Los Angeles Times

Family bakery still rises in the yeast

LOS ANGELES - The cakes kept coming out too small, too dry, too dense. Friends and relatives complained that Youlen Chan's baking was not like his father's.

As a newly minted graduate of the American Institute of Baking taking over his family's business, Youlen had no choice but to try again.

By the time he took charge in 1979, Phoenix Bakery had become a Chinatown institution, and his father's strawberry cake - two sponge rounds separated by a generous helping of strawberries, coated in lightly sweet cream frosting - was the bakery's star product.

"The cake was good, but it wasn't 'Phoenix cake,'" Youlen said of his early efforts. "It wasn't like his."

It took Youlen, now 62, more than a year to finally figure out his dad's recipe. His father, Lun Chan, left no blueprint beyond a list of ingredients. It was a struggle that would seem familiar to any of the descendants of Phoenix Bakery's original founders: uphold the

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