Gluten-Free Pandan Sweet Rice Layer Cake

Pandan Rice Cake
Pandan Rice Layer Cake, dressed up with a little shredded coconut and raspberries!. Copyright Darlene A. Schmidt, 12/10/10
  • 50 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins,
  • Cook: 40 mins
  • Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Ratings (4)

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 a little toasted coconut (as shown). 

What You'll Need

  • 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 (available in tiny bottles at Asian/Chinese food stores)
  • 2 Tbsp. white or brown sugar (or maple syrup works well too)
  • 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
  • 2-3 drops pandan paste/essence, available in tiny bottes at Asian/Chinese food stores)
  • 2 Tbsp. rice flour (available in small plastic bags at Asian food stores)

How to Make It

For a step-by-step version of this recipe (with pictures), see my: Pandan Rice Cake, Step by Step.

  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 (bamboo steamers work well and can be purchased very cheaply at Asian grocers). 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.
  1. If your cake pan takes up all the room in the steamer (as mine does), 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. (To see what this looks like, click on the step-by-step version of this recipe above.)
  2. After soaking the rice (see ingredients), 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. (For more on Pandan, see: What is Pandan? - or click on the step-by-step version of this recipe above.)
  3. 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.
  4. While first layer is steaming, prepare second layer. Beat the eggs with a fork for 30 seconds.
  5. Add the coconut milk, sugar, salt, and pandan paste. Lastly, sprinkle the flour over. Beat by hand or with an electric mixer until the batter is more or less smooth.
  6. The first layer is done when the rice has absorbed the liquid. When first layer is cooked, gently press down on it with a fork to even out the layer.
  7. 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. Now cover and reduce heat to medium. Continue steaming for another 20-30 min, or until the custard has set (an inserted fork should come out clean).
  1. An optional step is to the underside of a greased spoon over the surface of the top layer as it is setting (allow it to develop a crust before you do this). If you do this several times, it will even out the layer and give the top a nice sheen.
  2. Allow cake to cool at least 10 minutes before cutting. Serve as is (it's delicious plain) or with a little fresh fruit and a sprinkling of toasted coconut (as pictured).

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.