Brown Sugar Boba … Everything

Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea is a drink originated in Taiwan. This drink was first introduced in Taichung City, Taiwan. While most tea shops in the country were already serving endless varieties of boba tea, right after this drink was introduced, it became an instant hit. Everybody loved it. Even tourists who came to Taiwan also wanted to try this iconic drink. As people did not seem to get enough of it, chefs around the countries as well as other Asian chefs around the globe developed multiple different desserts inspired by this drink recipe.

What is Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea? Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea is made from brown sugar and black tea originated in Taiwan. Heavily influenced by Chinese cuisine, the Taiwanese people not only love to drink tea but they also love to make food infused with tea. As a result of the country’s endless love for tea, Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea was born. Boba is also known as tapioca pearls. For decades, Asian people have put tapioca pearls in milk tea. Being an Asian myself, I must admit that I have had way too much boba and milk tea in my life. If you are familiar with Asian culture, you may notice that drinking milk tea is a way of life in many Asian countries. While young people in Western countries often hangout at bars or pubs on the weekends, young Asians often hangout at boba tea shops. We do have bars in Asia, but some people simply love coming to boba tea shops to hangout with friends. I do, too.

The Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea is a one-of-a-kind drink. To make Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea, the tapioca pearls after being cooked will be soaked in a thick brown sugar syrup. Since the tapioca pearls are added into the brown sugar syrup right after they are being boiled, they soak up all the flavor and aroma of the brown sugar. The brewing process of the tea in this recipe is similar to other recipes. To prepare this drink, we start with scooping out a generous amount of brown sugar soaked boba and put in the cup. We also drizzle the whole cup with this sugary syrup. Then, black tea is added. Come behind black tea is a secret ingredient that not every boba shop owner will let you know, heavy cream. Asian people love creamy milk. Whole milk is often not creamy enough for us so we usually add a splash or two of heavy cream into our boba tea. Lastly, whole milk and ice are in. And that my friends, you have a delicious cup of Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea.

Photo by Allysa on allybakes

Other than milk tea, Brown Sugar Boba can also be made into lava cake, cupcakes, ice cream, mille crepe, and even candy. In a Brown Sugar Boba Lava Cake, we will put brown sugar lava sauce instead of milk into the center of the cake. The base of this cake is a chiffon cake. Then, the hole in the center of the chiffon cake will be filled with brown sugar lava until it overflows. The lava will cover the entire cake so we often put this cake in a deep dish. Brown sugar soaked boba will be the topping. When I hangout with my friends, I love to have this cake on the table and a cup of freshly made Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea in my hand. We often joke that we Asians can never have enough brown sugar boba.

If you want to try Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea, you can either buy it from milk tea shops or make it at home. The boba can be bought pre-made, black tea and brown sugar are available everywhere as well. About the milk and cream, if you are lactose intolerant or vegan, you may try using lactose free milk or nut milk.

Salted Egg Yolk Sponge Cake

Desserts are usually sweet, but can we make them savory? Yes, we can!

Today, let’s explore a new and trendy Vietnamese dessert called Salted Egg Yolk Sponge Cake. In Vietnam as well as many other countries in Asia, people love salted egg yolk. If you are into savory dishes, you must definitely try salted egg yolk some days. Other than salted egg yolk, Asian people also love sponge cake. Usually, sponge cake dishes in Asia are sweet rather than savory. However, Asian pastry chefs have found a way to incorporate salted egg yolk into sponge cake to make a savory dessert.

What is salted egg yolk? It can either be chicken eggs or duck eggs, preferably duck eggs because they are bigger, creamier, and taste better. Raw chicken and duck eggs can be made into their salted version by soaking them in a salty brine. Once the eggs become salted, they are still raw so they need to be fully cooked before consuming. There are many ways you can cook salted eggs, and the easiest way is to boil just like normal eggs. A salted egg has two edible parts, the egg white, and the egg yolk. If you do everything correctly, both the egg white part and the egg yolk part must be salty. The egg white is often saltier since a lot of salt penetrates this layer before they reach the yolk. Salted eggs are often eaten with plain porridge or white rice. The salted egg yolks are often stuffed into Mooncakes. A mooncake can contain no egg yolk or multiple egg yolks.

