Bake

Bánh Bò Nuong (Honeycomb Cake)

October 19, 2021
0 Stars
Photo by Bette Blau. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine. Food Stylist: Yossy Arefi.
Author Notes

Coconut milk, palm sugar, and pandan are the foundation for this rich, fragrant cake that’s perfect with tea. There actually isn’t any honey in this recipe; rather, it’s often called a honeycomb cake because the unique striations of its crumb resemble a honeycomb. This cake is a classic, and you’ve probably seen it at Vietnamese bakeries and delis—it’s the wedge with a brown crust and, more often than not, a bright green interior. The cake is deceptively simple to make, but achieving that coveted honeycomb structure requires exact ingredients and an understanding of a few baking techniques.

First, unlike many of our other recipes, there is no substitute for palm sugar here. It is a must-have for this cake to shine. Second, the bright green color in many versions is accomplished by using pandan extract. We opted to sacrifice that color in order to use fresh (or frozen) pandan leaves, which have floral, almost vanilla-like notes and are available at your local Asian market. Third, because double-acting baking powder—the most common type of baking powder at supermarkets—has the potential to cause the cake to collapse, we do as my mother did and use single-acting baking powder. It can be slightly tricky to find, as many supermarket chains carry only the double-acting sort; your best bet is to seek it out at the Asian market, too. Popular brands, in telltale pink sachets, are Alsa and IHA. Fourth, when combining the ingredients, we pass the eggs through a sieve and discard the thick membrane (called chalaza) for a smooth batter free of the air bubbles that would hinder the development of the interior structure. Finally, we use a 12-cup Bundt pan for a well-risen, evenly baked cake. When selecting your Bundt pan, choose one with a simple design: This will make turning out the cake much easier than one with intricate details.
Red Boat Fish Sauce

Test Kitchen Notes

Excerpted with permission from The Red Boat Fish Sauce Cookbook: Beloved Recipes from the Family Behind the Purest Fish Sauce . © 2021 by Cuong Pham, with Tien Nguyen and Diep Tran. Photography © 2021 by Oriana Koren. Reproduced by permission of Mariner Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. —The Editors

  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • makes 1 Bundt cake
Ingredients
  • 1 cup Red Boat Palm Sugar
  • 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped pandan leaves, defrosted if frozen
  • 1/4 teaspoon Red Boat Salt or kosher salt
  • 7 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1 1/2 cups tapioca starch
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons single-acting baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Place a 12-cup Bundt pan in a cold oven, then heat the oven to 340°F.
  2. In a medium pot, combine the palm sugar, coconut milk, pandan leaves, and salt. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a simmer.
  3. Take the pot off the heat and stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Set the pot aside and let the pandan leaves steep in the coconut milk for 20 minutes.
  4. Strain the coconut mixture into a large mixing bowl. Squeeze the pandan leaves to extract as much liquid as possible, then discard them.
  5. Place a sieve over the coconut mixture. Pass the eggs through the sieve and into the bowl, pressing the eggs against the sides of the sieve until all the whites and yolks are strained, leaving only the sinewy chalaza behind. Use a spatula to scrape the eggs clinging to the underside of the sieve into the bowl. Discard the chalaza.
  6. Add the vanilla extract to the bowl and stir to combine.
  7. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the rice flour, tapioca starch, and baking powder. Carefully sift the dry ingredients into the coconut milk mixture. Gently stir to incorporate the flours into the coconut milk, then press the mixture through a sieve to break up any clumps. Stir to incorporate into a smooth batter.
  8. With oven mitts, carefully remove the Bundt pan from the oven. Working quickly and carefully, add the butter and coat just the bottom of the pan—avoid getting butter up the sides of the pan, or the cake will not rise properly. Pour the batter into the pan, then return the pan to the middle rack of the oven.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes, then pierce a toothpick into the center of the cake. If there are bits of batter sticking to the toothpick, then the cake is still raw and needs more time. Bake for up to 10 more minutes, until the toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Remove the pan from the oven and set it upside down over a wire rack to cool.
  11. Once the cake is cool, use a thin butter knife to pry the edges away from the pan until the entire cake releases from the cake pan. Return the cake right side up, slice into wedges, and serve. Note that the cake will begin to dry out in an hour, so immediately store any leftovers in an airtight resealable bag or container. It’s best eaten within a day.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

1 Review

Sarabeth November 1, 2021
In step 10 it says "Remove the pan from the oven and set it upside down over a wire rack to cool." but since it is a bundt pan does it mean with the pan upside down so that the cake is right-side up and touching the rack or with the cake upside down, pan right-side with the pan resting on the rack?