Soft and fluffy pandan chiffon cake is studded with aromatic gula Melaka (palm sugar) and grated coconut. Biting into pieces of gula Melaka is really a treat. It reminds me of eating the onde onde kuih with the melty gula Melaka filling on the inside.
Coat the chunks of palm sugar in flour and sift out excess flour. This helps to keep them afloat in the cake batter.
Prepare the cake:
Make sure your chiffon cake pan does not have a non-stick coating or your cake will not rise. The cake needs to cling to the side of the pan to rise tall
Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Place the whites on a mixing bowl of a standmixer (if you are using a stand mixer) and yolks on a separate large mixing bowl and let them sit at the counter to come at room temperature.
Prepare the cake batter:
Preheat oven to 330 F (165 C). My oven is a conventional oven with bottom heat only, no fan. Place the oven rack 3rd from the top.Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cooking oil, then add coconut milk and pandan essence. Sift in the cake flour, and salt into the batter, there will be no lumps when you do this. Whisk to mix into a smooth batter. Set aside
Whip the egg whites:
Beat the egg whites with a whisk attachment on medium speed until frothy, add lemon juice/vinegar and whip until it turns whitish. Gradually add the sugar as you beat, in 3 batches. I beat them at high speed (speed 6 on Kitchen Aid) until you reach a stiff peak . I recommend stopping several times to check on the consistency. When you lift up the whisk, it should hold its shape firmly. Stop once you reach this stiff peak. Overbeating the meringue will break it
Fold meringue into the cake batter:
Gently fold 1/3 of the meringue into the thick batter. Using a whisk, using a cutting motion and fold over to mix. Repeat this motion several rounds. Continue on with the second 1/3 of the meringue again to mix. For the last 1/2 of the meringue, use a rubber spatula instead to ensure you get all the batter at the bottom of the bowl mixed in as well. Use a cut down in the middle and fold over motion to fold gently but quickly. Make sure you don't see any more white meringue. The mixture should be fluffy and voluminous.
Pour about 1/3 of the batter into an UNGREASED chiffon cake pan. Use a rubber spatula to smooth the surface. Sprinkle 1/2 of the gula Melaka chunks on the surface and some shredded coconut. Pour the next 1/3 of the batter and smooth it gently with spatula and sprinkle with another 1/2 of gula Melaka chunks and coconut. Pour the rest of the cake batter to cover and gently smooth the top. Give the pan a little shake to even out the cake batter. Gently drop the cake pan from about 10 cm height on the counter 2-3 times. This helps to pop large bubbles inside the cake batter
Pop into the oven and let it bake at 330 F for 50 minutes. Then lower the heat to 300 F (150 C) and bake for another 10-15 minutes. If your oven has top and bottom heat, you may want to lower the temperature by about 20 degrees. You will know your oven best
NOTES on baking time: Please note that the baking time is just for reference. Your oven may bake faster or slower and the type of oven you use may be different than mine
Test for doneness:
It's actually "safer" to overbake chiffon cake than underbaking. Underbaking tends to cause the cake to collapse. Usually if you insert a skewer inside the cake and no crumbs stick to it or very minimal crumbs, it is safe to say that the cake is cooked through. You can also touch the top and if it springs back, it's a good sign that it's cooked through. I like to have some golden brown on top. I don't know if you notice, but when the cake has a golden brown color on top, it's actually more flavorful too than when the cake is pale in color
Don't be alarm if your cake has some cracks on top. What you are looking at will become the bottom of your cake. I know many people mind it a lot and make a big fuss when the top of the chiffon cake cracks, but actually it's not a flaw.
Cool down the cake:
Remove from the oven and immediately drop the cake pan from about 10 cm height several times to minimize shrinkage. Invert the pan immediately to stand on its built-in feet to cool down for the next 1-2 hours
Once it has cooled down, run a offset spatula on the edge to loosen the cake and use a skewer to loosen the middle. push the cake out from the tube. Run the offset spatula on the bottom of the cake to loosen the cake and gently flip over. The bottom of the cake is now at the top
Prepare whipped cream:
Chill the bowl and the whisk you are going to use in the fridge. Make sure the heavy cream is cold too. Pour the heavy cream and icing sugar into the bowl. Whip them on a medium peed. It's very easy to overwhip the heavy cream. We want it to be medium soft and don't beat until it reaches stiff peak. Cover and keep this chilled in the fridge
Frost and garnish:
Frost the surface of the cake with the whipped cream and then sprinkle with more gula Melaka chunks and dessicated coconut. Serve immediately. I recommend frosting the cake on the day you want to serve it