About five years ago, Salted Egg Yolk Sponge Cake made a huge wave in the Asian dessert market. Just like many other Asian desserts, nobody really knows when and where Salted Egg Yolk Sponge Cake was first made. As soon as the Salted Egg Yolk Sponge Cake arrived at the market, it became an instant hit. Many Asian bakeries began to sell their own version of Salted Egg Yolk Sponge Cake. In Salted Egg Yolk Sponge Cake, the egg yolk is baked either before or at the same time as the sponge cake. Other than salted egg yolks and sponge cake, there are also a variety of ingredients combined to make this cake. In most recipes, you will find Chinese sausage, cream cheese or Laughing Cow cheese, pork floss, hot dog sausage, salted egg yolk sauce, and green onion. The Salted Egg Yolk Sponge Cake comes in three different forms, round or square block, rolled, or cupcake.

Since sponge cakes are often baked in round or square pans, the original shape of Salted Egg Yolk Sponge Cake is either round or square. If you are familiar with Asian cuisines, you will find that almost every East Asian country eats rolled sponge cake. As a result, when Asian people make Salted Egg Yolk Sponge Cake, they also make it in this form. Lastly, to make it easier to serve in cafes, people make Salted Egg Yolk Sponge Cake in cupcakes form. The forms can be different but the recipe remains the same or just slightly different. In my opinion, Salted Egg Yolk Sponge Cake is best enjoyed along with Black Sugar Boba Fresh Milk, an also trendy Asian drink.

If you have not already, try Salted Egg Yolk Sponge Cake when you have a chance. You can find it in Asian bakeries or cafes.


Every time I search for a new dessert to try, either buying or making, I tend to look for desserts that look attractive. Since I love decorating cakes and other types of sweet treats, I personally love eating desserts that are beautifully decorated. In my opinion, a well-decorated treat often takes a lot of time and effort. This means that the chef has put a lot of dedication into making this treat. This does not mean that simple-looking desserts are easy to make or the person who made them did not work hard. I just happen to prefer elegant-looking sweet treats over simple ones. The dessert we will be exploring today is called Mkhabez. It is an Algerian signature sweet dish that has a lot of beautiful decorations on the outside and packs a lot of flavor within itself.

The Mkhabez first appeared in Algeria’s capital city, Algiers. According to the locals, this dessert recipe was influenced by French cuisine with added Algerian twists. The Algerian cuisine adores almonds. There is a huge variety of desserts that are made from almonds and/or almond flour. Along with almonds, there are also different types of dried nuts and fruits that are also used to make these desserts. In the original Mkhabez recipe, the main ingredient is almond flour or almond paste. Other than almond flour, the recipe also consists of other ingredients such as butter, lemon zest, eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla extract. All of these ingredients will be mixed together to form a thick dough. After mixing, the dough will be put in a refrigerator to chill for a couple of hours. This process makes the dough become firmer and easier to shape. After chilling, the dough can be taken out and cut into shapes. Traditionally, Mkhabez has a triangular shape. However, a lot of people nowadays also use cookie cutters to cut the dough into the shape and size they wanted. In short, Mkhabez is similar to almond cookies but is also covered in royal icing. After cutting out the shapes, the Mkhabez cookie is baked for about 15 to 20 minutes. Once the time is up, the Mkhabez will be taken out of the oven and left to cool down completely. If they are warm, the royal icing will melt and lose its shape.

