This Vietnamese honeycomb cake or banh bo nuong is one of the most iconic cakes in Vietnamese cuisine. The name comes from the distinct honeycomb structure created by pockets of expanding gas which can be seen when you cut a cross section of the cake. Honeycomb cake is traditionally served warm and is perfect on its own or with a nice cup of hot tea.
This cake comes in a variety of flavours but it is most commonly made with pandan. This is easily my favourite flavour since it gives the cake a vibrant bright green colour and a wonderful fragrance. Steph however, prefers vanilla brown sugar which admittedly is pretty good too! In today’s post I have included both recipes so that you can decide for yourselves which one you enjoy better.
Honeycomb cake is one of those recipes where you only hear how hard it is or how there is a secret ingredient which for some reason no one tell you. So for the longest time, I avoided making it until many years later when I finally grew a pair and gave it a crack. On my first attempt I literally baked a brick. The cake was flat, lifeless and the honeycomb structure was as solid as a block of cheese. Fortunately, my brick laying days are over and the cake looks like how it is in the pictures 99% of the time.
My Tips for Success
As I mentioned above, this recipe does have a few booby traps, so here are my best tips to avoid disappointment!
- Pandan extract comes in many varieties which all differ in quality. I use the Koepoe Koepoe Pandan extract / paste which is a thick, viscous dark green syrup. Avoid buying anything that looks very diluted (light green) and thin.
- Use scissors to cut the yolks up in the bowl. This is to avoid putting too much air in the cake mixture.
- When whisking the mixture, keep it slow and steady with the whisk always touching the bottom of the mixing bowl.
- Let the cake cool upside down to avoid it collapsing on itself when it is hot.
- Ideally don’t use a non-stick cake tin since you want the cake to stick onto the sides of the tin. This will keep the cake in the tin when letting it cool upside down.
- Do not grease the sides of the tin for reasons stated above.
- All ovens are different. If the cake looks like its going to burn on the top at any point, turn down the heat to 170 C / 338 F or lower if necessary.
- And with all things that are loaded with booby traps, take your time. Don’t rush it.
If you are thinking of making this for the first time or have been disappointed with other recipes then this one is for you. I have made the recipe as simple as possible and included all my tips to avoid failure. I promise if you give it a go, there will be beautiful honeycomb cake to enjoy with family and friends or…. for yourself!
Other Recipes You May Like
- Vietnamese Banana and Bread Cake (Banh Chuoi)
- Vietnamese Pig’s Ear Biscuits – Banh Tai Heo
- Banh Flan (Vietnamese Creme Caramel)
- Crispy Almond Biscuits
- My Cheat Vietnamese Sweet Coconut Sticky Rice – Xoi Nuoc Dua
This Recipe Features In…
- Recipes for Littlies for inviting Steph onto your YouTube channel to make this cake. You can find the video here.
- Food52 for featuring this recipe in your What is Pandan? article. Check out their informative article on this popular South-East Asian ingredient.
Scruff & Steph
Vietnamese Honeycomb Cake – Banh Bo Nuong
- 1/2 tsp canola oil (for greasing the tin)
- 1 cup coconut cream
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pandan extract / vanilla extract (available at Asian groceries) (Note 1)
- 150 gm white caster sugar / brown sugar (Note 1)
- 1 tbsp canola oil (for the cake mixture)
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 160 gm tapioca starch (available at Asian groceries)
- 10 gm rice flour (available at Asian groceries)
- 2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tsp bicarb soda
- Preheat the oven to 180 C / 356 F fan-forced.
- Grease the bottom of a 20 cm / 8 inch round cake tin with the 1/2 tsp of oil and leave it in the oven to heat up.
- In a bowl, add the coconut cream and salt. If making the pandan version then add pandan extract and white caster sugar to the mixture. If making the brown sugar version then add the vanilla extract and brown sugar to the mixture.Put into the microwave for 1 minute, then mix until combined. Add the tbsp of canola oil and set aside.
- In another bowl, crack the eggs. With a pair of scissors, cut the egg yolks into small pieces. Add the eggs into the bowl with the coconut mixture.
- Sift half of the tapioca starch and rice flour into the egg mixture and gently whisk while keeping the whisk touching the bottom of the bowl at all times. After about a minute, add the remaining tapioca starch and flour and continue whisking for another minute.
- Sift the cream of tartar and bicarb soda into the mixture. Mix for roughly 30 seconds.
- Take the cake tin out of the oven and place it on a heat-proof surface.
