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Khanom Chan Recipe (Authentic Thai Layer Cake)

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Khanom chan recipe delivers the BEST authentic Thai layer cake you’ll ever taste. These velvety layers of pandan and coconut are so fragrant and so irresistible. This is 100% a family-favorite sweet Thai dessert that neither you nor the kids want to miss!

Close-up of khanom chan with white and green layers, perfectly stacked for a delicious Thai dessert.

Obsessed with pandan-coconut flavor? Check out my pandan coconut jelly recipe.

What is khanom chan

Khanom chan is a popular Thai layer cake loved for its soft, chewy, jelly-like texture. Made with rice flour, tapioca flour, pandan essence, and coconut milk, this steamed Thai dessert is often enjoyed during celebrations.


In Thai, “khanom” (ขนม) means dessert or sweets and snacks, and “chan” (ชั้น) means layers.

More about Thai layer cake recipe

Khanom chan is one of my absolute favorites, it’s where aromatic pandan meets the creamy richness of coconut milk.

Traditionally, this dessert is made up out of nine steamed layers. In Thailand, the number 9 stands for luck, prosperity, and basically everything good in life. That’s why this cake is a popular gift – you’re basically blessing the other person with success.

To make things easier, you can totally make a dessert with fewer layers.

Hand reaching for a piece of khanom chan, a Thai layer cake dessert with coconut and pandan.

Let’s talk a bit more about that irresistible firm, jelly-like texture. It’s so satisfyingly stretchy, and somehow it keeps you reaching for more. Well, I definitely couldn’t stop at one or two.

The batter used for this dessert is a duo of rice flour and tapioca. Some recipes may call for arrowroot starch. We’ll add a sprinkle of sugar and a pinch of salt for a batter that’s ready to steam its way onto your table.

A hand peeling apart a two-toned Thai layer cake, revealing the coconut layer inside.

Each layer gets its own steaming session. It’s a labor of love, but it’s worth every minute!

I love this Thai pandan cake with a vibrant green color from natural pandan extract, but you can also use food coloring to dye it into a color of your choice.

Green khanom chan, Thai layered dessert, stacked with tropical flowers and greenery in the background.

Why try this coconut pandan dessert

  • Family-friendly dessert recipe: Cooking this layer sweet cake is basically a family bonding session. And eating it is where the real fun starts. It’s vegan too, so everyone can join in on the fun!
  • 9 layers of good luck: Each layer symbolizes good luck in Thai culture, simply eat your way to good fortune!
  • Authentic Thai food: This is one of those street food snacks you have to try cooking at home.
  • Amazing texture: Jelly meets cake, but even better. The kids will be doing a happy dance after each bite.
  • Crowd-pleaser: Serve this up at your next gathering, and you’ve got a story to tell. Just you on a friday night? Doesn’t matter, this khanom chan with pandan extract recipe is the perfect company.

Ingredients

Ingredients can be sourced at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets.
The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post.


Bird's eye view of the recipe ingredients; coconut milk, white sugar, tapioca flakes, rice flour, salt, pandan leaves, and tapioca starch.
  • Tapioca starch – Makes the cake chewy and jelly-like.
  • Tapioca flake – Helps thicken the cake and adds texture.
  • Rice flour – The main flour used in khanom chan.
  • Pandan leaves – I used fresh pandan leaves, but pandan essence can be used as an alternative.
  • Coconut milk – Use full-fat coconut milk for a creamy taste.
  • Sugar – Sweeten to taste.
  • Salt – A pinch helps bring out the flavors.

Cooking instructions

  1. Make the coconut layers

    Instructional steps for making the batter.

    1. In a large mixing bowl, combine tapioca starch, tapioca flakes, rice flour, sugar, and salt.
    2. Gradually add the coconut milk while whisking.
    3. Check the mixture to ensure that no dough crumbs remain.

  2. Filter the coconut layers

    Coconut layer preparation instructions.

    Use a sieve to strain the mixture from the prior step. Divide it into two uniform portions. One portion is the coconut layer, and the other will be used to craft the pandan layer.

