Surprises. Some people love 'em, some people hate 'em. I'm of mixed feelings - every time someone tries to plan one for me, I end up finding out by accident. For example, last year Stephen was hiding my present from me last year, but he hid it in my drawer (the complete set of A Series Of Unfortunate Events - thanks Stephen!), I knew that something was going on when Stephen planned our engagement party and proposed to me the day before, and there are about 50 Christmas presents from my parents that I've found by accident.
Last weekend was in the same vein - Stephen planned a surprise 21st, but people all around me were accidentally letting things slip and I knew something was happening. In an attempt to throw me off (it was held at my parent's house), he blind-folded me, bundled me in to the car, and drove all around the world before we arrived (although once I felt the drive-way under my feet, I knew where I was - I've been walking up that drive-way for 10 years!). The effort is always greatly appreciated, and I love that Stephen goes to so much trouble in an attempt to surprise and delight me.
One thing that surprised me was the sheer amount of desserts that night - not only was there a giant croquembouche (made with the Zumbo recipe ;)), but there was a 3 tiered monstrosity composed of Earl Grey chiffon cakes, mini cup-cakes, and my favourite pandan chiffon cake.
I'd only ever had the store-bought variety, but this was SO much better. It was a little more dense than the super-soft version I'm used to, but still silky and smooth, and packed full of pandan and coconut flavour. Everyone was impressed with the showy croquembouche, but I was sneaking back for more pandan cake.
Pandan Chiffon Cake
12 pandan leaves
4 tablespoons water
5 tablespoons coconut milk
180 g self raising flour
100 g castor sugar
8 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 tablespoon baking soda
8 egg whites
100 g castor sugar
1/2 tablespoon cream of tartar
1. Pre-heat oven to 170°C. Prepare a clean, rectangular 24cm x 12cm chiffon cake tin (do not grease). Wash and cut the spears of pandan leaves into ½ inch pieces. Place into a blender and add water. Blend to form a thick paste, add another tablespoon of water if it is difficult to blend.
2. Strain out the liquid from the paste through a fine strainer - this should produce close to ½ a cup of liquid. To make exactly half a cup, add some more coconut milk.
3. Sift the flour and baking soda into a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the vegetable oil for about 2 minutes, then add the pandan mixture and mix well. Add the sugar and whisk till sugar has dissolved. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and whisk well into a smooth batter.
4. Whisk together the egg whites and cream of tartar at a high speed. Slowly add the sugar once the egg whites begin to foam. Beat till the meringue until smooth peaks form. Gently fold in 1/3 of the meringue into the batter. Add the rest of the meringue and fold until combined.
5. Pour the cake mixture into the cake tin and give it a quick stir with your spatula to get rid of air bubbles. Bake at 170°C for 10 minutes, then lower to 160°C and bake for another 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Thanks Stephen :)