The next important part of making Mkhabez is to make the royal icing. Mkhabez is not Mkhabez until they are covered with icing. Although the process of making Mkhabez’s icing is not too complicated, there is a special ingredient that makes the icing special, orange blossom water. The orange blossom water will bring the sweet aroma of the orange grove to the cookies. By mixing together milk, cooking oil, powdered sugar, orange blossom water, and lemon zest, you will have your royal icing. Next, you can decorate your icing with whatever food colors you like. Put some of the icing into piping bags to decorate the Mkhabez later. Once the cookies are completely cooled down, dip them into the icing then let them dry on a cooling rack. This may take some time but it is worth the wait. After the icing has dried, decorate your Mkhabez with your own designs. It can be flowers, butterflies, leaves, or just simply drizzles.

In Algeria, there is always Mkhabez on special occasions such as weddings, festivals, birthday parties, etc. The most important occasion that you will always see the Algerian people put Mkhabez on the table is Eid al-Fitr, meaning the “Festival of Breaking the Fast”. This is a very important festival celebrated by Muslims worldwide at the end of a month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan.

If you want to try Mkhabez, you can make them at home since the recipe does not require any special ingredients that we cannot buy. Surprise your friends or family at your next party with the lovely and delicious Mkhabez.


Summer is coming, and the weather is getting warmer. For those who live in cooler climates, you may not feel the heat just yet but for those who live in the tropical climate, the scorching sun is already there. To cool down during the hot summer days, other than heading to the nearest air-conditioned shopping center or taking a dip in a pool, the locals in the tropical climate usually enjoy different kinds of ice-cold sweet treats. Today, let’s explore one of the most iconic desserts of the Philippines, Halo-halo.

Halo-halo literally means mix-mix which is not surprising how you eat this dessert. You mix up all of the ingredients in a bowl or cup and enjoy it while it’s still cold. Though Halo-halo is a popular dessert in the Philippines, its origin can be traced to pre-war Japan. This concoction was inspired by another Japanese dessert called Mitsumame. During summertime in Japan, the Japanese people often eat this dessert bowl which consists of shaved ice, chopped fresh fruits, sweetened beans, usually red or kidney beans, jelly cubes, and a variety of mochi such as dango or gyuhi. By the time the pre-war Japanese settlers and military personnels set foot on the Philippines islands, they brought mitsumame with them over and later sold this dessert to the inhabitants of the Metro Manila area. 

According to different sources, Halo-halo was also inspired by another Japanese dessert called kakigori. Kakigori is a shaved-ice dessert topped with condensed milk and fruit-flavored syrups. By the time the locals got more familiar with ice cream and other frozen treats, during the hot summer days, everyone would love to have a delicious, ice-cold dessert of some kind. In other countries, for instance, Vietnam and Korea, the people also eat shaved-ice desserts to battle the scorching heat. In Vietnam, both adults and children love to eat shaved-ice or crushed-ice topped with fruity syrups. This dish is very similar to the infamous Hawaiian shave ice. In Korea, there is bingsu or bingsoo which is shaved-ice topped with condensed milk, fruit syrups, chopped fresh fruits, and most importantly, sweetened red bean paste. Through the above examples, we can see how much people from tropical climates love ice-cold desserts.

Back to the case of Halo-halo, after the Japanese left the Philippines, the locals adopted the original recipe of mitsumame and added some of their own unique twists. A typical glass of Halo-halo is often loaded with a melange of different ingredients. The first ingredient that goes into the glass is sugar palm seeds. These seeds come from tropical Southeast Asia’s sugar palm trees. The seeds are eaten as part of a sweet dish or eaten as is. Nowadays, sugar palm seeds can be found in supermarkets picked in a thick sugary syrup. Next, there goes macapuno, another specialty of Southeast Asian cuisine. Come behind macapuno are often a variety of candied tropical fruits such as jackfruit or plantain. On top of those delicious candied fruits is often a generous amount of agar jellies and firm coconut milk jelly. Come behind the jellies are sweetened beans. Now comes the best part. On top of the beans, there will be a big scoop of ice follows by a generous amount of evaporated milk. Lastly, a big chunk of flan and a big scoop of ube ice cream will sit side by side on top of the concoction. Some vendors will also add sweetcorns and young coconut on top. However, sweetcorns are more popular than young coconut since the Filippino also have a special love for sweetcorns.

