Hands down, the best cake I’ve ever made.
Christina Tosi can do no wrong. The founder and creative mastermind behind Milk Bar, bakery to the Momofuku restaurant group, is responsible for bringing back some of childhood’s most nostalgic flavours — s’mores, apple pie and my favourite cereal milk.
The Milk Bar B’Day Cake is no exception. #Throwback to Betty Crocker’s boxed cake mix, now reimagined with more grown up flavour nuances, texture variety and Tosi’s expert pastry direction. In fact, it took her and her team over three years to perfectly capture the taste experience that comes immediately after blowing out your birthday candles.
And for a cake this good, it’s no wonder a 6″ version costs a hefty $70.
It may be because this one recipe has, within it, four separate recipe components. It may also be because other bakers claim this recipe to take 16 hours from start to finish.
So, what goes through my mind when I procrastinate and fail to start baking ’til 9 p.m.?
- Shock: it can’t be 9 p.m.
- Denial: what kind of recipe takes 16 hours???
- Anger: WHAT KIND OF RECIPE TAKES 16 HOURS
- Bargaining: I’ll finish the rest tomorrow.
- Acceptance: it’s 3 a.m.
No, I didn’t pull an all-nighter for the sake of a cake. Rather, I was able to finish with an ample 4.5 hours of sleep because of some recipe adjustments (i.e. corners cut). The main one being, instead of cutting and assembling with a ring and acetate, I baked each layer in an individual cake pan.
The praise alone, for this cake, is well worth the time and late-night effort. An airy chiffon centre is made even lighter with tangy buttermilk, sweetened with rich cream cheese icing and contrasted with a salty-chewy crumb. The cake is served cold from frozen, which makes the vanilla-flavoured milk soak also a refreshing surprise.
In the making
✘ Avoid spreading the crumbs too thinly, or in a pan that’s too large. The areas that were thinly spread ended up browning too soon.
✘ Do not oil or grease your baking pans, as much as it feels right to do. In fact, the same goes for all chiffon or angel cake recipes — greasing the pans will prevent proper rise, resulting in a collapsed cake. Chiffon and angel cakes need to cling to the pan to support its growth in the oven.
✔ DIY your own cake flour: start with one cup of all-purpose flour (130 g). Remove 2 tbs 20 grams) of all-purpose flour and replace it with 2 tbs of cornstarch. Sift the mixture between bowls 3-5 times to aerate the flour and make for a lighter, fluffy texture. (Source: thekitchn.com) This recipe requires just under three cups of cake flour, so these measurements would need to be tripled.
✔ DIY your own buttermilk! Measure one tbs of white vinegar or lemon juice, and pour it into a liquid measuring cup, Then, pour 2% milk in the same measuring cup until it reaches the one cup measurement line. (Source: mybakingaddiction.com)
Illustration source: milkbarstore.com
Five-layer Momofuku Birthday Cake
An adaptation of Milk Bar's famous B'Day Cake that's just as deliciously nostalgic, but won't take you all day to make.
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
- 1 and ½ light brown sugar (25 grams)
- ¾ cup cake flour (90 grams) – I made my own with all-purpose flour and corn starch, see details above
- ½ tsp baking powder (2 grams)
- ½ tsp kosher salt (2 grams)
- 2 tbsp rainbow sprinkles (20 grams)
- ¼ cup canola oil (40 grams)
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract (12 grams)
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter room temperature (55 grams)
- ⅓ cup vegetable shortening (60 grams)
- 1 and ¼ cup granulated sugar (250 grams)
- 3 tbsp light brown sugar (50 grams)
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup buttermilk (110 grams) – I substituted with with 2% milk and white vinegar, see details above
- ⅓ cup canola oil (65 grams)
- 2 tbsp vanilla extract (8 grams)
- 2 cups cake flour (245 grams) – I made my own
- 1 and ½ tsp baking powder (6 grams)
- ¾ tsp kosher salt (3 grams)
- ¼ cup rainbow sprinkles (50 grams)
- 2 tbsp rainbow sprinkles for sprinkling (25 grams)
Frosting (1.5x the original recipe):
- ¾ cup unsalted butter at room temperature (172.5 grams)
- ¼ and ⅛ cup + 1/8 cup vegetable shortening (75 grams)
- 82.5 g cream cheese
- 3 tbsp corn syrup (64.5 grams)
- 1.5 tbsp vanilla extract (18 grams)
- 1 and ⅞ powdered sugar sifted (300 grams)
- ¾ tsp kosher salt (3 grams)
- pinch of baking powder (.38 grams)
- ¼ tsp lemon juice (.38 grams)
- ¼ cup milk (55 grams)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (4 grams)
- Preheat oven to 300F and line a tray with parchment.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all dry ingredients (sugars, flour, baking powder, salt, sprinkles). Mix on low until well combined.
- Add oil and vanilla, mix again on low to distribute until small clusters form.
- Spread the crumbs onto the tray and bake for 10 mins.
- Cool completely before using on cake.
- Store in an airtight container for 1 week at room temperature or 1 month in the fridge or freezer.
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, salt, and 50g (1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles). Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, shortening, and sugars. Beat on med-high for 2-3mins. Scrape bowl if necessary.
- Add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Scrape bowl.
- Turn mixer to low and stream in buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Increase mixer to med-high and beat for 4-6minutes until mixture is light, fluffy, and no streaks of fat or liquid remain. Scrape bowl.
- On low speed, add flour mixture and mix just until batter comes together, 30-60 secs.
- Using a scale, divide batter evenly in your cake pans. This fit five 6″ round pans, but you may also do three 8″ or 9″ pans.
- Sprinkle with remaining 25g (2 Tbsp) rainbow sprinkles.
- Bake for 30-35mins or until a cake tester comes out clean.
- Cool completely on a wire rack.
- The cooled cake can be stored in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 5 days.
- In a medium bowl, sift together confectioners sugar, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, shortening, and cream cheese. Beat on med-high for 2-3mins until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Scrape bowl.
- Turn mixer to low and steam in glucose, corn syrup, and vanilla. Increase mixer to med-high and beat for 2-3mins until smooth and glossy white. Scrape bowl.
- Turn mixer to low and add in sugar mixture and citric acid (I used lemon juice). Once combined, turn mister to med-high and leaf for 2-3mins until white and smooth.
- Use immediately, or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- Whisk together the milk and vanilla in a small bowl or measuring cup.
- On a cake round and easiest on a turntable, lay out with one cake layer upside-down.
- With a pastry brush, lightly spread the soak on the cake.
- Spread 1/6 of the icing evenly on top. A small palette knife is easiest for this.
- Sprinkle on some crumble, reserving the big pieces for the top of the cake.
- Repeat steps 1 – 4 until your cake is evenly layered.
- If desired, ice the outside of the cake, leaving some edges to show through for a ‘naked’ look.
- Top off the cake with crumble.
- Carefully place the cake into the freezer and freeze for a minimum of 12 hours. Cake will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
- At least 3 hours before serving, let it defrost in the fridge or counter (wrapped well in plastic, the cake can be refrigerated for up to 5 days).