I am definitely going through a cake phase at the moment, no question about it. And today, I have more reasons for cake than normal: the 25th April is not only my late grandmother’s birthday but my little nephew babel’s as well. Happy Second Birthday, Babelje!
But the likes of Lemon Drizzle Cake or a simple Victoria Sponge isn’t really doing it for me. I am and have been, in dire need of some new flavours and flavour combinations to work with to create not only a harmony of taste, but depth and layers, too. Whilst I was in Manchester’s Chinatown (I am a frequent visitor of the hood) looking for some ingredients for last Easter’s Sunday dinner, I came across a bundle of fresh young pandan leaves, which I eagerly hurdled into our over-filled basket that Djamo was carrying to take home to play with. I had never tasted pandan until I met Djamo and when he begun introducing me to Dutch-Indonesian cuisine, I became increasingly interested in learning more. Pandan Spekkoek was the name, and cake was the game.
Pandan has the most indescribable taste: there is an element of nuttiness and grassiness, with what I can only describe as hints of jasmine rice. It is definitely an exotic flavour and, in its mysterious nature, also extremely moorish. For this recipe, I made my own pandan extract, which I much prefer over the synthetic extracts that seem to be used far too often with their notoriously neon green colours and overpowering aromas (not to mention full of unnecessary additives). If I can make anything at home, I will attempt to do so, especially if I believe that it is worth my efforts. The pandan extract itself is subtle in nature, dark in colour (definitely not neon) and complex enough to even be the only main ingredient in a recipe. For instance in Pandan Spekkoek, as in most desserts that use this wonderful plant to be honest, the pandan (#wordoftheday) is allowed to take full central stage. However, I chose a different path for this cake. Instead, I wanted to complement pandan’s flavours with other ingredients, notably, coconut, jasmine blossoms, citrus and black sesame seeds. Bali wanderlust activated and satisfied in one mouthful.
Of course, if pandan leaves are difficult to get hold of, or you simply have the flavouring/essence at hand, feel free to use that instead, but be aware that you will need to reduce the amount used to 1tsp. If you use the pandan paste, I would start at approximately 1/8tsp and work up to your desired taste/colour.
Pandan Marble Loaf Cake
Cooking time: 1+ hours
Makes: 1 loaf cake
3tbsp crystallised jasmine, ground
150g granulated sugar
4tbsp desiccated coconut
200g plain flour minus 2tbsp
1tsp baking powder
125ml whole milk
pinch of salt
6tbsp homemade pandan leaf extract (recipe to follow)
Preheat the oven to 170ºC (150ºC fan-assisted oven) 325ºF .
Make the black sesame streusel (recipe to follow) and set aside. Butter the loaf pan to be used and set aside. Sieve the flour, cornstarch, salt and baking powder into a small bowl and set aside.
If you have not already done so, grind the crystallised jasmine blossoms in a coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle until a fine powder. Place in a bowl along with the granulated sugar and whisk with the butter until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time whilst continuously whisking. Whisk for a further 5 minutes. Add the milk and desiccated coconut before adding the dry mixture, a little at at time until incorporated.
Take approximately 1/4 of the batter and place in a separate bowl along with the pandan leaf extract. Mix until completely green. Pour half the plain batter into the loaf pan, then the pandan batter, before pouring the rest of the plain batter on top. Using a wooden skewer, zig-zag (or swirl, or do both!- which ever comes natural) through the batter to create the marble effect. Scatter the black sesame streusel on top of the batter.
Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before glazing. Eat within 3-4 days.
Homemade Pandan Extract
Cooking time: 20 minutes, plus 1-2 days resting time
Makes: approximately 12tbsp
12 pandan leaves
1/2cup water, plus extra
Wash and clean the pandan leaves before chopping into small pieces. Place in a blender, along with the water and blend until the pandan leaves become a pulp. Remove from the blender and using a fine sieve, squeeze out (as hard as you can) the juices from the pulp into a glass jar. You can place the pulp back into the blender (if desired) along with a couple of tablespoons. Blend once again and squeeze through the sieve (this is to ensure you get as much out of the leaves as possible).
Seal the jar and allow to rest for 24-48 hours, or until the juices have separated into a clear/colourless liquid and a dark green sediment at the bottom (the latter is the pandan extract). Carefully pour out the colourless liquid (you can also use this for cooking if you like to give hints of pandan) and keep the pandan extract at the bottom and use as needed. Refrigerate (do not freeze) and use within a week.
Black Sesame Streusel
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Makes: 1/2 cup
4 black sesame seeds, ground
2tbsp mascavado sugar
2tbsp plain flour
Grind the black sesame seeds into a chunky powder (not too fine). Add to the sugar and cream it with the butter. Add the flour and using your fingers, incorporate together until the texture of wet sand is formed. Set aside.
Pink Grapefruit Glaze
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Makes: approximately 1 cup
juice of 1/4 pink grapefruit
175g confectionary sugar
1/8tsp beetroot powder, or as needed (optional)
Whilst the loaf cake is cooling, you can make the glaze. Add the juice of the grapefruit to the confectionary sugar. Stir until there are no lumps. Add the beetroot powder as required to achieve desired pink shade. Set aside until needed. Stir thoroughly before pouring over the loaf.
Thank you for reading.
P.s Happy Birthday, Grandma! We’re leaving out some whiskey for you to enjoy on your travels. Love you always.