Now as you know what Halo-halo is, try making it this summer to share with your friends and family. I bet both adults and children will love it.

Glutinous Rice Balls Dessert

In East Asia, people love glutinous rice desserts. Since glutinous rice is readily available everywhere in the region, for thousands of years, people have used glutinous rice flour to make desserts of all shapes and sizes. The most common type of glutinous rice dessert in East Asia is glutinous rice balls. This sweet dish is often eaten on special occasions such as Lunar New Year, birthdays, and other festivals. Growing up in Vietnam, a Southeast Asian country whose cuisine is heavily influenced by Chinese cuisine, I love to eat dishes, from savory to sweet, made of glutinous rice. One of my favorite childhood memories is to not only eat glutinous rice balls dessert with my family but also to make this dessert with my sisters and my grandma.

First of all, let’s start with the name. Though this dessert is called glutinous rice balls dessert, its native Vietnamese name is “Chè Trôi Nước” which translates to floating dessert wading in water. If you are familiar with Vietnamese desserts, they are often named after their looks rather than their ingredients. In this dish, there is often one big, stuffed, glutinous rice ball and a bunch of smaller, unstuffed, rice balls served in a small bowl along with the sweet ginger syrup, coconut dressing or sauce, and sesame seeds for garnishing. The glutinous rice balls dessert is best served warm because the glutinous balls are chewy and stretchy only when warmed, and the sweet ginger syrup becomes very aromatic when warmed up as well.

The glutinous rice balls dessert in Vietnam is influenced by a similar dessert from China called Tang Yuan. The origin of this dessert in Vietnam is unknown, but the origin of glutinous rice balls in China is dated back to the Song Dynasty. For thousands of years, the purpose of this dessert remains the same. It is to be eaten during Lunar New Year and other special occasions. During Lunar New Year, family members will reunite from all different parts of the country and join the family dinner. The name Tang Yuan rhymes with the word Tuan Yuan which means “reunion” in Chinese. This dessert is often seen as the symbol of family members who live apart from each other reunite once again.

Photo by Jeannette on Wok & Kin

In China, Tang Yuan is often stuffed with a sweet black sesame paste. In Vietnam, glutinous rice balls are often stuffed with mung bean paste. This mung bean paste is often balanced between sweet and salty which gives this dessert its unique flavor. What I love the most about my culture and Vietnamese cuisine is that we always balance our dishes. In most of our sweet dishes, there is always an amount of salt added to balance the sugar. When you eat the Vietnamese glutinous rice balls dessert, the first flavors you will encounter are the sweetness of sugar and the crisp and slightly spicy taste of fresh ginger. Next, once you bite into the glutinous rice ball, you will feel the chewiness of the glutinous shell and the subtly sweet and salty taste of the mung bean filling. For those who love coconut milk, I do, you can put plenty of pandan-flavored coconut sauce on top of the glutinous balls and eat everything together.

This dish is very delicious and pretty easy to make. You can either buy it at Asian supermarkets, Asian fast-food restaurants, or you can make it at home. Try it when you have a chance, you may fall in love with it.

Chè Thái

This Vietnamese mixed fruits dessert is inspired by a similar recipe from Thailand. Though each country’s recipe has its uniqueness, both recipes are just as delicious as each other. Let’s start with the name. The word “chè” is a very confusing word for Vietnam’s visitors. Even though Vietnam is a small country, due to decades of war between the North, South, and the outsiders, the country’s regions develop their own way to name things. In the North, the word “chè” means tea. In central and south Vietnam, “chè” means sweet soup-like desserts. In this case, the word “Chè Thái” translates to Thai sweet soup dessert. Since there is no specific English word for “Chè,” people often use the word “dessert” instead. However, this often creates some misunderstanding when people from other countries, especially from the West, visit Vietnam and want to try some desserts. Most of the time, food vendors or tour guides have to explain to people that they have two choices of dessert, either a dry one or a soupy one.

