), and do not open the oven door. After 25 minutes reduce the heat to 160°C (325°F) and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
- As soon as the cake comes out, turn the cake pan upside down on its legs and let cool while inverted.
- Once fully cooled, use a thin cake spatula to carefully unstick the edges.
- Decorate as desired with cream cheese frosting or fresh fruit.
- I recommend using a kitchen scale in grams for more accuracy. The cups used for the conversion are standard US customary cups (1 cup flour = 136g). There are many different types of cups across the globe, which is why I strongly recommend using grams instead.
- Nutritional information is estimative only and is calculated per serving without any frosting or other toppings. This recipe makes 8 servings.
- A 6-inch aluminium tube pan with NO non-stick coating is needed for this recipe. Do not line or grease the pan. Please see post for different cake sizes and conversions.
- Cake flour cannot be substituted with all purpose flour.
- If the homemade pandan extract is left out, substitute it with extra coconut milk.
- If using store-bought pandan extract only use 1 teaspoon.
Kyong C says
Made this with pandan paste and it came out so tasty!! It's crazy fluffy and so delicious even without anything else. Will try to find pandan leaves for next time!
I measured the flour wrong the first time and the cake came out very dense. But I made it again measuring like in the recipe and omg softest cake I've ever made!!
I've made this cake about 3 times already and it always came out super fluffy and soft. It's so nice that I usuallyy don't even add any frosting.
Marie-Noelle Chan says
I have a question I don't have the leaves but essence can you please tell me the quantity to use?
Hanelore Dumitrache says
Hi Marie-Noelle, good question! I recommend using 1 teaspoon (or 4 grams) of pandan essence. Happy baking! 🙂