Pandan extract gives this traditional Vietnamese cake a vibrant, green hue.
For March’s green-themed Supper Club dinner, Dino was eager to try out an interesting recipe he obtained from one of his coworkers. Bánh Bò Nướng is a Vietnamese dessert in which extract from pandan leaves gives it a rich, green hue.
The word “honeycomb” in this case comes from the fact that when the cake is sliced open, it looks like the texture of a honeycomb. The key to creating this texture is a mix of tapioca flour (AKA tapioca starch) and single-acting baking powder.
We learned that the most popular and regularly available baking powder in the USA is double-acting, meaning that it has one reaction when mixed with wet ingredients and a second reaction when exposed to heat. Single-acting baking powder only reacts with wet ingredients, so it’s key that you seek it out if you want to make this recipe at home. Apparently the use of double-acting baking powder will cause a huge, gummy mess. I found Dr. Oetker’s Original Baking Powder at our local Stop & Shop, which is a single-acting, German baking powder.
Dino’s coworker, Gina, recommended that we use buko pandan flavor extract. Buko refers to young coconut- and so the bottle we used was a mixture of young coconut and pandan flavoring. Gina has been perfecting this recipe for years, so we trust her!
This cake is not a typical dessert by any means. It has a spongy texture and is not overly sweet. Pandan itself has a rich, nutty and grassy flavor which works very well with the coconut milk and young coconut flavoring. To me, the taste was reminiscent of marzipan. It certainly fit the bill for our green-themed dinner, and it got a big reaction when sliced open due to its interesting texture and vibrant, green color.
If we make this cake again, we would seek out pure pandan extract without the young coconut flavor and artificial ingredients to see how it differed from this version.
This would be a fun dessert to serve at a Halloween party with a chocolatey glaze- the dark color of the chocolate with the bright green would be wicked good fun!