Baker turns cakes into award-winning artworks

January 21, 2024 - 08:25
Lê Phan Viên Hy is extremely enthusiastic about working with colours and shaping designs on cakes. The 34-year-old cake artist had the chance to showcase her creations in many other international cake events.
Lê Phan Viên Hy is pictured with her cake, an artwork entitled 'The Trưng Sisters' at Biennale Internazionale di Sugar Art. Photo courtesy of Lê Phan Viên Hy

By Hạnh Mỹ and Lương Hương

A cake decorated with the image of the Trưng sisters, two heroines of the first independence uprising in Vietnamese history, impressed attendees of the Biennale Internazionale di Sugar Art, which took place in Turin, Italy, in November.

The pastry artwork was appraised for its sophistication, lively details, vibrant colours and especially, the historic story associated with it, as told by its creator Lê Phan Viên Hy.

“Seeing everyone come to admire my artwork and telling them the story about Trưng sisters, a part of Vietnamese history, depicted on a cake, was perhaps the most meaningful moment to me,” the HCM City-based baker wrote on her Facebook.

“I feel truly happy and proud, not because I was able to be there but because of the brilliance of Vietnamese women since ancient times. I’m proud to be Vietnamese."

The 34-year-old cake artist had the chance to showcase her creations in many other international cake events last year. Before the Biennale Internazionale di Sugar Art, which gathered nearly 100 cake artists from around the world, Hy’s cakes had been exhibited in Chinese Taipei, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and the UK.

Her cakes decorated with mystical creatures won silver at Cake International - the world's biggest and most popular sugar craft, cake decorating and baking show, held last November.

Hy's cakes decorated with mystical creatures win a silver medal at Cake International. Photo courtesy of Lê Phan Viên Hy

Hy's appearance in those global events left an impression as well, as she always chooses to show up in Vietnamese traditional dress. She said one of her purposes in each trip went beyond simply competing, but also to introduce Vietnamese culture to international friends.

"What I remember the most after each trip are the memories of introducing the conical hat, traditional Vietnamese attire, as well as getting to know people from different countries,” Hy said.

The cake artist has had a great passion for pastry since she was young. However, it wasn't until she entered university that she started making her first simple cakes. In 2014 and 2015, with the encouragement of a few friends, she decided to start selling sponge cakes and some other simple types.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in business administration, Hy nurtured such a strong passion for baking and pastry that she decided to forgo the opportunity to become a university lecturer to delve deeper into the world of pastries, starting from the basics and gradually exploring more advanced techniques.

She stumbled upon sets of cakes decorated with impressive icing designs while casually surfing the web, which inspired her to enrol in a course taught by a skilled Chinese artisan in 2018 to gain a more in-depth understanding and solidify her passion.

Despite baking for years, Hy admitted that she had neither inherent talent in painting nor prior experience in fine arts. However, she is extremely enthusiastic about working with colours and shaping designs on cakes.

"Especially during the pandemic, when I had more spare time at home, I fully focused on artistic baking and exchanged ideas with like-minded members in various international groups. As a result, my skills gradually improved, and after about two years, I started achieving certain accomplishments," she said.

One of Hy's artistic cakes inspired by Vietnamese traditional dress. Photo courtesy of Lê Phan Viên Hy

The art requires much effort and care, so it normally takes her hours to complete an artistic cake, she said.

It involves creating cake moulds, mastering the technique of piping icing, and then carefully selecting and blending colours to achieve the desired designs.

“I have constantly learned and gained experience while working. In Việt Nam, most bakers prioritise business, so they may only reach a certain level of expertise in certain techniques. However, to pursue a deeper specialisation in artistic baking, one must constantly update themselves with new techniques and ingredients," she said.

“I have been through a lot of ups and downs in my career. Sometimes, I just want to quit. I have been through 3,000 moments to reach this milestone. However, I have firmly chosen a career that not many people select and experienced fantastic moments, such as standing in the Asia Cake Oscars and being the Cake Artist of 2023."

She has been invited to become an instructor of artistic cake workshops held in Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, Japan, and the US for this year. In February, she will go to England to attend the D'licious Magazine Award ceremony after being nominated in the "One to Watch" category. The event will take place at Leeds Castle in the county of Kent.

Hy is honoured at Asia Cake Oscars 2023 in Sri Lanka. Photo courtesy of Lê Phan Viên Hy

Meanwhile, Hy is developing new cake moulds to cater to those who wish to pursue baking and pastry in Việt Nam.

“To me this is an interesting career. There are times when you taste bitterness and feel like it's less interesting. But if you keep on going, keep on making mistakes, keep on falling and - standing back to start all over again, when looking back on the road you have been through, you will see it’s completely worth it,” she said. VNS