Baker turns heads with her hyper-realistic cakes

By Phan Duong   December 15, 2022 | 02:51 am PT
Nguyen Hong Dao, who hated her former job as an accountant, discovered her true calling while working part-time in a bakery.
Baker turns heads with her hyper-realistic cakes

Dao recalled that the bakery owner taught her how to write letters on cakes and how to correct minor faults before delivering them to clients. After that, she spent her free time researching recipes online and practicing making them so that she could bake delicious cakes for her loved ones.

"I feel more at home with butter and sugar than working an office job," she said.

Baker turns heads with her hyper-realistic cakes

She became an apprentice baker two years ago so she could stay at home and take care of her family after learning she was expecting a child. The essential skills she learned were covered in the 1.5-month-long baking and decorating course that she took. The experience made her realize that if she wanted to take her baking to the next level, she would need to do additional independent research.

"Compared to more conventional cakes, my cakes are a bit pricier,” said Dao, who lives in Bac Lieu Province.

“I'm from a relatively remote province, where the visual appeal of baked goods is just as important as their flavor in terms of driving sales.”

Baker turns heads with her hyper-realistic cakes

Dao didn't have any customers at first, but she baked every day nevertheless. She snapped some photos of her creations and shared them online, soliciting comments from friends and family. She got her first order after friends and relatives posted photos of her delicious cakes online. One mother ordered a castle cake with an image of Princess Elsa to surprise her daughter on her birthday.

It took Dao several days to master the art of cake decoration. In contrast to a citadel made of cream, she used fondant and gum paste to help her cakes retain their shapes longer at room temperature.

"Back then, I wasn't thinking about making money,” said Dao.

“Customers asked me to bake and decorate cakes for them, and I did it because it was my passion. But I was glad to hear that the mother thought my cake looked great.”

Baker turns heads with her hyper-realistic cakes

Dao's orders have progressively gotten more complex since her first client. A friend asked her to make a cake that resembled a wedding venue as a birthday cake for another friend who works as a wedding planner.

She initially declined because she doubted she would be able to pull it off. However, she changed her mind after her friend reassured her: "I'm confident you can do it."

This replica of a wedding venue is made up of many separate sections. Since the cake's foundation was soft, Dao was worried about constructing a stable venue. She had her husband construct a fake stage out of bamboo skewers, and she sewed her own pulp curtains for the wedding.

"Wow!" Everyone at the party was taken aback by how lifelike and stunning it looked," she said.

Baker turns heads with her hyper-realistic cakes

Behind every cake is the story of the person who bought it. The daughter of a woman who owns a flower shop got her mother a cake for her birthday. Dao asked for a photograph of the flower shop and drew it on the cake.

Baker turns heads with her hyper-realistic cakes

Another woman ordered a cake that looked like a bowl of shrimp for her husband, who liked noodles with intestines and chives.

“I too wasn't sure at first if I could do it,” she recalls. "Luckily, I did it right the first time.”

Baker turns heads with her hyper-realistic cakes

This birthday cake in the shape of an athletic shoe was requested by a wife for her husband. Dao hadn't learned how to shape this cake yet, but he still wanted to give herself a challenge, and so she worked on it for 7 hours. Because the cake had a buttercream center, it cost more than a cake made with normal ingredients.

Baker turns heads with her hyper-realistic cakes

Dao also made a cake shaped like a book that had been soaked in water and had stains on its pages. Dao baked this cake for a student to celebrate the birthday of a history teacher. She used edible rice paper to attach each layer of paper to the outside of the cake.

"To make the pages look like the real thing, I shaped it and then sprayed it with water, before letting it dry,” she said. “After that, I stretched the cake with a rolling pin to the thickness of my liking.”

Each cake costs between VND700,000 ($29.79) and several million dong, depending on how hard it is to make the cake, how big it is, and what it’s made of.

Baker turns heads with her hyper-realistic cakes

Dao now has a respectable reputation and a comfortable income. Her husband quit his job to stay at home with his wife and help her bake cakes.

"Even now, I'm still stressed out if I get a difficult cake order to the point that I can't eat and sleep well,” she said. “I worry that I won’t be able to do a good enough job of making the cake look realistic and that my customers will be disappointed.”

At the moment, the baker is working hard to come up with ideas to make a cake for her own son's upcoming second birthday. Last year, she made and decorated cakes inspired by the children's songs "Johny Johny Yes Papa" and "Wheels On The Bus."

"I hope that every year as my child grows older, he will have a one-of-a-kind cake baked with his mother's love and enthusiasm to commemorate his new age," she added.

Photos courtesy of Tran Hong Dao

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