Young chef's exquisite Victory takes the cake

Darren Gray
Cuc Thanh Lam (also known as Ken) with his award winning ship cake at the Royal Melbourne show.
Cuc Thanh Lam (also known as Ken) with his award winning ship cake at the Royal Melbourne show. Photo: Wayne Taylor

People shuffle slowly along the sides of the glass cabinet as if they are getting a once-in-a-lifetime look at the Crown Jewels.

When they reach the centrepiece they seem keen to keep their position, but acknowledge the momentum of the crowd around them and move slowly along.

Some quickly pull out a mobile phone and take a picture.



A middle-aged woman smiles with joy as she stands in prime position, eyes trained carefully on what's inside. A young girl asks the obvious question: ''Wow - is that a cake?''

The answer is ''yes'', a multi-award-winning cake in fact, a stunning and mostly edible replica of Admiral Lord Nelson's historic ship, HMS Victory.

When the crowd realises that the young man who made and decorated the cake is standing with Fairfax Media just a few metres away, he becomes an instant celebrity. Pastry chef Cuc Thanh Lam (also known as Ken) immediately becomes showered with both praise for his remarkable creation and questions about how he did it.

''How long did it take you to make the cake?'' 16-year-old Jennie Vuong asks. ''How did you get the colours?'' another girl asks. Clearly thrilled to meet the talented Mr Lam, just 25, a woman from Adelaide beams, congratulates him and wishes him the best of luck for his career.

Mr Lam's creation is having that kind of impact on the crowds inside the Art, Craft and Cookery Pavilion at this year's Royal Melbourne Show. Competition co-ordinator Tanya Williams says Mr Lam's cake is fascinating onlookers. ''There's always a group of people two, three, four-deep just admiring that magnificent cake,'' she says.

Ms Williams was there when Mr Lam, from Springvale, walked calmly into the pavilion with it two weeks ago.


''As soon as he brought it into the pavilion on the receiving day everybody just stopped and stared. He was floating through this large empty space carrying this magnificent replica of the Victory, of all things. Everyone was just oohing and aahing and gasping at this fantastic piece that he'd brought in. He seems to be a very humble guy, but everybody was just completely taken aback with it,'' she says.

Mr Lam, who works at the Guy Grossi restaurant Merchant in Melbourne, estimates he spent more than 800 hours on the cake. It cost him nearly $300 to make, he says, which means that he will actually end up a fair quid in front, at least in cash terms, thanks to $1000 in prizemoney he won courtesy of sponsor Tupperware.

The Victory has delivered Mr Lam, who was born and raised in Vietnam but who received Australian citizenship this year, three significant wins at this year's Royal Melbourne Show - including the sought-after ''Best in Show'' for decorated cakes across all sections.

Victory with Victory completes a hat-trick for Mr Lam at the Show. He has entered one cake in each of the 2011, 2012 and 2013 shows - and each has been an award winner.

Mr Lam, who decided to enter a cake that was ''very different'', has no plans to cut and eat it. ''I'm going to keep it forever. But after the Melbourne Show I'm going to take it to other shows so people can look at my ship,'' he says.

''This is the best cake I have ever made in my life so far,'' he says, suggesting he plans to be back again next year, with another remarkable creation.