How to Make Vietnamese Honeycomb Cake

With its crisp golden brown crust and ring-like form, bánh bò nướng may resemble Bundt cake to the untrained eye. But slice in and you will see a vivid green crumb with a mesmerizing honeycomb construction. Created with starchy tapioca flour, this gluten-free of charge cake speedily sets in the oven, fossilizing a community of vertical air tunnels that would make up its sought after honeycomb result. The completed cake has a stringy and bouncy texture with a singularly fulfilling elasticity that you can only seriously accomplish when cooking or baking with glutinous rice flour (like mochiko) or tapioca flour.

This Vietnamese dessert is like an edible slice of jade (my favored gem), with a verdant translucency, and it fascinated me from an early age. I 1st tasted the cake although traveling to my Vietnamese grandmother, Ah Ma, in Montreal. Ah Ma lived ways away from Montreal’s Chinatown, and every single working day was a culinary experience. She taught me how to pick the very best durian and the juiciest rambutan, lychee, and longan, and how to make espresso with a phin filter. I usually looked forward to the Vietnamese desserts she picked out or built at property, like chè thái, durian ice product, avocado shakes, and of course, bánh bò nướng.

When I started out composing my cookbook, Present day Asian Baking at House, in 2021, I realized I experienced to involve one particular of Vietnam’s most iconic and well-liked cakes, even if it wasn’t the precise recipe that Ah Ma utilized to bake.

Cookbook cover of Modern Asian Baking at Home by Kat Lieu.

Modern-day Asian Baking at Home

Bánh bò nướng is section of a full category of Asian cakes produced with tapioca flour, like Indonesian bika ambon and bolu karamel, Singaporean kuih bingka, and Chinese bai tang gao. The cake seems to have originated in Vietnam between the late 1800s and early 1900s and is a type of bánh bò (Vietnamese steamed cake that resembles cow udders). Avenue sellers designed their steamed cakes colourful in purchase to appeal to buyers—often curious young children passing by. This may possibly reveal why bánh bò nướng is generally a emerald inexperienced and flavored with pandan leaves, which lends the cake notes of leafy vanilla and youthful coconut.

Doing work on my personal recipe made me understand how considerably meals science is included in producing this common cake. Though I have a doctorate in physical remedy, I am no foods chemist, so I sought responses from members of my popular world wide baking neighborhood, Refined Asian Baking (SAB):“What produces the air bubble tunnels in a honeycomb cake?” I asked them.

1 property baker and blogger, Claire, answered, noting that Western cakes can tunnel, but “it’s normally deemed a slip-up [unless it’s a crumpet]. The crumb is mainly a ‘fossil’ of the air when the cake [is] set. To make a tunnel, the [carbon dioxide] air bubbles from baking powder would have to rise by way of the batter just before the cake totally sets, but after the batter has solidified more than enough to hold the tunnel.”

Daniel Lee, a soft make any difference physicist-biophysicist and postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley, added, “It’s about the viscoelasticity of the batter. The tapioca starch results in a batter that is viscous but isn’t going to have the gluten construction or elasticity (like a bread dough would have). When the sizzling cake pan contacts the batter, the baking powder reacts and bubbles go straight up, tunneling rather than sitting down in area, which is probably also why a great deal of honeycomb cake recipes contact for a preheated pan.”