- Press the cake mixture through a sieve and into the hot cake tin. Grab your oven mitts or a thick tea towel, and drop the cake tin from a height of roughly 2 cm onto your work surface a few times to get the air bubbles out.
- Put the cake into the oven and bake for 40 minutes.
- Set up a cooling station by placing a cooling rack on a couple of mugs, or something else that will give the cooling rack some height. See picture above to see what I mean. This is to allow plenty of air to circulate under the cake to reduce any condensation as it cools upside down.
- After 40 minutes, take the cake out of the oven and immediately rest it upside down on the cooling station.
- After about 45 minutes of cooling, or once the cake feels lukewarm, remove from the tin and serve.
- Use pandan extract or paste for the pandan version and vanilla extract for the brown sugar version. Please refer to my tips for which pandan extract to buy.
67 thoughts on “Vietnamese Honeycomb Cake (Banh Bo Nuong)”
Brilliant post Scruff
First time trying this! OMG success. Thank you for all the tips that made a difference. Also I appreciate you sharing the brown sugar version too which is why I clicked here. I didn’t haven’t Pandan so this worked beautifully!!
Family loves it so will make it again. Thank You!!!!
Hi Jenny! Thank you for leaving such a nice comment! We are so glad that you and your family enjoyed the recipe. We hope to hear from you again!
Does the coconut cream mixture need to completely cool down after heating it up in the microwave before mixing it with the egg and flour?
Hi Thy! No it doesn’t. The coconut mixture is only in for a minute so it wont be that hot anyway. Hope it turns out well for you!!!
Omg!! This is my favorite cake! I will definitely give it a try! Thanh you so much for sharing the recipe and good tips!😍❤️
Hi Michelle! I hope it turns out well and thanks for stopping by!
I’m so excited to try this! Thanks for the post. Most recipes I’ve seen use single acting baking powder (alsa). I’ve avoided making this so far because i can’t get it where i live. So bicarb and cream of tartar do the trick?
Hi Seb! Yes, bicarb and cream of tartar is basically single acting baking powder. My original recipe did include single acting baking powder (Alsa) but I thought it could be hard for people to get. I am glad this recipe has worked out in your favour. I hope it all goes well!
If I have Alsa baking powder, do I just use 3 teaspoons? Also, if I want to bake this in a loaf tin (21cm x 11cm) do I just half the recipe? And how long would I bake for? Thanks!
Hi Theresa! Yes, in theory this would equal 3 tsp of single acting baking powder. However, I am not sure what is in Alsa baking powder so I can’t be for certain. My best guess is that it should work.
For the loaf tin, I would say just give it a go. The only this is that you do not want the cake mixture to be much higher than 1/2 to 2/3 of the cake tin. Good luck!
It is nice to see how it is made, but I’ll just keep buying it at the Vietnamese restaurant down the street. 🙂
You know what Kat E… SAME! Except my restaurant is mum’s house! Thanks for dropping a comment.
I followed your recipe and it was a hit! Thank you for sharing it. I used your recipe when we had a Nutrition battle in the office and we were tasked to prepare a Vietnamese cuisine.
Hi Mary! We are so happy that everything turned out well for you!!! Thank you for dropping by and telling us.
I made this for the first time and it was amazing!!! Beautifully soft and chewy.
Hi Bethany! We are so glad it worked out well. Thank you for kind words!
I’ve made this cake 3 times in the past 12 hours, 2 out of 3 collapsed but your recipe turned out perfectly!! Thank you so much for your tips they made the difference between failure and success!
Hi Audrey! As I was reading your message… I had that sinking feeling that my recipe was going to be one of the 2 that didn’t work out! Thank god it wasn’t! I am so happy that you found our recipe and tips really helpful. And thank you for letting us know. It really gives us motivation to keep going!
Do you suppose it is possible to use safflower oil instead of canola oil?
Hi Yuki! My gut feel is that it should be OK.
It’s amazing! And Gluten Free. Thank you so much!
You are very welcome Carole!!!
Does “rice flour” have to be regular, white rice flour? Or could I use sweet rice flour (glutinous flour)?
Hi Yarn! Sorry for the late reply! For some reason your message got filtered. Yes, it does have to be regular rice flour or it won’t work. Thanks for dropping by!
Hi there! Would Mochiko flour be a suitable substitute for rice flour?
Hi Jennypher! To be honest, I have never used Mochiko flour. So I am not sure if you can sub it in or not. Sorry!
Is white caster sugar the same thing as powdered sugar?
Hi Jenifer! Yes. Just any fine sugar will work. Thanks for dropping by!
