By Thúy Hằng
During a widespread and intense lockdown, many people feel their days are longer and they do not have enough to do, but baker Nguyễn Thị Thùy Dương is buried in work. The 26-year-old is making use of all her extra time at home to try experimental baking methods to perfect her pastries and cakes.
Nguyễn Thị Thùy Dương is a well-known figure in the Việt Nam’s baking community. Three years ago she quit her job as a bank teller to devote herself to baking. Photos courtesy of Dê Xinh Cake
A well-known figure in the Việt Nam baking community, Dương had been flying back and forth between HCM City, where she currently lives, and Hà Nội to give regular baking classes. However, since the end of June, she has been stuck in the capital due to the strict lockdown. But she does not let being trapped in her rental apartment affect her work, which is her great passion.
“Unlike many others, I do not feel bored at all when I can’t go out. Lockdown, for me, means I have an abundance of time for creating new designs,” Dương told Việt Nam News.
As the Mid-Autumn Festival is coming, the baker has brought a fresh touch to traditional mooncakes, with each cake having a hand-painted image.
Đông Hồ folk paintings have been recreated on Dương's.mooncakes
“I got used to drawing paintings on regular cakes before but never tried on a mooncake. The idea came into my mind during these days as I want to challenge myself with something new,” said Dương, who three years ago quit her job as a bank teller to devote herself to baking.
However, the task is challenging as mooncakes are much smaller than regular cakes, plus they have a rough surface. Maintaining the true colours of the mooncakes is also a major challenge.
To solve the problem, she uses a paste made of green and white beans as the background for her paintings. She said that the bean paste was firm enough to paint on, and it did not affect the colours of painting.
Many of the cakes are decorated with Vietnamese rural life images.
However, making the paste is not so simple. It is a complex process which involves soaking beans and straining a mixture, which can take several hours.
She found painting on mooncakes difficult at first as she could not master the colour palette well. However, over time she got the hang of it.
Dương chose flowers to start as they are “easy to paint”. Once she got more confident, she took on other more complex themes.
Cakes inspired by famous Vietnamese painter Mai Trung Thứ.
The young baker has challenged herself recreating Việt Nam’s famous Đông Hồ folk paintings, which people used to adorn their houses with over Tết (Lunar New Year) for good luck.
She has created a set of four cakes decorated with the paintings: Lý Ngư Vọng Nguyệt (Carp Watching Moon), Lợn Ăn Cây Ráy (The Pig Eating Taro Leaves), Bé Trai Ôm Cóc Tía (The Boy with Toast), and Em Bé Ôm Gà Trống (The Boy with Rooster).
Popular images seen in Việt Nam’s rural regions such as farmers working on rice fields, harvesting crops and children flying kites have also been portrayed in Dương’s “special paintings.”
Cakes presenting images of Vietnamese women in the past sporting traditional áo dài.
Her sweet treats also depict images of Vietnamese women sporting traditional áo dài (long dress).
Dương has even re-sketched paintings by famous Vietnamese painter Mai Trung Thứ, who graduated from the first course at the Fine Arts College of Indochina in Hà Nội.
“Drawing the Đông Hồ folk paintings is really challenging as they have hundreds of small details to paint. However, sketching the portraits by Mai Trung Thứ is no less difficult as it requires the ability to present the charming presence of the models,” Dương said.
The baker also gets inspiration from artworks by other well-known Vietnamese painters such as Bùi Xuân Phái and Nguyễn Thanh Bình.
“I have been fascinated by the very unique charm of their paintings, which also express the unique spirit of Hà Nội,” she said.
Dương suggests anyone who wishes to master their painting skill should attend classes on fine art.
After Dương revealed her painting cakes on Facebook, she was flooded with so many orders that she had to stop receiving new ones.
“At the moment, I’m alone here in Hà Nội, plus the strict virus restrictions do not allow me to meet the demands of every customer,” she said.
Instead, the baker encourages anyone who wants to challenge themselves to join any of her online baking classes, which range from basic to advanced levels, including the painting course.
“However, for people who want to master their painting skill, I suggest they attend fine art classes because it is very supportive for cake painting,” she said.
Dương has a plan to attend baking courses in South Korea and China “to learn about other baking techniques that I can apply to my new products in future”.
A café and patisserie offering her own artisanal cakes is also among the future plans of the experimental baking queen. VNS