pandan chiffon cake and martha stewart's coconut cupcakes

Posted on 11/21/2012 by helen_bakes
Two recipes today, one very asian and one very american. Let's start with the one that I preferred, the pandan chiffon cake. I was really agonising over this one because it's not easy to get the right chiffon cake texture - really light and soft and fluffy. AND I DID IT. But god is fair, so the pandan taste and colour didn't come out very strongly. However, it was still lovely to eat and so satisfying to have achieved the right texture on the first try.

Recipe is from Almost Bourdain and makes about 16 servings [from a normal-sized bundt cake pan.]

2 1/4 cups cake flour (not self-raising)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 large egg yolks
1 tbsp pandan essence
1 tsp pandan paste*** [see below]
7 large egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 325F. In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and 1 cup granulated sugar. Make a well in center and add oil, egg yolks, pandan essence, pandan paste, and 3/4 cup cold water; whisk into flour mixture until smooth.

In another large bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beating at high speed, gradually sprinkle in remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2 tbsp at a time, beating well after each addition, until whites stand in stiff peaks when beaters are lifted.

With rubber spatula, gently fold one-third of whites into yolk mixture; fold in remaining whites. Pour batter into ungreased 9- to 10-inch tube pan.

Bake 1 1/4 hours, or until top springs back when lightly touched. Invert cake in pan on funnel or bottle; cool completely in pan. Carefully run metal spatula around side of pan to loosen cake; remove from pan and place on cake plate.

Forgive the bad pictures, but I was doing nocturnal baking:


So gigantic when it came out of the oven! But so perfectly rounded. Such things make me happy.


I was so, so scared it would break when I tried to un-pan it. Take the recipe's advice and run a spatula or knife around the edges, it really helps.


This picture really doesn't do it justice, and I just had to choose a slice with a hole to photograph. The rest of it was really even and fine. Beautiful. I quite liked the subtle pandan flavour, actually.

***IMPORTANT: What is pandan paste? You can buy it outside but according to the reviews of store-bought paste I've read it apparently gives a very artificial colour and is really just full of chemicals. You can learn how to make your own here. It takes a few days but is healthier and more natural.

Rating: 4/5 for lack of intensity of taste and flavour.

Now on to the american-style recipe. Be warned - this is very emphatically not for those who don't like sweet things. This is a Martha Stewart recipe, so it's quite foolproof. And sweet. I halved the recipe to give 6 (very sweet) cupcakes.

3 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup coconut milk
8 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups shredded sweetened coconut
Fresh Roasted Coconut, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until just combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; set aside.

In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on low speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 4 minutes. Do not overbeat. Gently fold a third of the egg-white mixture into the butter-flour mixture until combined. Gently fold in remaining egg-white mixture; stir in shredded coconut.

Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each with a heaping 1/4 cup batter. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the cupcakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack. Invert cupcakes onto rack; then reinvert and let cool completely, top sides up. Frost cupcakes with seven-minute frosting, swirling to cover. Garnish with fresh coconut just before serving.


I had the bright idea to mix in grated coconut with the frosting, with the sad result that it looked like scrambled eggs. Why didn't I think of putting the coconut on top of the frosting? Oh well. It tastes rather milky, but I like the little pieces of coconut you get in the cake. Did I mention it was very sweet?

Rating: 2/5 BECAUSE IT IS TOO DAMN SWEET. Take away a quarter of the sugar and this'll be really nice.
cappyhead 21st-Nov-2012 04:41 pm (UTC)
I gotta say that I have not found Martha Stewart recipes to be foolproof. The first time I tried to make a fruit pie, I followed one of her recipes for cherry pie exactly, and it turned out as cherry soup in a crust. That kinda turned me off of her recipes.

So far I've found Cook's Illustrated recipes to be damn near foolproof, but it's a paid site.
kamaliitaru 22nd-Nov-2012 12:20 am (UTC)
This...I had the same problem with one of her recipes, except it was a butter cream frosting.

To the OP, I love pandan, and wish I could get it in the US with regularity without going bankrupt. The cupcakes look a bit too sweet for me, though.
amaelamin_ 23rd-Nov-2012 03:17 pm (UTC)
is it really very expensive over there? even in the asian food shops? that's too bad! i hope you find a cheap supplier soon. here you can buy gigantic bunches for a couple of dollars.

oooohhh yeah, you said it. i couldn't even finish a whole cupcake by myself.
amaelamin_ 23rd-Nov-2012 03:15 pm (UTC)
oh really? i've never had any trouble with her recipes before, until this overly-sweet one. just a matter of luck i guess.

i've never understood how come published authors' recipes sometimes can produce complete disasters [and you know 100% it's not your fault] - didn't they test the recipes beforehand? /shrugs

thanks for the heads up, though. i'll be careful with martha stewart recipes in future.
yourwateryhands 24th-Nov-2012 12:04 am (UTC)
Agreed. I made cereal bars (they werelike rice krispie treats but with fruit loops, lucky charms, and captain crunch) using one of her recipes and somehow the recipe called for like 14 cups of cereal and four giant bags of marshmallows to make a 9x9 pan of 12 bars. Luckily my boyfriend used his brain and realized something was off before we bought all the extra ingredients, and then I read the reviews of the recipe and 99% of them said that they ended up with 3 or 4 batches using the given amounts.
cappyhead 26th-Nov-2012 06:52 am (UTC)
Oh, but I will say that this Martha Stewart recipe for Pumpkin Cream Pie is the BOMB. It's now my go-to recipe for pumpkin pie. The only alterations I make to the recipe are: 1) I usually just buy a pre-made graham cracker crust and 2) I omit the stabilized whipped cream topping and just use Cool Whip or fresh whipped cream.
querulouspeg 21st-Nov-2012 10:44 pm (UTC)
I've tried a pandan chiffon cake and it was a disaster. Took me three attempts to get it right. Asian cakes are notoriously difficult so I'm really impressed with your chiffon cake came out so well. Well done you! Did you do the pandan leaves in the food processor trick to get your paste? I chopped mine up into largish chunks and whizzed them with water, then strained through a cheesecloth to get this amazing scented dark green water. I didn't need to use any food colouring or essence at all. I have since used fake pandan flavour and even though it makes me squick to think what they make it out of, everyone goes nuts for my pandan cupcakes (just basic egg, flour, butter, sugar mix).
amaelamin_ 23rd-Nov-2012 03:12 pm (UTC)
i was completely surprised that it came out so well! i've tried sponge cakes before which were a total disaster, so i'm really amazed that this one came out so well. yeah that's what i did - i don't know if i didn't use enough of the paste, but as you can see the cake was more yellow than green. i think you'd probably have to use one entire pandan bush to get enough of the taste if you weren't using the pandan essence, so it's a necessary evil. i've got an idea for pandan cupcakes with palm sugar fillings that i think will be amazing.
alartsss 22nd-Nov-2012 04:08 am (UTC)
Thank you!
I wonder is it not too much sugar and too much salt in the coconut cupcakes?
Anyway, thatnks for the idea with coconut in the cupcake. I was going to make something different. And the small stars look preety as decoration for them.
amaelamin_ 23rd-Nov-2012 03:09 pm (UTC)
oh you don't taste the salt at all, and yeah i definitely think there's too much sugar in it. i'm pretty sure that the cupcakes would be quite nice if you reduce the amount. thanks! i love those sprinkles too, and they come in all sorts of shapes like bears and dolphins and stars and moons :)
rachelpage 19th-Nov-2014 02:25 am (UTC)
I really like this recipe. I’m going to make some trial runs for friends before I make the real deal on Thanksgiving.
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