A Simple White Cake with Pandan leaves and Coconut Filling and Frosting-Banh Bong Lan Trang with Bo va La Dua.

Vietnamese food

Pandan is a herbaceous tropical plant with long green leaves.  They are sold fresh or frozen at Asian store. In Southeast Asia, pandan leaves are used for unique aroma flavor and color (green) to dessert and drinks. An artificial pandan paste can be used if prefer or can not find the real one. In this cake, the egg white is used in the batter and egg yolk is used in filling and frosting.  I use my hand mixer for beating the egg yolk and  the kitchen aid mixer for the egg white because I only have one bowl and one whisk and do not want to wash them in between.  I use white rum to flavor the cake, and dark rum for the filling and frosting but  any kind extract or liqueur available can be used.  Don’t be afraid to be frugal and thrifty if we do not have extra money.  
For the cake batter
     2 cups all purpose flour, sifted into the cup and leveled off
   3 tsp baking powder (1 tablespoon)
   1/4 teaspoon salt
   1/2 cup milk
    1 small bunch of fresh or a frozen package of  pandan leaves (to make 1/2 cup pandan leave water)
     A few drops of pandan paste or green color (optional)
   1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature and extra for preparing the pans
   1.5 cup sugar
   4 egg whites
For the filling and frosting
   4 egg yolks
   3 Tbs cornstarch
   1/3 cup sugar
   3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
   3/4 cup milk 
   2 tsp Rum, dark or white  
   1 tsp pure vanilla extract
   1.5 cups heavy cream
   2 cups sweetened, flaked coconut
Two 8×2 in. round cake pans 

Pandan leave water:
Thawed pandan leaves if frozen, wash and cut them into 1/2 in pieces.  Place 1/2 cup water in a blender or food processor then add a small amount of cut leaves at a time.  Pulse or blend until most of  the green flesh separated with the white fiber.  Drain them through a fine sieve and measure 1/2 cup liquid.
The cake
1.  Preheat the oven to 350 oF about 20 minutes before baking.  Butter and lightly flour the pans. 
2.  Place butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.
3.  Stir or sift the dried ingredients together
4.  Combine 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup pandan leave water, vanilla, and a few drop of green color or pandan paste if used.
5.  Add liquid and flour alternately to the butter mixture.  Start with the four, liquid, flour, liquid and end with the flour.  Beating until smooth after each addition.
6.  Whisk the egg white on high until a soft peak form.  Use a large spatula, fold whipped egg whites into the batter.  Stop as soon as the mixture incorporated. Pour the batter into prepared pans, smooth the tops with a rubber spatula and bake at the center of the oven 30-40 minutes until the top of the cake nicely brown and a toothpick insert in the center comes out lean.  Let they cool in the pan 5-10 minutes.  Inverted in a wire rack coated with non stick spray or oil.  Then re-invert the cake again so the cake top is up to prevent splitting.
Toast coconut flakes
Spread coconut flakes atop of a baking sheet.  Toast in the preheat oven 325 oF 5-8 minutes until light brown.  Turn off oven with the door open.  Leave the coconut flake in the oven until dry and crunchy about 15 minutes. 
Simple syrup/Wash
In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar.  Bring it to a boil and remove from heat immediately when the sugar is dissolved.  Add 1 tsp white rump or more as your prefer. 
Coconut filling and frosting
1.  Whisk egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl. 
2.  Combine milks (milk and coconut milk) in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over medium low heat.  Gradually add warm milks to the yolk mixture, whisking until blend.  
3.  Return the mixture back to the sauce pan. Cook on medium low heat, stir constantly with a wooden spoon or the whisk (the mixture will become foamy if using the whisk but it will disappear when the mixture thickens).  
3.  When the mixture start to boil (big bubbles start to raise to the surface).  Stir or whisk vigorously constantly while lifting the pan up and down to prevent the bottom getting too hot if needed.  Stir until the mixture thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and rum.  Transfer to a bowl and cover with a plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a firm forming.  Let it cool in the fridge for at least 2 hours or very cold. This can be make 2-3 days in advance.  This mixture is called coconut custard.
4.  When the coconut mixture is cold enough.  Put the heavy cream in a mixing bowl and put them in the freezer with the beaters or the whisk for 10-15 minutes.  Take the cream out and beat until the stiff peaks formed.   Fold the whipped cream into the coconut custard.  Divide into two and use 1/2 for filling and 1/2 for frosting.  This filling and frosting is not as sweet as regular buttercream.  If you prefer sweeter taste, may add 1/3 cup powder sugar to heavy cream when whipping it. 
Assemble the cake
1.  Slice each cake into 2 even thickness layers with a separate knife.  Put the first layer down on a platter or cake stand with the bottom down.  Brush 1/4 flavored simple syrup.  Then spread 1/3 of the filling.  Repeat with the other layers but place the top layer with the bottom up.
2.  Evenly spread the cream on the top and side of the cake with a thin spatula and even sprinkle the coconut flakes on the top.  On the side, use your palm or a spatula as a guide for the coconut flakes to fall onto/into the side.  May repeat a few times for all coconut flakes attached to cake.  Using a spatula to press the coconut flakes and smooth out the surfaces.  Decorate with strawberry or fruit of your choice.  Chill uncovered in the fridge for up to 8 hours.

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