Have you ever heard of Honeycomb Cake? If so, you may only be getting half the story!
There are different versions of Honeycomb Cake that you can make. The first is a vibrant, green-hued treat from Vietnam that does not have any actual honey in the recipe.
The second is an American version that includes a honey glaze and shape. It does not have a beehive-like interior as the traditional Vietnamese cake does.
In this article, we’re going to focus on the Vietnamese honeycomb cake, not the American version.
The following is a quick history of this Vietnamese dessert, plus an easy-to-follow recipe so that you can make your very own.
What is Honeycomb Cake?
Vietnamese Honeycomb Cake, also known as bánh bò nướng or Vietnamese pandan, is one of the most classic cakes in Vietnamese culture. The outer layer of the cake appears to be a brown bundt cake. But when you cut into the desert, the inside reveals a bright green hue with distinct honeycomb tunnels.
Why Is It Called Bánh Bò?
The cake gets its English name from the honeycomb structure in its interior, which is caused by expanding air bubbles while baking. However, the Vietnamese name “bánh bò” means something entirely different. “bánh” means “cake” and “bò” means “cow.”
So, why is the literal translation “cow cake”? Well, the cake certainly doesn’t look like a cow. But, according to Paulus Huỳnh Tịnh Của’s 1895 dictionary Đại Nam quốc âm tự vị, the cake got its name because it resembles a cow’s udder.
I guess it’s all about what point of reference is nearby when you name something!
Oh, and if you’re wondering what “nướng” means, it means “baked.” There are a few different kinds of Bánh bò and the one we’re making today is, technically, “baked cow cake.”
What Does Bánh Bò Taste Like?
The traditional Vietnamese cake has a soft, spongy texture and is only lightly sweet. Most people agree that thanks to the pandan extract, it has a grassy or earthy vanilla flavor with a hint of coconut.
So, those that don’t like overly sweet desserts will be pleasantly surprised.
Usually, honeycomb cake is served warm. Some like to add rich coconut milk and coconut shavings to the top when serving.
The treat also pairs well with a cup of hot tea.
What is Pandan?
The honeycomb cake gets its vibrant green color (& other name) from pandan extract. Pandan is a tropical green plant used primarily in Southeast Asian recipes,
But pandan gives it more than color. It gives the cake a unique earthy flavor and fragrance. It features a sweet, aromatic aroma that makes for a fragrant cake.
Pandan has also long been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat boils, constipation, or flu-like symptoms.
Easy Honeycomb Cake Recipe
This recipe is mainly made from simple wet ingredients and dry ingredients lying around the house. However, pandan extract is one particular ingredient you may need to seek out.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Ingredients (8 servings)
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 tsp pandan extract*
- 6 large eggs (the size of eggs does matter!)
- 3 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 cup tapioca starch or tapioca flour
- 1 tbsp rice flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 1/1 tsp baking powder
- cooking spray (to grease the cake pan)
- 1/4 cup shredded coconut (as an optional topping)
*Tip: You can use vanilla extract or vanilla bean instead of pandan extract. It just won’t have the green hue in the interior and may lack a bit of the earthy flavor.
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
2. Crack eggs into a large bowl. Whisk eggs. Be careful not to overbeat the eggs, or the cake might not have the delicate honeycomb structure caused by the little air pockets.
3. Add the coconut oil, water, coconut milk, and pandan extract. Mix until combined.
Tip: For this recipe, try to avoid using an electric mixer to prevent overmixing. You can mix by hand instead. If you’re going to use electric beaters, use the low-speed setting.
4. In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients.
5. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture already in the large mixing bowl. Slowly mix until thoroughly combined.
6. Grease the Bundt pan. If you don’t have one, you can use a loaf pan or round cake pan in its place. Be sure to grease more than just the base of the pan. By greasing up to the top of the pan, you will ensure that the edges of the cake will not stick to the side of the cake tin.
7. Place the cake on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 50-55 minutes. Once the time is up, turn off the stove. But allow the cake to stay in the range with the door cracked open for 20 more minutes. It will continue to cook but at low heat.
8. Remove the cake from the oven and place the pan on a cooling rack. Let it cool.
9. If you wish, place the dessert on a cake stand or other serving plate. Top it with coconut shavings (optional) and serve.
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As a mom of three little eaters, I am excited to share my love of cooking, smoking, and baking with you. My love of food started when I went to college in Berkeley, and has followed me ever since! When I am not “momming,” writing, or cooking, you can find me reading, traveling, or hiking.