Hi! Any chance you can use either just baking soda or baking powder? I don’t have alsa or cream of tartar!
Hi! To be honest, I am not sure. I have never tried it and I don’t want to give you the wrong information. Sorry!
Is that a fan forced oven temperature ?
Hi! Yes , it is! I hope the recipe turns out well for you.
Baked banh bo nuong for the first time using your recipe and everyone loved it! Even my grandma approved. Thank you for sharing!!
That’s so good! We are so happy that your family liked it Huong! Thank you for letting us know.
Hi Scruff! I’ve been wanting to make bánh bo nuong and your recipe looks like the most straight forward and easy to follow! Only thing is, I don’t have rice flour. Would you know if we can sub out for anything else?
Hi Vianh! To be honest, I have never tried it with anything else. So I can’t give you alternatives with any real confidence. Sorry!
I’m so excited to try this recipe! I was wondering if I can make this with a smaller pan like a 6″ instead of 8″. Can I use the same ingredients and just expect a taller cake? Thank you!!
Hi! To be completely honest, I am not sure. My gut feel is that the cake might sink a little if it is too tall. This is only a guess and I hope it does not happen for you. Good luck!
I have seen a banh bo recipe which includes yeast powder and rice flour.
Do you have any opinion about that? What might be causing my cake to collapse?
Hi Kelly! Honestly, I have never used yeast powder for this recipe. I can’t tell you how that would go. In my experience, whenever this cake collapsed on me it was due to using a non stick cake tin and not allowing the cake to cool upside down. Keep in mind though, that the cake will always lose some height as soon as you take it out of the oven. I hope that helps.
Greatly appreciate your intention to sharing with us all the tips. I am successfully created a beautiful and so delicious Banh Bo Nuong for the first time. Thanks again. 😉
Hi! You are very welcome! Thank you for letting us know!
Do you know if I can make this in a loaf/bread tin (22cm x 11cm)? If so, how long would I bake for.. and would I just half the recipe? Thanks!
Hi Theresa! To be honest I am not sure. My best guess is that if you are going to halve the recipe you should cook it roughly for 30 minutes. I would check the cake at 20 minutes to see if it is going OK. If it looks like it is going a bit dark, turn the heat down and cover the top of the cake loosely with a piece of aluminium foil to protect it. Please remember this is my best guess! Good luck!
Thank you for this recipe. I tried it and it came out great.
That’s really good to hear Dave! Thank you for using our recipe and leaving us a nice comment!
I’d love to try this recipe! Would it be possible to do this with a muffin tin and make mini cakes? If so, how long should it bake for?
Hi Cat! To be honest, I have never tried it and have not sure how it would turn out. I am a little hesitant to give you any advice since it would just be a pure guess. Sorry Cat!
Thank you very much for your lovely recipe and all the extra tips! Everything helps! It was a delicious & successful bake for us! Thank you 🙂
You are very welcome!
This looks great! For the 1 cup of coconut cream, do you use a can of coconut milk (shaken) or just skim the cream that separates when refrigerated? Thanks! This will be my first time making this cake!
Hi Hillary! The coconut cream ingredient is an actual product which usually comes in a tin can. It is a thicker / more concentrated version of coconut milk. It should be available at main stream grocers and definitely at Asian grocers. Hope that helps Hillary!
Hi! I just made this, strictly following instructions. Thanks for doing the research for us!
Here’s what I thought: The texture turned out pretty cool, soft and chewy but not stodgy, however, I find the taste overwhemingly eggy, especially when the cake was still warm. I’m not using pandan extract, but I did have some frozen pandan leaves (15g), that I steeped in the warm coconut cream for an hour. I could barely taste it in the final product though…
Anyone tried to play around with this recipe to give it a more interesting flavour profile? Could it work out to swap out one egg for the same amount of coconut cream? I’d be grateful for anyone’s input 🙂
Hi! Yes, it can be a little eggy if your are not using anything to flavour it. I highly recommend you try it with pandan paste to flavour the cake which will remove most of the eggy taste.
Hi Scruff thanks for posting a fantastic recipe I nailed the texture of the cake in my first try. I also find the egg flavour was too prominent and I actually used the Pandan. I might double the amount of the Pandan next time as it was hardly noticeable. Still, I’m so happy to have a relatively no fuss banh bo nuong recipe to impress for upcoming Christmas gatherings.
Thanks for the comment Elly! Hope it goes well at the Christmas gatherings!
