I admit: pandan leaves and/or pandan flavouring are hard to come by. But this cake is beautifully fragrant and such a quirky example of East-meets-West cuisine: a rich, airy chiffon cake flavoured with pandan (also pandanus, or screwpine) leaves, which are the vanilla bean of SE Asian cuisine. My mother has made this all my life and I've no idea where the recipe comes from, but it's my equivalent of Proust's madeleine. The coconut milk called for here should be the thickest, richest coconut milk you can find - "D" Best is my mother's preferred brand and it comes frozen. I often can't find it, so I skim off the solid part of a can of Chaokoh or similar. As for the green food colouring, I usually skip it but pandan-flavoured things are traditionally tinted pale green in Singapore and Malaysia. —ying
pandan leaf, pounded to a pulp in a mortar & pestle and juice squeezed out (discard leaf pulp) OR 1 ts pandan essence
In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and baking powder three times. In a smaller bowl, mix together egg yolks, oil, salt, coconut milk, and pandan juices or essence.
In a third bowl, beat egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar until the whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks.
Make a well in the flour mixture, add the yolk mixture, and stir gently to combine. If you're using the food colouring, add it here - just enough to evoke a delicate spring green, not a St Patrick's Day beer. Fold in the egg whites.
Scrape batter into an ungreased tube pan (providing it doesn't smell of monkeymom's roast chicken!) and bake for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Invert onto a long-necked bottle and cool completely. This cake is normally served unadorned.