  3. Make the pandan layer

    Instructions for making the pandan layer.

    Use a blender to mix the pandan leaves into one of either portions. Strain this mixture using a kitchen cloth and then pour it back into the bowl. Now, you’ll have to separate bowls: one for the coconut layer and one for the pandan layer.

  4. Steam the layers

    Baking mold in a pot.

    1. Place a steaming pot filled with water on medium heat.
    2. Once boiling, carefully place your baking mold inside.
    3. Close the lid and allow it to steam for 5 minutes.
    4. Evenly spread a thin layer of either coconut or pandan within the baking mold, ensuring the base is covered.
    5. Seal the pot with the lid and steam for 5 minutes.
    6. Promptly lift the lid, and wipe its underside to prevent any water droplets from falling into the mold.
    7. Pour in the next layer, and steam for another 5 minutes.
    8. Repeat the process until all layers have been steamed.
    9. Serve immediately or chill in the fridge.

Recipe tips and tricks

  • When you take off the steaming pot lid, do it quickly to stop any water from dripping down.
  • Each layer is steamed individually, don’t rush it and love the process.
  • Keep a consistent thickness as you steam each layer.

Kitchen tools

  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Mixing bowls
  • Baking mold: Pan or silicone molds for shaping your kanom chan. A silicone mold makes it easier to pop out the steamed cake. I used a 2 pound cake size mold.
  • Sieve cloth: If you’re using fresh pandan leaves.
  • Steamer
  • Blender
  • Whisk
  • Sieve

Serving suggestions

Use a sharp knife to slice through the layers. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

How to store

To store for later, place the dessert in an airtight container and store in the fridge. It’ll last several days, but the texture might change over time.

Frequently asked questions

Where to buy pandan leaves?

Pandan leaves are available at Asian grocery stores. They can be found frozen or sometimes fresh. If you can’t find pandan leaf, pandan extract makes a good substitute.

Can I make this in advance?

Totally. Just make it in advance and store in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Can I add other flavors?

Yes, feel free to experiment with extracts, cocoa powder, or even coffee.

More popular Thai desserts you’ll love

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Khanom Chan Recipe (Authentic Thai Layer Cake)

Green khanom chan, Thai layered dessert, stacked with tropical flowers and greenery in the background.
This khanom chan recipe makes a delicious layered cake with coconut milk and pandan.
Praew
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Dessert
Serving Size 4 people

Ingredients

  • 8.8 ounces white sugar
  • 17 fluid ounces coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1.8 ounce tapioca flakes
  • 1.8 ounce rice flour
  • 5.3 ounces tapioca starch
  • 1.8 ounce pandan leaves

Instructions

MAKE THE COCONUT LAYERS

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine tapioca starch, tapioca flakes, rice flour, sugar, and salt.
  • Gradually add the coconut milk while whisking.
  • Check the mixture to ensure that no dough crumbs remain.

FILTER THE COCONUT LAYERS

  • Use a sieve to strain the mixture from the prior step. Divide it into two uniform portions. One portion is the coconut layer, and the other will be used to craft the pandan layer.

MAKE THE PANDAN LAYER

  • Use a blender to mix the pandan leaves into one of either portions. Strain this mixture using a kitchen cloth and then pour it back into the bowl. Now, you'll have to separate bowls: one for the coconut layer and one for the pandan layer.

STEAM THE LAYERS

  • Place a steaming pot filled with water on medium heat.
  • Once boiling, carefully place your baking mold inside.
  • Close the lid and allow it to steam for 5 minutes.
  • Evenly spread a thin layer of either coconut or pandan within the baking mold, ensuring the base is covered.
  • Seal the pot with the lid and steam for 5 minutes.
  • Promptly lift the lid, and wipe its underside to prevent any water droplets from falling into the mold.
  • Pour in the next layer, and steam for another 5 minutes.
  • Repeat the process until all layers have been steamed.
  • Serve immediately or chill in the fridge.

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.

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