Sticky Rice Cake with Coconut and Pandan

Sticky rice cakes

The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

Prep: 2 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Total: 27 mins
Servings: 8 to 10 servings

This sticky rice dessert is super-easy to make, yet looks and tastes very gourmet. A great make-ahead dessert to serve guests, this sticky rice treat is also a healthy low-fat dessert recipe (both gluten and lactose-free!). And there's no baking or steaming involved! - simply boil up a pot of sticky rice, mix it with a few Thai ingredients, then press it into a pan and let it sit overnight in your refrigerator. Serve cold or warm along with a topping of coconut milk and some fresh fruit. Mmm...


  • 2 cups Thai sticky rice (also known as "sweet rice" or "glutinous rice")
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup good-quality coconut milk (plus 1/2 cup or more of sauce depending on how many servings you need)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup white sugar (plus a little more for the sauce; brown or palm sugar may also be used)
  • 1 bottle pandan essence (a special green-colored flavoring available in tiny bottles at Asian food stores)
  • 2 tablespoons oil for greasing the cake pan
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons cornstarch (dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water)
  • Garnish: fresh or frozen raspberries (if frozen, quickly thaw by running under warm water)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients to make sticky rice cakes with pandan

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  2. First, make the sticky rice according to these directions.

    A pot of sticky rice

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  3. While rice is cooking, prepare the cake pan (standard 8 x 8 size). Generously grease the pan (including the sides) with a little cooking oil, such as coconut or canola oil. Set aside.

    A greased cake pan

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  4. After rice is done cooking (or "steaming"), remove the lid from the rice pot. Add 1/2 cup sugar plus 3/4 cup coconut milk, stirring both well into the hot rice. Quickly taste-test rice for sweetness, adding up to 1/4 cup more sugar if not sweet enough for your taste. Note: Palm or brown sugar may be used, but this will turn the rice slightly brownish in color.

    A pot of sticky coconut rice mixture

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  5. Now scoop 1/3 to 1/2 of the rice into your square cake pan. Be sure to replace the lid on the rice pot immediately, as the rice needs to stay hot for these steps.

    A cake pan with a layer of stick coconut rice

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  6. Grease the underside of a spoon and use it to smooth out the rice, pressing it into the bottom of the cake pan. This is the first layer of the rice cake. Try to make the rice as flat and even on top as possible.

    A cake pan with an even layer of sticky coconut rice

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  7. Of the remaining rice in the pot, scoop out half into a mixing bowl, once again replacing the lid on the rice pot. Add a couple of drops of the pandan paste, and quickly stir to blend it into the rice. This should turn the rice a light green color.

    A bowl of green coconut pandan rice

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  8. Using the same technique as before, gently press and smooth this light green rice over the white rice in the cake pan to make the second layer. Try not to press too hard as you distribute the green rice, or you will disturb the first layer.

    A cake pan with a layer of green pandan rice mixture

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  9. To the rice remaining in the pot, add 5 or more drops of the pandan essence, or until the rice turns a noticeably darker shade of green (than the previous layer). Tip: Darker will give you better contrast and be more striking when it's done.

    A bowl of dark green pandan coconut rice

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  10. Now add this rice as the final layer. You need to add this layer gently and carefully, or it will blend with the previous layer. Smooth out the top and then cover your cake pan with tin foil and refrigerate several hours, or overnight (the cold will firm up the dessert).

    A cake pan with a layer of dark green pandan coconut rice

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  11. To make the coconut sauce, depending on how many guests you're serving, you'll need 1/2 to 1 cup good-quality coconut milk. Place coconut milk in a sauce pan and warm up (but don't boil). Add sugar to taste, stirring to dissolve.

    A pot of coconut milk

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  12. Add the cornstarch dissolved in water (1 teaspoon for a 1/2 cup coconut milk; 2 teaspoons for 1 cup). Stir over medium heat until sauce thickens, then remove from heat.

    A pot of thickened coconut sauce

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  13. To serve the dessert, grease a serrated knife or run it under some boiling water (to keep knife from sticking). Cut squares of the rice cake and carefully lift out of the pan, placing them on serving plates. Microwave the cakes briefly, as this dessert - like many Asian desserts - is best served warm. Then pour coconut sauce over.

    A plate of sticky rice cakes with coconut sauce on the side

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

Tips: This dessert is a superb one to make for a dinner party or any social gathering, since you can make it the day before. Just be sure to eat it up within a couple of days, as sticky rice tends to dry out quickly and harden.