I spent a long time trying to think of different recipes that would yield a green result without using too many food colourings. I’m not boycotting food colouring just yet, I still use it for the occasional macarons or buttercream, but I’m going to attempt to use alternatives when possible. Even though I made this coconut pandan mug cake to have something green for St. Patty’s, the flavours in this cake remind me of home, high school, and growing up.
I’m not someone who holds a grudge, nor do I have many people who’d provoke these feelings in my life. But every now and then, I see updates on my Facebook news feed from old, high school classmates and each time I’m reminded how much people have changed since high school. Even how much I’ve changed since high school. Let me tell you about my high school experience.
At 14, I was pretty aware that I identified as one of the asian smart kids. That was where I fit into the social hierarchy at my school. We didn’t have any Regina George-esque Mean Girls but we had some cliques. We had the French kids (there was a parallel French program at my school that offered immersion classes), the English stream, the jocks, the cool kids, the scene kids, the stoners, punk kids, the classical language kids, band geeks, thespians, and the typical “outcast weirdos”. The weird thing at my school was that there was a TON of cross over. In my year, there were jocks in band, classical language kids in rugby, band geeks who were stoners…
Where did I fit in?
Well I was all over the place. I was in the French stream, president of the band executive, member of the classics club, co-editor of the newspaper, and a lot of my friends were involved in pretty much every other social group out there. I wasn’t popular, but I wasn’t an outcast. I had some pretty weird faux-punk years (grade 9 and 10 in particular) but I simmered down and dealt with my underlying issues. I was pretty outgoing, but insecure about my body, my skin, and my intelligence.
I’m not saying that I had anything to prove, and I still don’t really have anything to prove to anybody now. But these old high school classmates are fragments of a chapter in my life that seemed to be written eons ago, when in reality, it’s only been five years. Long term relationships, numerous years of work experience, and half a graduate degree under my belt have changed my personality and my outlook on life—so much that high school seems like a lifetime ago. Who am I now? I am am awkward, critical, no-nonsense nerd, who is usually willing to gingerly step outside of the proverbial “comfort zone”.
And I’m okay with that.
You’re probably wondering, how did we go from mug cake to Lisa’s high school life? It’s okay, I’m wondering that too. This mug cake is beautiful though, it’s fluffy, moist, and full of pandan and coconut flavour. If you don’t know what pandan tastes like, they’re screwpine leaves that have been steeped in hot water and then ground and blended for a more intense flavour. It’s then strained from the fibres of the leaves and you’re left with this amazing green liquid. You may not know what pandan smells like in your head, but the second you go to your local asian bakery or or sweets shop and smell one of the green treats (99% of the time it’s pandan flavoured), your nose will fill with the familiar scent of gentle, fresh pandan flavour.
Pair this beautiful flavour with coconut and you have my most favourite flavour for sweets in the world—besides lemon, that is. I’m not quite sure why the cake is brown because the batter was a bright green, maybe the agave and baking powder did something funny to turn the pandan essence brown, but either way it’s delicious.
I hope you make this cake for yourself on St. Patty’s! It’s not Irish cream flavoured nor does it lead to a pot of gold, but it’s delicious and green!
- 2 tbsp coconut oil (liquid form, zap it for 5-10 seconds if it's solid)
- ¼ tsp pandan essence (You can find this at your local asian grocery)
- 2 tbsp coconut milk (or other type of milk)
- 3 tbsp agave nectar (or ¼ cup sugar)
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour (or your own gluten-free blend)
- a pinch of salt
- 3 tbsp + 1 tbsp sweetened shredded coconut (the 1 tbsp is for garnish)
- In a mug, mix the coconut oil, pandan essence, agave nectar, and coconut milk.
- Whisk in the baking powder, flour, and salt until there are no more lumps.
- Stir in the coconut.
- Microwave for 1-2 minutes, depending on your microwave. I did it for 1 min and 30 seconds.
- Sprinkle some extra coconut and then dig in!