Soft and fluffy cakes are one of my absolute favorites, when I traveled to Vietnam I never thought to find such amazing knowledge in this kind of dessert as well. Then I found out about Banh Bo Nuong, this fantastic Vietnamese dessert is a honeycomb cake with a unique look complemented by a heavenly flavor.
While the honeycomb cake is familiar to various Asian cuisines, the ingredients in the Vietnamese cake make it unique. The cake is so named because of its interior. Air pockets formed in the baking process create an intricate pattern that is comparable to the pockets in a honeycomb. When sliced, this structure increases the beauty of the cake as well as creating a unique texture.
What sets the Banh Bo Nuong apart is the ingredients used to prepare it. The cake has an attractive green hue and a sweet flavor that is hard to resist. Banh BO Nuong is eaten as a snack or in some cases as a sweet dessert to compliment a meal. It also goes well with a cup of tea.
Most people will have a few failures in preparing this Vietnamese cake before they make the perfect cake. This is because the ingredients must be in the correct proportions. In addition, every step must be followed precisely for your cake to cook successfully.
Vietnamese Banh Bo Nuong (Origin and Curiosities)
When the Chinese colonized Vietnam, they carried their culinary culture into the country. One such food was the White Sugar Cake or Bak Tong Goh. Its name stems from the white sugar used to make the cake. The Vietnamese took the cake and gave it a makeover which changed its Chinese Character.
For one, the original cake lost its white sugar and sour taste. The Vietnamese also used coconut milk and changed the color of the cake from white to its iconic green. The green color arises from Pandan leaves. Pandan is a Southeast Asia edible plant. An extract from this plant is used to give the cake its green hue as well as its unique flavor. You can buy Pandan from most Asian shops.
To ferment the rice flour used in baking, the Chinese would let the batter sit for a while. Instead of the rice wine used by the Chinese, currently, yeast or baking powder is used to create the air pockets. Another common ingredient in this Vietnamese sponge cake is Tapioca starch. That being said, the Vietnamese sponge cake should be chewy on the inside. The chewiness comes from tapioca flour.
Banh Bo Nuong Recipe
The creation of an authentic Vietnamese cake is quite a delicate process. If you fail to follow the steps, there is a likelihood of your cake collapsing or failing to achieve the intricate honeycomb structures. Cooking time will determine how moist and chewy your cake will be. A longer cooking time is likely to produce drier ends. A shorter cooking time will result in a cake that is more moist at the center.
Ingredients (serving 8)
- 2 cups of tapioca starch
- 2 tsp rice flour
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 6 oz. coconut milk can
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- 2 tsp cream of Tartar
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 1tsp pandan extract paste
- 6 large eggs at room temperature
- 2 tsp canola oil. If preferred, any other neutral oil such as coconut oil can be used.
- Non-stick cooking spray
- Preheat the oven to 325 F (163 C) with the pan placed in it.
- Place a small saucepan over low heat and add the coconut milk, water, and sugar. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves. Do not allow the mixture to boil. Remove from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature.
- In a bowl sift the tapioca starch and rice flour
- In a small bowl, mix the cream of tartar and baking soda to make a single-acting baking powder
- In a big bowl, add the eggs, vanilla extract, and oil. Using a fork, pierce the egg yorks so that they mix with the whites. Whisk the mixture gently for a minute or so. Whipping or beating the eggs will introduce air pockets into your egg mixture and ruin your cake.
- Combine the coconut mixture with the egg mixture and whisk gently. Add half of the sifted flour and mix thoroughly. Try to break down the larger lumps in the batter gently. Add the remaining sifted flour while whisking gently.
- Add the pandan paste to the mixture and ensure it blends well. Small lumps in the batter are okay.
- Add the single-acting baking powder. Whisk it gently until the batter becomes foamy as it reacts with the baking powder. This will take about 1 minute. Once the baking powder starts to produce foaming, you should act fast to put the cake batter into the oven.
- Remove the preheated pan from the oven and spray generously with the non-stick cooking spray. Strain the batter mixture into the pan and use a whisk to break down any lumps.
- Bake the cake for 40-45 minutes before checking whether it is done by inserting a toothpick at the center. The toothpick should come out clean if the cake is ready.
- Remove cake from the oven and allow to cool for about 20 minutes. You can place the cake upside down on a rack for faster cooling
- Cut the cake into appropriate slices and serve. It yields 8 servings
You can opt for other flavors in your cake. Suggestions include vanilla, coffee, or ube. Getting the best single-acting baking powder from the store is sometimes difficult. In most American stores, they stock the double-acting baking powder. If you use it, you are sure to end up with a gummy, messed-up cake.
However, you can make your own baking powder without too much effort by using the cream of tartar and baking soda. The ratio for making your own single-action baking powder is; ¼ tsp baking soda, ½ tsp cream of tartar and1/4 tsp of cornstarch.
The cake should remain soft for 2 days at room temperature but should be refrigerated to remain fresh for more than a week. In the freezer, it can remain fresh for 2 months. To restore softness after refrigeration, heat the cake for a few seconds in the microwave.
Banh Bo Nuong Fail (How to Avoid Mistakes)
The choice of baking powder is important. A double-acting powder will raise your cake beautifully in the oven but it will collapse once you remove it from the oven. This is because it is activated by a combination of moisture and heat. A single-acting powder works when wet. You can make your own baking powder by combining baking soda, cornstarch, and cream of tartar.
Once the baking powder has been added, it is important that you work fast. This is because the baking powder begins working immediately it comes into contact with the wet batter. A delay will mean the air pockets that form the honeycomb structure will not form properly
For a richer cake, you can replace the water with more coconut milk. It is also important to ensure that your ingredients are as fresh as possible. For richer flavor, replace the water with coconut milk. Since this cake is mildly sweet, you can adjust the sugar to your taste. When choosing the pandan paste, it is better to go for one that does not look dilute. Also, confirm whether the paste has an added flavor such as coconut. An additional ingredient in the paste might lead to a less flavorful cake.
For a cake that isn’t too flat, a 9-inch round spring foam pan is ideal. If the pan is larger than 10 inches, you are likely to end up with a flat cake. As mentioned earlier, you need to preheat the pan before you can pour the batter into it.
Turning the cake upside down after baking will reduce the likelihood of it collapsing. Also, it makes the bottom of your cake less dense. If the cake doesn’t come off the baking pan easily, consider banging the side of your pan gently to release it.
Banh Bo Nuong Calories
Eggs, starch, and sugar are all calorie-rich foods. However, they should not keep you from enjoying this delicious cake. These ingredients can be tweaked to adjust the calories in the cake downwards without compromising on the flavor or texture.
For those watching their weight, this Vietnamese sponge cake is fairly rich. However, this should not prevent you from enjoying its awesome taste, fragrance, and texture. The secret lies in eating smaller portions.
For vegans, you can make an eggless version of the cake that is also very tasty. The amount of sugar used can also be reduced according to preference. Those on a sugar-free diet can consider calorie-free sugar substitutes or even honey.
You can make your Banh Bo Nuong using different shaped cake pans and also bake larger cakes. However, you should note that this will also involve an adjustment of the cooking time. A cake that is too tall is also likely to have uneven density, especially at the top and bottom.
Finally, you will note that canola and coconut oil are healthy oils, especially when used in moderation as is the case with this sponge cake. In total, your Banh Bo Nuong cake will have a calorie value of around 350 kcal.
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