This Year's Birthday Cake: Pandan Kaya Cake – Recipe

This year I decided to challenge myself to make pandan kaya cake- a layer cake flavoured with pandan (screwpine leaves- the South East Asian's wonderfully fragrant answer to vanilla), layered with a kaya-like custard.

This cake is super refreshing and not too sweet, with it's feather-light ogura sponge cake (think chiffon but gently steamed in a bain marie) and soft, creamy custardy pandan 'kaya' layers.

Kaya is coconut jam- or I guess it'd be more accurate to call it a coconut curd, because a bit like lemon curd, it's made with eggs, making it very rich and creamy. If you like coconut and you like sweet spreads like Nutella, you'll love kaya.

Although this cake is called kaya layer cake, it doesn't actually have any actual kaya in it- instead, the filling is coconut milk thickened with agar (seaweed jelly) and hoen kwe (green pea/ mung bean) flour. You could use cornflour or another starch instead if you can't find hoen kwe, which is usually found in little 120g paper cylinders at Chinese supermarkets. However, I really do recommend hunting hoen kwe flour down, as it has a subtly sweet smell and taste that's perfect for this dessert and often used in kuih (and don't worry, it doesn't taste like beans). You wouldn't get that extra oomph with cornflour, only texture.

I only used one teaspoon from this pack, and re-sealed it for another day

I think I may have used a bit too much hoen kwe flour as the kaya was a bit on the thick side, and instead of smoothing out flat on top it just kind of dolloped on. The final texture was still lovely and soft though, so even though the finish was just short of perfect, the rest received top marks.

Not sure why my camera turned the green a bit blue-ish. In real life the cake and kaya layers are more organically grass-green (although still satisfyingly bright!) Here's what the pandan paste I use looks like in action:


This recipe has quite a few stages, to read through them a few times first so you get the gist of things before starting.

Ingredients for Sponge (A):

-2 egg yolks
-1 whole egg
-50ml milk
-50g Hong Kong (or plain) flour
-2tbsp vegetable oil
-1tsp pandan paste (or essence)

Ingredients for Sponge (B):

-3 egg whites (so there'd be one egg yolk left over)
-60g caster sugar
-2tsp cornflour

Ingredients for Kaya Filling (A):

-400ml coconut milk
-300ml water
-140g caster sugar
-pinch of salt
-2tsp pandan paste
-1tsp agar powder (not flakes)

Ingredients for Kaya Filling (B):

-200ml coconut milk
-100ml water
-85g hoen kwe flour


1) Begin by making the sponge. Preheat the oven to 160 degreesC and cut some greaseproof paper to line a 7" springform cake tin (but don't grease the tin or line it just yet)

2) Make a meringue by whisking all the (B) sponge ingredients until it forms stiff peaks. Use a teaspoonful to swipe around the insides of the cake tin, and use this little bit to stick the baking parchment lining to the sides (you use this instead of oil as extra oil may deflate this cake as it bakes)

3) Finish preparing the pan by wrapping the outside in tin foil and placing it in a bigger baking tray- this will become a water bath to steam the cake to perfection in the oven

4) Whisk the egg and yolks from the (A) sponge ingredients in a separate bowl until light and foamy, and when lifting up the whisk makes a defined trail. Now whisk in the rest of the (A) sponge ingredients

5) Gently fold in the meringue mixture into the (A) sponge mixture until just incorporated

6) Pour the cake batter into the tin and tap a few times on the counter to knock out large air bubbles. Boil some water and pour it into the outer baking tray to create the water bath, and bake in the oven for about 50 minutes or until the cake is springy and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean

7) Take out of the oven and tap again to help stop the cake from shrinking as it cools, and leave to cool completely. Once it's cool, slice a tiny bit around the edges to make it a slightly smaller circle, and split into three layers

8) Clean your 7" springform pan, lightly grease the sides with vegetable oil and line the bottom with some cardboard covered in foil

9) Now make the kaya: sprinkle the agar powder into the water from the kaya (A) ingredients and leave for 20 minutes. Now add everything from (A) into a pan and bring to the boil

10) Mix the kaya (B) ingredients together in a separate bowl until no lumps remain, and add to (A) in the saucepan, stirring all the while. Keep the heat on medium until the kaya thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon

11) Layer everything up in the tin, using the top slice of the cake as the bottom piece so the browned top is hidden, and alternately spooning in kaya. It should go: sponge, kaya, sponge, kaya, sponge, and a final layer of kaya at the top (after each layer of kaya is spooned in, give the tin a few taps on the counter to get rid of those pesky air bubbles)

12) Leave to cool completely, and pop in the fridge for at least 5 hours or overnight.

13) Unmould, decorate, slice and enjoy!

Yum. <3


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