Friday, 16 May 2008

Pandan butter cake

I've been wanting to try pandan, sight unseen, ever since I saw this gorgeous jelly dessert a few years ago. All I knew about pandan was that it was related to the delicious kewra essence that is used in north Indian cooking to add a heady, complex aroma to curries or a rose-like flavor to desserts. Kewra is extracted from the flowers of a different screwpine species, whereas pandan uses the leaves.

So I was quite excited to see some pandan extract at a Thai grocery not far from my house, Bangkok Market. I looked for pandan essence too, but unfortunately it was artificial.
Anyway, in the meanwhile I had seen all kinds of complex Malaysian and Indonesian cakes flavored with pandan at various blogs, especially Aunty Yochana's. So I decided my first foray into pandan territory would be a cake. But I didn't want to make the traditional kind that pairs pandan with coconut milk, because i really wanted to taste the pandan. So after some googling, I decided on this recipe from Angie of My Kitchen: My Laboratory.

Pandan Butter Cake

adapted from My Kitchen:My Laboratory

2 scant cups cake flour (8oz or 225g)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
6 tbsp butter, softened (3 oz or 85g)
3/4 cup sugar (180g)
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt ((240ml) (I used regular)
2 tbsp pandan extract (juice)
¼ tsp pandan essence (lacking this, I added an extra 3tbsp of juice)

Preheat oven to 350 degree farenheit (180C) and butter a bundt pan or 8”x4” loaf tin. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. I didn't have any cake flour on hand, or regular AP, so I microwaved King Arthur unbleached ala the ingenious Kate of A Merrier World. However, I didn't follow the procedure precisely, just did two batches of flour and then weighed the results and substituted a scant 4 tbsp flour with cornstarch.
Combine the yogurt, pandan juice and pandan essence if you're using.
Cream the butter with the sugar and until light. Add the eggs in a slow stream, beating constantly for about 2 mins. Now fold in one-third of the flour mix, beat in half the yogurt and then repeat, ending with the last third of flour.
Bake for about 35 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 mins. Unmold and cool completely.

Pandan butter cake

So, how did it taste? Well at first when I opened the can, the liquid smelled very grassy and musky and I was shocked that it had barely any resemblance to Kewra. A few tablespoons appeared to do nothing for the batter, and because I didn't have the essence, I added 3 more. The color of the batter barely changed, but I could smell the grassiness and I was getting really nervous!. When it came out, I could barely smell or taste it... I think I was already enveloped in the aroma and unable to distinguish it in the cake. Panicking, I took another 2 tbsp of juice and mixed it with some confectioner's sugar to make about 1/4 cup syrup which I dribbled over the cake, which actually gave it a slightly greener hue.

A few hours later (at work!) I began to feel the flavor coat my mouth and throat, almost as if I'd swallowed a bottle of perfume. It was very unusual, floral, musky, sweet without being heady. When i tried a slice later that night, I was able to appreciate the taste. Though over the next few days I felt that the taste became more muted.
So while it wasn't what I expected, it was delicious, and I plan to try it again soon!

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