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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Baking Adventure: Bánh Bò Nướng (Vietnamese Pandan Tapioca Honeycomb Cake)

Ahoy, Adventurers! Here's something a little different that I baked for a class potluck. This super fragrant, green-tinted, chewy cake is called "Bánh Bò Nướng" in Vietnamese and is one of my favorite Vietnamese treats. It's a popular dessert flavored with pandan extract and coconut milk. The English name might be a little misleading because the "honeycomb" does not refer to any honey used in the recipe but rather the unique bubbled honeycomb shape of the finished product.
Bánh Bò Nướng - Vietnamese Pandan Tapioca Honeycomb Cake
Bánh Bò Nướng is notorious for being really fickle. There are many tips and tricks suggested by various bloggers, but often in the comment sections, you'll read about the multiple failures others experienced - mainly getting a dense brick cake with no bubbles. After successfully making this cake twice (just to rule out beginner's luck with my first attempt), I am pretty confident that my method works.

Before we jump into the recipe, I wanted to include a section for tips and tricks I've gathered that appear to increase your chances of having a successful Bánh Bò Nướng. I'm not entirely sure if all the tips are crucial but I incorporated them into how I make Bánh Bò Nướng just in case. Honestly, I suspect only the final tip is SUPER important but I'd rather be enjoying cake than sorry I wasted my ingredients. If I ever find the time and money, I'll test out all the tricks to see if they're all necessary, but for now here's what I've gathered:

Tips and Tricks
  • You have to use single-acting baking powder. Double-acting baking power supposedly won't give you the proper honeycomb shape, but Andrea Nguyen from Viet World Kitchen found that you will still get bubbles just maybe not the ideal honeycomb formation.
  • Preheat your baking pan so that your batter sizzles when it hits the pan. (I don't think this tip is necessary because my batter didn't sizzle but the final product still came out okay.)
  • Do not incorporate any air into the eggs or else you will get a flat cake. (This is one of the tips I'm not entirely sure about but I followed anyway.)
  • Do not overmix your eggs or else you will get a flat cake.
  • When measuring out the coconut milk, do not shake the can or carton. Instead, open the container as is and measure out the cream part floating on the top. (I think this is more for flavor.)
  • Let the cake rest in the hot oven before removing it.
  • Add your single-acting baking powder to you mixture as your LAST INGREDIENT (after you've mixed and strained your other ingredients). (Now this tip, I think is really important. Single-acting baking powder starts reacting and making bubbles once it hits liquid. If you added the single-acting baking powder at the beginning and took too long to mix your ingredients, all the baking powder would have reacted and you would not get any bubble formation when you're baking in the cake the oven, which would result in a dense cake. Therefore, I think this step is crucial!)
Now, onto the recipe...

Bánh Bò Nướng (Vietnamese Pandan Tapioca Honeycomb Cake)
Inspired by The Spices of Life's Recipe
Yield: one 9-inch cake round

1 1/4 cups tapioca flour
6 large eggs (or 7 small eggs)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup coconut milk (Only the cream portion floating on top before you shake the can/carton)
1/2 teaspoon pandan extract
1 bag Alsa Brand single-acting baking powder (or 11g of any other single-acting baking power)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Brush oil on the baking pan and heat in the oven.
  3. Sift tapioca flour to remove any lumps.
  4. In a large bowl, slowly mix eggs until the whites and yolks are just homogenized but without incorporating any air or creating bubbles. Be careful not to overmix the eggs.
  5. Add sugar to the eggs and mix to combine.
  6. Add the coconut milk and pandan extract to the egg mixture and mix to combine.
  7. Mix tapioca flour into coconut milk-egg mixture, breaking up any large lumps of flour. 
  8. Use a strainer to strain the mixture into another bowl and break up remaining lumps. (This was the hardest part for me since the mixture is pretty thick.)
  9. Now, for these next few step, be sure you're ready to do things pretty quickly. Add your single-acting baking powder to your mixture and give it a quick stir. (It doesn't have to be well combined yet.)
  10. Take out your preheated baking pan from the coven and set it on the counter. (Be careful not to burn yourself.)
  11. Use your strainer to strain the mixture once more into your baking pan. (It helps to have someone else holding the strainer since the baking pan is too shallow. Straining the thick mixture this time helps to evenly distribute the baking powder. Alternatively, if you don't have someone to hold the strainer while you pour your mixture, you can strain the mixture into another bowl and then pour it all into the hot baking pan.) 
  12. Use oven mitts to transfer the filled baking pan back into the oven.
  13. Bake for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, reduce heat to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for another 30 minutes or until golden.
  14. Poke a toothpick in the center to test for doneness. If the toothpick comes out clean, your cake is done.
  15. Turn off the oven and prop the door open. (I used a large wooden spoon).
  16. Let the cake rest in the warm oven for about 20-30 minutes before removing.
  17. Let the cake cool before cutting into wedges. (I used a plastic knife to prevent damaging my pan.)
  18. Bask in the glory of your successful Bánh Bò Nướng! ^_^
There you have it! How I successfully made Bánh Bò Nướng. It's a bit tedious straining the thick snot-like mixture twice, but this method has worked for me. If you have any questions or problems, let me know in the comments below. Good luck!


MiNapi said...

It looks chewy. Sort of like a rice cake. yum.. ^^

Christina @ Sweet Peas Kitchen said...

This cake looks really good! :)

Chrissy said...

@MiNapi: Ya, it is chewy. It does sorta have a rice cake texture. :)

Chrissy said...

@Christina: Thank you! :)

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