About Chè Thái, it is very tasty, cheap, and always available. Vietnam’s tropical climate created only two seasons, dry vs. wet, instead of four seasons like other countries in cooler climates. In the dry season, the weather is always scorching hot, that is why people love to eat something cool or cold to ease the heat. This is where Chè Thái comes in to save the day. Before, Chè Thái was not entirely cheap if you choose to expand your fruit choices. In my opinion, I prefer Chè Thái made with fresh fruits instead of canned fruits, but canned fruits are always available while fresh fruits depending on the seasons. As a result, Chè Thái made with canned fruit is available everywhere in Vietnam. The main ingredients in Chè Thái include coconut milk, assorted fruits, jelly cubes, and ice. Thailand and Vietnam both have something in common, the love for coconut milk. In fact, our foods usually require coconut milk incorporated somehow. It could be added during the preparation process, cooking process, or as a topping. 

Photo by Katy on KT Foody

In Chè Thái, we often add fruits, jelly, and coconut milk together and top with crushed ice. The jelly we use in this recipe can be made in various ways. The most common type of jelly in Chè Thái is made out of gelatin, sugar, and food colorings. You can also add artificial flavors into the jelly to make them smell different. What I love the most among these choices of jelly is what is called rubies or “hạt lựu.” These rubies are to imitate pomegranate arils, and they are often made out of water chestnut bits coated in tapioca. To serve Chè Thái, people often use a medium bowl or plastic disposable cup, add the dry ingredients, then the coconut milk, and top with ice. To make this sweet dish fancier, some food vendors also offer durian pulp as an additional topping. Every time I eat Chè Thái, I always add in some durian pulp. It mixes really well with the coconut milk and adds extra creaminess to the dish. If you are not a fan of durian, the original recipe is good enough. Nothing tastes better than a cup of cold, sweet, creamy, and fruity goodness on a hot summer day. 

If you ever visit Vietnam, do not forget to try Chè Thái. If you want to make it at home, you can skip complex ingredients and substitute for simpler ones. For instance, the jelly can be made out of Jell-O so you do not have to buy extra ingredients such as food colors and artificial flavors. Coconut milk can be found anywhere. All you need to do is to cook it a little bit to thicken it. Lastly, you can use canned fruits as recommended in the original recipe or you can substitute some of them with your choice of fruits.

Tapioca Cookies

Though it is called Tapioca Cookies, to me, this melt-in-your-mouth sweet treat is more like cookie dough rather than cookies. Kids around the world have one thing in common, they all love cookies. Cookie is one of the most simple sweet treats that will surely bring back everyone’s sweetest childhood memories. After I came to the United States, I learned that both children and adults here love to eat cookies and cookie dough. My co-workers told me that as long as they see cookies, they instantly become children again and chomp through that fresh batch of cookies to the very last one. I guess the same thing happens to me when I see my favorite childhood treat, Tapioca Cookies.

This no-bake vegan cookie recipe is unlike any other dessert recipe in Vietnamese cuisine. Made of only a few simple ingredients, the Tapioca Cookies are very easy and quick to make, but they sure pack a lot of flavors. While in America and many other Western countries cookies are made of flour, egg, butter, sugar, chocolate, peanut butter, and/or nuts, in Vietnam, there are cookies made of just tapioca starch, coconut milk, sugar, and food flavorings. The most popular flavors of Tapioca Cookies are coconut or original flavor, and pandan flavor. Since Tapioca Cookies are really easy to make, the adults often let the children join them in making these cookies. 

When I was a kid, my favorite activity when visiting grandma’s house was to make Tapioca cookies with my grandma and my sisters. I can never forget those beautiful summer days when my sisters and I stayed at my grandma’s in the countryside. The tropical climate of Vietnam is dominated by the monsoon season. As a result, there is often heavy rain during summer. The summer rain was always so heavy that almost all outdoor activities were stopped. However, this is not the case for some fun indoor activities. Every time it rained, since we could not go outside to play, my grandma usually suggested that we make tapioca cookies. What could be more exciting than when the weather got chilly, you got to play with warm, aromatic, and edible play-doh. 

