I love to hear from young people who are getting into food and cooking. Last year, Kimberly, a Vietnamese-American high school junior, emailed me inquiring about a recipe for a Vietnamese/Asian-style cake. She wanted to prepare a mini-version of a strawberry and cream layer cake for her catering class as she had fond memories of it growing up when her mom bought the cakes at their local Asian market. She found the recipe on Viet World Kitchen and wrote:
It might be a little over exaggerated, but it was almost like fate finding your recipe! I've always like to bake. I never have the right equipment at home, but when I do it at school, I get a sense of enjoyment.
I hope your website is around for a while. I'm going to be off on my own soon. I want to still eat the many foods I grew up with. I know I'll be coming back to learn more about how to make our culture's cuisine.
I wrote back, encouraging Kimberly and asking for photos and a report back when she made the cake. Last Sunday, she emailed and sent the photo above. I love her stamina. Through all her travails, she successfully made the cake for Superbowl Sunday – and is going to repeat it for practice. Her adventure in making and using the strawberry and cream layer cake recipe is full of humor and grace:
Hi Ms. Nguyen,
I don't know if you remember me or not, but I e-mailed you last month about the cake. I planned to do it for an event at school, but it just didn't work out.
Well I finally made one today for the Superbowl!!! I had a lot of fun making it. I forgot to double the recipe, so I found myself making it twice, meaning twice the time!
The most pain painstaking process was whipping the egg whites. I used a whisk, because I don't own a stand mixer. It was my first time used a whisk to make egg foam. I felt so confident the first time. The second time I had to do it, I just wanted to get it over with.
Speaking of egg white, I couldn't find cream of tartar so I just omitted it. I was really worried, because I wasn't really sure what it really did. All I knew that it's a leavener and it's in baking soda.
I over baked my first cake my about 5 minutes. It turned out a little darker than my 2nd one. I guess the saying, you learn something new everyday is true. The 2nd cake turned out much better, it was softer and it rose a bit.
In the second batch, I accidentally mixed in the sugar too fast. I was getting impatient. I kept wondering why it was so stiff! Luckily the vanilla thinned it out a bit.
For the filling, I used orange juice instead of alcohol. I never really liked the taste of alcohol, nevertheless to say I shouldn't be even drinking. I'm still 16!!!
The taste of fresh whipped cream was way beyond my expectations! I thought it'd me the same thing. Maybe it was because I used heavy cream, but it just seems so much richer and… real!
Because I didn't have a flat spatula, I ended up using a chopstick to try and smooth it out. That just proved how Asian I am!
I started at 9 and finished at 11:30 (including cleaning up). [9am-11:30pm, I assume!] I really enjoyed making it, I'm definitely going to make it again for other events or when I'm in the mood for something sweet. =]
Today’s my birthday, and Kimberly’s virtual cake is a great gift! Thank you, Kimberly.