The Pandan Honeycomb Cake is one of the most iconic cakes in Vietnamese cuisine. This traditional dessert has been around forever, and it has always been adored by both the Vietnamese and visitors from around the world. Most of the time, Vietnamese desserts are available as both street food and restaurant-style. I guess this is because of the Vietnamese culture.
Growing up in Vietnam, I learned two very interesting things about my culture. The first interesting thing about the Vietnamese culture is that the people are very humble, and we teach our children to be humble from a very young age. Being humble has also somehow shaped the way we create our cuisine. Although we do have luxury or high-end dishes on our vast menu of goodnesses, most of the time, Vietnamese food appears to be very modest. For instance, there are a lot of fine dining restaurants in Vietnam, but if someone would like to have a bowl of Phở, no matter he or she is wealthy or not, a local Phở restaurant is a good enough place to go. The same thing for Vietnamese desserts. In most cases, Vietnamese desserts appear in simple forms, being sold at almost every local bakeries or street food stands, but they always pack a lot of flavors.
The second interesting thing I learned about the Vietnamese culture is that despite the modest appearance of our foods, they often take a lot of time and effort to make so that the finished products are always perfect in taste and look. I recall my grandma used to tell me that the Vietnamese people care about things’ values more than their appearances. This is also the reason why Vietnamese foods taste very delicious but do not often look as luxurious as European foods, and the pandan honeycomb cake is no exception.
First of all, although being called a honeycomb cake, there is no actual honeycomb used in the process of making this cake. A lot of the time, the Vietnamese name things after their looks rather than their ingredients. What makes the pandan honeycomb cake special is its coconut-y flavor and pandan flavor. Once baked, the pandan honeycomb cake has a brownish color on the outside and bright green color on the inside. The green color of this cake comes from pandan leaf extract, and so does the pandan flavor. Nowadays, people often use artificial food coloring and artificial pandan essence to flavor this cake. This is fine, but pandan leaf extract often smells better according to more experienced Vietnamese cooks.
Secondly, the pandan honeycomb cake’s recipe is quite simple but the technique is a bit more complicated. The main ingredients in this cake are tapioca starch, coconut milk, pandan leaf extract, yeast, and sugar. However, a small amount of rice flour is also used to make sure this cake does not become too rubbery after baked. During the preparation process, the baker must pay attention to the temperature of the room. If the room temperature is too cool, the yeast in the mixture will not activate, and the cake will not rise once baked. In case the room temperature is too cool and the baker decides to warm up the mixture in the oven, if he or she sets the oven temperature too high or lets the mixture stay in the oven for too long, the yeast will die, and the cake will not rise. It takes some practice before someone can really master this cake’s recipe.
Last but not least, after the baking is done, if the baker does not know how to store the cake properly, it will shrink downward and eventually look very ugly and wrinkly. To make sure the cake retains its shape, it must be put upside down on a cooling rack after being taken out of the oven. Once the cake is completely cooled, it can be cut into smaller pieces or wedges to serve alongside a freshly brewed pot of green tea. I prefer jasmine green tea. The leftover portion of this cake must be wrapped tightly or it will become dry very quickly. Despite all of the hassle, the taste of pandan honeycomb cake is totally worth it. I have made this cake many times, and my family always loves it.
If you want to try Pandan Honeycomb cake, it is often available at Vietnamese supermarkets or bakeries. If none of the above options are available, you can try making it at home. There are a lot of recipes online with very detailed instructions on how to make a perfect Pandan Honeycomb cake.