My grandma often joked that the best way to babysit a bunch of kids is to make them busy, and this was exactly what happened during those rainy summer days. As the weather became colder due to the rain, we all loved to hang around the kitchen. My grandma will first light up the fire for the oven. In the countryside, instead of using gas or electricity, we used wood and coal to make a fire to cook with. As my grandma was having her hands full with the fire, we often helped out with chopping off pandan leaves. I don’t know about other families, but my family always grows pandan leaves in our backyard. Once the oven was hot enough, grandma would start with cooking coconut milk, sugar, and pandan leaves together until thickened. The mixture would then be removed and set aside to cool down. The next step was to roast tapioca flour with chopped pandan leaves. Once the pandan leaves became crispy, this mixture would also be removed from the heat, and the tapioca flour would be sifted. In a large bowl, my grandma would pour the coconut mixture gradually onto the flour, and our job was to mix them well. The flour would become very smooth and moist, and we can add different food colors that we liked. Lastly, we stuffed the flour into the molds to shape our cookies. These molds were usually made out of wood, but nowadays people prefer plastic molds since they are easier to wash and dry. 

Just like many other sweet treats, the Tapioca cookies will pair very well with hot tea. By the time we were almost done molding the cookies, my grandma always brewed a fresh pot of jasmine tea. We would sit down together to enjoy our hard work alongside a warm cup of tea. It could be raining and cold outside, but we were always warm and well-fed inside with our beloved grandma. 

If you would like to try Tapioca cookies, you can find them at almost every Asian supermarket and bakery. Or, you can try making them at home with your children and have some fun time together.

Pig Skin Cake

Once again, the Vietnamese people chose to name this sweet treat after its look rather than its ingredients. Growing up in Southern Vietnam, my childhood revolved around strange-looking, strange taste, or strange name desserts. Despite their looks, tastes, or names, these desserts all have one thing in common, that is they are very tasty. I still remember the first time I heard of this cake, I thought it would be very weird since pig skin and cake are not something you put together. I do love eating pork skin but as a savory dish instead of a sweet dish. As my mom explained, I learned that Pig Skin Cake is named after its layered look. Each layer is about the same thickness as the thickness of the pig skin. The English name for Pig Skin Cake is Steamed Layer Cake. We just don’t use that name in Vietnam since Pig Skin Cake is more popular.

About the Pig Skin Cake, its origin is in Southern Vietnam, but no one really knows when it was first made nor who was the first to make this cake. In Vietnam, from North to South, people often make simple sweet treats out of the country’s agricultural products such as rice, root starch, bean, coconut, cane sugar, nuts, and fruits. Since these treats vary between regions, and they are often sold as street food or at local markets, no one could track their origins. All I know is that Pig Skin Cake is a staple dish of South Vietnam, and it is made of tapioca starch, rice flour, mung beans, pandan leaf extract, sugar, and coconut milk. Since its name is steamed layer cake, you probably got a sense of how it is made. This cake is made of multiple steamed layers of cake, and each layer has different ingredients and flavors.

In most cases, the Pig Skin Cake has two different flavors. One is mung bean flavor, and another one is pandan flavor. During the steaming process, we often start with pouring in a thin layer of the mung bean flavored cake mixture. After about three minutes, this layer is cooked and will be topped with the pandan flavored mixture. After another three minutes, the pandan mixture is cooked, and we pour in the mung bean mixture again. We keep repeating the same process until the cake is done, usually when the pan is full. To serve the Pig Skin Cake, we often cut it into wedges or squares depending on which type of pan we used. Since this cake is very subtly sweet and has a chewy texture, it is usually served at room temperature rather than hot. When the Pig Skin Cake is too hot, it is not as chewy as when it is cooled down.

