Cooking with… Eunice of Heaven in a Wild Flower

I’m thrilled to welcome Eunice of the gorgeous blog, Heaven in a Wild Flower, to notabilia! Eunice is a Singaporean, currently living in London, who shares my love for “macarons, good food, gorgeous photography, lovely interiors, and beautiful flowers.” Recent not-to-miss posts on her blog: Refreshing Pear Sorbet with Mint & Lime, Matcha Green Tea Sablés and Japanese Bakeries, and My Macaron Journey.

Over to Eunice…

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This is the first time I’m doing a guest post on another blog. I would like to thank notabilia for the opportunity to share this local favourite with you!

I had a craving for pandan cake the other day. I was about to make my usual pandan chiffon cake, but then remembered I had hoen kwee flour that I brought back to London from Singapore. ‘Hoen kwee’ flour is the local name for green bean/mung bean/green pea flour. It usually comes in long rolls and is easily available in most supermarkets in Singapore or Asian supermarkets overseas. This flour is often used in Southeast Asian cakes to thicken the icing (into almost like a fudge). It is also the same flour used in ‘Lana’ chocolate cakes as well as to make fillings in nonya kuehs.

With hoen kwee flour in my pantry, I decided to make a filled pandan cake, commonly known as pandan kaya cake in Singapore. These cakes can be found in many pastry shops in Singapore, such as Bengawan Solo.

A little note about the key flavours in this cake: pandan and kaya. Pandan is a very fragrant leaf often used in Southeast Asian cooking to flavour both savoury and sweet dishes. The leaves are often tied into a knot or scored into thinner strips, added to cooking liquid to impart their signature fragrance, and removed after. Pandan is frequently paired with coconut, such as in nasi lemak (coconut rice), nonya kuehs, and kaya. Kaya is a coconut and egg custard jam, typically spread on toast and eaten as a staple breakfast item together with soft-boiled eggs. My favourite brand of kaya is from Tong Heng, a traditional Chinese pastry shop in Chinatown, but one day I shall learn to make my own kaya! notabilia has previously documented this wonderful breakfast item here.

Back to the pandan kaya cake. There are not that many recipes online and most are based off a popular recipe by Aunty Yochana. That recipe uses Optima flour, a pre-mixed sponge cake flour that contains raising agents and sugar. I had no idea what the proportions were so I couldn’t do a straight substitution. I did finally find a recipe on Peng’s Kitchen that did not use Optima flour. Using that as a base, I tweaked and adapted the recipe as below. Enjoy!

Pandan Kaya Cake
(makes an 8-inch round cake)

Ingredients for cake:
4 eggs, separated (I used large eggs)
120g castor sugar (divided into 2 x 60g portions)
160g cake flour (or 130g plain flour + 30g corn flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
90ml pandan juice*
1/2 tsp pandan paste
30ml (or 2 tbsp) coconut milk
30ml (or 2 tbsp) vegetable oil

Making the cake:
1. Preheat oven to 160°C in a conventional oven (170°C in a convection oven). Line the bottom of a 8-inch cake tin with greaseproof paper.
2. Whisk egg yolks with 60g of sugar, until they are pale yellow and form ribbons when lifted.
3. Combine the coconut milk, pandan juice, pandan paste, and oil together and add liquid mixture to whisked egg yolks. Mix well.
4. Sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder into wet ingredients. Whisk and mix well just until there are no lumps. Take care not to overwhisk as this may result in a chewy cake.
5. Whisk egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and whisk until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks form.
6. Gently fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture in 3 batches. Ensure that the ingredients at the bottom of the bowl are mixed in as well.
7. Pour into lined cake tin and bake in oven for 40 minutes. Turn the pan around halfway through baking.
8. When cake is done (a skewer comes out clean), invert to cool over wire rack. Run a knife along the sides of the tin to remove the cake. Peel off the greaseproof paper.
9. Slice the cake lengthwise into 2 equal layers.

Ingredients for filling and topping:
800ml coconut milk
70g hoen kwee flour
1 tbsp agar agar powder (or substitute with 1 tbsp gelatin powder)
50ml pandan juice*
1/2 tsp pandan paste
100g castor sugar
dessicated coconut

Making the filling:
1. Mix the hoen kwee flour with the pandan juice and stir until dissolved.
2. Add coconut milk, agar agar powder, sugar, and pandan paste into a saucepan and simmer on low heat, just until it starts to boil. Turn off the flame.
3. Pour the flour and pandan mixture into the saucepan and stir to thicken. Make sure there are no lumps. The consistency should be that of a thick custard. Let it cool slightly, but do not let it set.

Assembling the cake:
1. Place first layer of cake a 9-inch cake ring.
2. Pour and spread half the filling evenly over the first layer, making sure the sides are covered as well.
3. Place second layer of cake over the filling and spread the remaining half of the filling over the top and sides. Let it set in the fridge.
4. Once set (at least 2 hours), unmould the cake and sprinkle the top with dessicated coconut flakes.

*How to extract pandan juice:
9 pandan leaves
80ml coconut milk
70ml water

1. Cut the pandan leaves into strips. Place in a food processor.
2. Add the coconut milk and water and blend until leaves are shredded.
3. Squeeze and strain mixture through a muslin cloth. You should obtain about 140-150ml of liquid. Set aside 90ml for the cake, and 50ml for the filling. Discard the pandan leaves.

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Thank you, Eunice. A great way to make end-of-the-year festivities extra special, don’t you think? I can’t wait to try baking this in my own kitchen!

I welcome recipes from Singapore and beyond for Cooking with…. Priority is given to original recipes that have not yet appeared online. Please indicate if your recipe has already appeared online or been submitted elsewhere. Please email all recipes, including high-quality .jpgs, to me with the subject line ‘Recipes.’

(Additional credits: Photographs by Eunice of Heaven in a Wild Flower; geometric watercolor pattern via August Empress.)

11 responses

  1. Lovely!! The green cake looks mouth watering. I love lovely interiors and gorgeous photography, too! I wish I am crafty and foodie like you two! I enjoy having the Singapore connection with you two even though I no longer live there. (I lived in Singapore many years ago.) xo Kaho