Physics, chemistry, art? A piece of cake | Duke Kunshan University

Physics, chemistry, art? A piece of cake

By Craig McIntosh
Staff writer

For cake connoisseur Tuong Vy Doan, baking is about more than just creating tasty treats – it’s an interdisciplinary passion that makes even the driest of subjects easy to digest.

From chemistry and physics to art and entrepreneurship, Doan’s curiosity in confectionary has provided her with a wide array of learning opportunities, as well as given her an early taste of both success and failure.

“Baking is a combination of careful processes,” she said. “Chemistry shows me how sugar molecules break down under high heat to caramelize, and physics shows me why butter needs to be at room temperature before creaming with sugar; it needs to be soft enough for sugar crystals to dig little holes and make minuscule pockets of air for a fluffy, tender cake.”

Doan from Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam, will be an important ingredient in Duke Kunshan’s undergraduate Class of 2024. One of over 20 early decision admits who will enroll in the fall, she adds to the mix not only her baking ability but also business acumen.

At age 16, within just a few years of studying the art of baking, Doan had honed her skills to a level that allowed her to start a successful online business selling her handcrafted cakes.

“I wanted to have more chance to practice, as my family couldn’t eat all of my cakes and we had to throw them away,” said Doan, who will graduate this summer from Le Hong Phong High School for the Gifted. “At first, the shop had only one staff – me. I did everything, from production to advertising and delivery. Later, I invited several friends to join the business. They helped with Facebook ads, taking orders and deliveries.”

Doan said he mother taught her how to cook, but she has learned most of her baking skills from food blogs and through experimentation. “I can’t remember how many cakes have gone straight into the trash and how much money I’ve wasted,” she said. “But after each failure, a question always pops into my mind: What will come next? Maybe a mess or maybe a beautiful, delicious cake.”

In addition to baking, Doan has also recently developed an interest in tarot reading; another interdisciplinary activity she says has taught her more about art, astrology, numerology and Greek mythology.

She practices by doing readings for friends and family, and she says the cards even helped with her college application. “I asked my tarot to discover more about myself for my essay, how to work more effectively, the sections I need to improve,” she said. “Moreover, it relieved my anxiety, stress, and inspired me.”

So, what are Doan’s predictions for university life?

“I think DKU students will have more opportunities to travel, experience various cultures, and that club activities will develop strongly. At the end of the year, we will be proud of our achievements after all the hard work,” she said. “These are my predictions, but the future can change. I’m looking forward to the next four years at DKU.”