Gluten-Free Pandan Sweet Rice Layer Cake

Pandan Rice Cake
Copyright Darlene A. Schmidt, 12/10/10
  • Total: 50 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 40 mins
  • Yield: 8 to 10 servings

This steamed rice cake is delicious and healthy - light in sugar, high in protein, and low in saturated fat. Like most Thai desserts, this cake calls for sticky rice (also called "sweet rice") and heart-healthy coconut milk.

Pandan is a green paste made from pandan leaves (a herb), which makes it a nice dessert for Christmas or St. Patrick's Day. ​This cake is delicious on its own, either served warm or at room temperature. Or dress it up with fresh fruit and lightly toasted coconut. 


  • 1st layer:
  • 1 cup glutinous rice (Thai "sweet" or "sticky rice") soaked in water for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 hours
  • 1 1/4 cups coconut milk (thick, high quality)
  • 3/4 tsp. pandan paste/essence
  • 2 tbsp. white or brown sugar (or maple syrup)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2nd layer:
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups coconut milk (thick, high quality)
  • 1/2 cup white or brown sugar (or maple syrup)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 to 3 drops pandan paste/essence
  • 2 tbsp. rice flour

Steps to Make It

  1. Use a steamer for this cake if you have one. If not, you can assemble one by placing a bamboo steamer or large colander inside a wok or large pot. Then place a greased cake pan (9 inch) inside the steamer/colander. Make sure to put at least 1 inch of water in the bottom of your wok.

  2. If your cake pan takes up all the room in the steamer, leave off the steamer lid. Instead, use the wok cover (or a very large frying pan cover). Make sure the cover is large enough to allow steam to pass from the bottom of the wok over the top of the cake.

  3. After soaking the rice, drain the rice and stir it together with the other "First Layer" ingredients. Mix well. Note: The pandan paste/essence will turn your batter green, and will also give your cake a nice flavor.

  4. Pour this mixture into the cake tin and even out the surface with a spoon. Then cover and allow to steam at high heat for 20 minutes. Be sure to add more water to the wok as needed.

  5. While first layer is steaming, prepare second layer. Beat the eggs with a fork for 30 seconds.

  6. Add the coconut milk, sugar, salt, and pandan paste. Sprinkle the flour over. Beat by hand or with an electric mixer until the batter is more or less smooth.

  7. The first layer is done when the rice has absorbed the liquid. When the first layer is cooked, gently press down on it with a fork to even out the layer.

  8. Slowly pour the second layer mixture over the first layer. Note: your cake tin can be filled up to the rim, as this cake does not rise very much. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Continue steaming for another 20 to 30 min, or until the custard has set (an inserted fork should come out clean).

  9. An optional step is to the underside of a greased spoon over the surface of the top layer as it is setting. If you do this several times, it will even out the layer and give the top a nice sheen.

  10. Allow cake to cool at least 10 minutes before cutting. Serve as is or with a little fresh fruit and a sprinkling of toasted coconut.

To Store: Cover and leave the cake on your counter for up to 2 days; refrigerate thereafter. Try to eat this cake while it's fresh, as steamed desserts tend to harden after several days.