I am intrigued by your recipe and want to make this cake. I went to order the Pandan you recommended, but was surprised by the ingredients: Glucose Syrup, Sorbitol Syrup, Artificial Pandan Flavor, Propylene Glycol, Colouring (Tartrazine CI 19140), Modified Starch, Artificial Vanillin Flavor, Colouring Briliant Blue FCF CI 42090, Ethyl Maltol
No Pandan in the product. Can you maybe recommend a product that has pandan in it?
Hi Kitchentrails! To be honest, I am not sure what other brands to recommend you since I only ever use this one. My only recommendation is to use a brand that is viscous and is a very dark green in colour. Sorry!
I made the cake and it came out perfectly, thank you for the very good instruction and tips. I have to say I have never cut eggs with scissors, that was fun. I bought the Bionutricia Pandan Leaf Extract from Malaysia, it has a very lovely flavor.
Hi Kitchentrails! We are glad that it worked out for you! Thank for leaving us a comment.
Thank you for your recipe. I’ve tried many and this is the best one I’ve found. It turned out perfectly! Thanks so much for sharing. Just an FYI, I am Vietnamese and all of our Vietnamese guest complimented how delicious it was!
We are so glad it worked out well for you Em! Thanks for leaving us such a nice comment!
My goodness, finding this recipe is such a wonderful coincidence!
Earlier today, I watched a video on a social media web site; a girl who looked to be 12 or 13 was in the kitchen making… something. There was a Pyrex casserole dish sitting on one of those flat electric stovetops, and she was pouring some kind of batter through a flour sifter- the kind that has a hand-crank on one side. The batter dripped through for a few seconds, and then- suddenly, the dish exploded! In shock, she took a step back, and then called for her mom (we realized that she was probably barefoot and couldn’t move because of the broken glass on the floor), and that’s how the video ended.
In the comment section, people were speculating that the stovetop was probably still hot from a previous use, but still no one could figure out what she was making and why she was pouring liquid batter through a kitchen gadget meant for dry ingredients. Then someone with sharper eyes than the rest of us noticed that she’d written “Bahn Bo Nuong” on the dry-erase board behind her, along with “(her name) Bakery,” so it seems like she has a YouTube channel of her adventures in the kitchen. Anyway, I’m a (retired) professionally-trained chef and was so curious that I immediately asked The Googles for some information. I was drawn to your recipe for Banh Bo Nuong because- out of all the other Google results- the picture of your cake looked the best. So here I am. I now understand that she had preheated that dish without realizing that some Pyrex-type dishes are not shatterproof, and will explode if there’s an abrupt temperature change. I also get why she was straining with the sifter- she had already used it earlier in the recipe and was avoiding getting another gadget dirty, OR she didn’t have a regular strainer, in which case the sifter works perfectly well.
Anyway. My husband has become good friends with a coworker who is from Vietnam. One of the things they have bonded over is food, haha. He was quite upset earlier in the week when he told me not to make any plans for Saturday that involved him. I did know that his friend and coworker, Ann, was going back to Vietnam for a visit this month, and he told me that she wanted to get together with him and some other coworkers on Saturday at a pho restaurant… I kind of laughed and said “why- so she can get some good pho in Philadelphia before she goes back to Vietnam?” He answered sadly that he thinks she wants this get-together because she’s not coming back… her visit is supposed to last two months, but some things she has said have led him to believe that she’s planning to stay there.
As you can imagine, he just wants Ann to do whatever makes her happy, but is sad and will miss her. He really wants to give her some sort of gift, but has been hesitating, since that would seem to be acknowledging that this is long-term goodbye. This is where you and your recipe come in!
I have all the ingredients for the brown sugar version, except for the rice flour, but I’m positive I’ll find it with the gluten-free ingredients at my local grocery store. I really, really want to try the pandan version but it will have to wait until I can get downtown to an Asian market. In the meantime, I will surprise my husband by baking one on Saturday morning so that HE can surprise Ann on Saturday evening. I’m sorry my post got so long… it’s just that I was SO struck by the amazing coincidence and the perfect timing and wanted to explain. After I post this, I’m going to look for a way to sign up for a newsletter, or to subscribe, or however you have it set up so that your fans are notified when you post new content. On this page, the pictures with links to your other recipes look absolutely wonderful! I always look forward to adding something new to my “Favorite Food Blogs” folder! Thank you for providing these recipes- and especially your tips and tricks! You’ve undoubtedly helped many of us avoid a series of bricks as results.
Hi Kitty! When I saw your message I was thinking… “Oh god… someone is about to blow me up about a recipe not being traditional Vietnamese!” But I was pleasantly surprised to read your story. Thank you leaving us a comment and we hope it works out well for you!