Quick-and-easy, light-and-healthy recipes are what modern home cooks want these days. Is that true? To a certain extent, yes. In fact, those kinds of recipes have always had a place in busy home kitchens. But every once in a while, we need to get down and dirt to cook something complicated and fatty. We want to be challenged so that we learn something new.
A few years ago, I posted a sponge cake recipe (biscuit au beurre) in response to a reader’s request. Many Asian cooks want to reproduce the fanciful fruit-and-whipped cream layer cakes sold at Vietnamese and Chinese bakeries. Making sponge cake requires a little finesse as you have to be precise and act fast to delicately fold all the ingredients together. However, the cake bakes up to a wonderful loftiness and tender tastiness.
Weighing the culinary challenge versus the payoff, many people went on to master making sponge cake from scratch! In the process, some folks emailed me about their experiences. (Remember the high school student’s near cake wreck?) Last week, Xuan in Kansas City, Missouri, sent a really sweet story that I had to share with you. It’s about one woman’s DIY spirit that resulted in a great personal and culinary accomplishment.
Xuan used the sponge cake recipe to make her own engagement and wedding cakes. It's one thing to be the bride but another to bake the cake too! Whoa, what a way to greet your new in-laws! I hope Xuan’s story below inspires you:
Dear Mrs. Nguyen,
I am writing today to say thank you for your posts on Vietnamese sponge cake & fillings. I became engaged to my husband in March 2010 and began planning for my September wedding right away. I realized early on that my wedding was going to be a big compromise among numerous family members (as all Vietnamese can attest to!), and I knew I was not going to be able to have control over everything. It was at this point that I decided I was going to bake my own wedding cakes and make my own wedding invitations.
I wanted these two things to be my DIY contribution to my wedding. I did not have extensive baking experience up to this point in time, except for the occasional batches of cookies and yellow cakes (from prepackaged cake mix) that my sister and I whipped up in the kitchen during our youth. I discovered your Banh Bong Lan recipe while browsing through your site one day and decided to give it a try.
The cake was absolutely fabulous! I also made your pineapple and strawberry cake filling recipes. I found a recipe for Mr. [Alton] Brown's Italian butter cream frosting on YouTube and realized it was similar--but much better--than the frosting used on Vietnamese wedding cakes. I put all the recipes together and made a frosted cake for my engagement ceremony in early May and my wedding cakes this past September. Below are the pictures of my engagement and wedding cakes.
I received numerous compliments on the cakes, and it was a proud moment for me. I am not very crafty person, and no one believed I was going to pull it off. Yet, I did it. Of course, I would not have been able to do it without your recipes. Thank you so much! You made a dream come true for me :)
P.S. I found a woman who makes animal figurines on Ebay and asked her to make my cake topper. I wanted a horse and a pig, my husband's and my Chinese astrological signs. She was a bit surprised at first, but she went along with it. It turned out to be a unique cake topper, to say the least.
Cam on (thanks), Xuan, for letting me be part of your special events.
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