Photo by Trang on RunAwayRice

In Vietnam, the Pig Skin Cake is the most common in family gatherings or parties. The most common type of gathering in Southern Vietnam is the death anniversary. On this day, the host family will invite a lot of people to join the gathering. The guests consist of family members as well as neighbors. Some families even invite more neighbors than family members since according to the Southern Vietnamese culture, sometimes the neighbors are even closer than family members. A typical death anniversary gathering in Vietnam often has at least fifty people gather and eat together. This number can be doubled or tripled in wealthier families. Sometimes, the people who come to someone’s death anniversary are co-workers or business partners who have been helping the host family in business or during a hard time, and the host family invites these people over to express their gratuity. Once everyone has finished the main courses, the Pig Skin Cake is served as dessert along with freshly brewed jasmine tea. Almost every dessert in Vietnam is accompanied by hot jasmine green tea.

Nowadays, people often make Pig Skin Cake in bite-size and sell them at Asian supermarkets. If you want to try this cake, check to see if your nearest Asian supermarket carries it. If you don’t live near an Asian supermarket, you can try making this cake yourself. The pandan leaf extract can be substituted by artificial pandan flavor.

Yule Log Cake

The Yule Log cake is a ritualistic Christmas cake that dates back to the 19th century. This cake was inspired by the Nordic tradition of burning the yule log through the Twelve Days of Christmas, and the recipe was first introduced by French pastry chef Pierre Lacan in the late 1800s. Burning the yule log was a custom that started a very long time ago in Scandinavia and other regions in Northern Europe. To prepare for the ceremony, a tree will be carefully chosen by the family and then cut down. The largest end of the log would be fed into the fireplace, and the burning will last to the rest of the season. 

Through wars and invasions of the Vikings, the tradition of burning the yule log spread further South to many other European countries. In France, this custom was slightly different. Instead of sticking one end of the log into the fire while leaving the rest of the log hanging in the middle of the room, family members will cut down the log and burn each bit every night. As this tradition was widely adopted all over Europe, different countries used different kinds of wood. The French used Cherry trunks to burn, and the best part was that they often sprinkled the log with wine so that it smells nice when it is lit. In England, Oak is the most popular so the English used oak logs to burn. The logs were often dried and the bark was taken off before the logs headed to the fire. Also in the UK, the barrel makers used to give away old logs that they could not use to make barrels so that people could bring them home and burn them as yule logs. In Scotland, the kind of wood used was birch wood, and this was also the reason why their yule log cake looked like a birch log instead. The Scottish named their yule log cake Birch Bark Yule Log.

What is Yule Log Cake made of? The main components of a Yule Log cake are cake, buttercream, chocolate, and some edible decorations of your choice. Though these ingredients are typical for a cake recipe, the way Yule Log cake is assembled makes it stand out from the rest of the ordinary cakes. First of all, the type of cake that shapes the Yule Log is a flat sponge cake. The reason it is flat is that we can roll it to make the shape of a log. This sponge cake is more fluffy than a standard American cake. If it is too dense and thick, it will break when we roll it. The buttercream for Yule Log cake can be chocolate flavor or vanilla flavor. Nowadays, people often assemble a Yule Log cake with chocolate mousse or whatever mousse they like instead of buttercream. To garnish, a Yule Log cake must always represent the wood. Woodsy decorations such as mushrooms, snow, dust, stones, moss, or green leaves are a must. These decorations are made of edible ingredients as well. The Yule Log cake is surely an attraction at any party. Though it looks like an old log in the forest, everybody will love it as it is both delicious and super instagramable.

Right now seems to be a little too early to start making a Christmas cake, but because creativity has no boundaries, so instead of waiting till Christmas to share this cake with your friends and family, try making it for your next gathering. Instead of using Christmas-themed decorations, make some edible moss to garnish your log, add a couple of modeling chocolate animals or flowers, some chocolate rocks, and voila, you have just created a Jungle-themed log cake.

Pandan Honeycomb Cake

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.