Baking the Book: Milk
The first time I went to Momofuku in New York City, I was blown away by their ramen. And then I went to their Milk Bar and understood why their top dessert is called “Crack Pie.” And so, when I was craving a new recipe this week, I knew that it had to be one of the Momofuku Milk originals. What have now become, perhaps, the most celebrated cakes in the baking world today, Christina Tosi’s genius spin on anything-but-ordinary cakes is just incredible to see. I recommend that you check out their cakes, most of which are the rustic, tomboy style. Each one more beautiful than the last.
What caught my attention this week was Milk’s famous Birthday funfetti cake: a combination of funfetti cake, funfetti (insanely delicious don’t-ever-make-another icing) and crumbles of sprinkle bites. It is, like most of their cakes, a bit labor intensive as it’s nine layers, but, trust me, each layer is worth it. I made a few of my own changes based on what I had available. I also broke the process down into two days, but here is the gist. You will need to make:
- 1 birthday cake
- 1 birthday cake crumb
- 1 birthday cake soak
- 1 birthday cake icing
A few things that blew me away while making this recipe:
- The icing: It is made to look like something you bought out of a can. Quite honestly, it looks and tastes identical. But it’s way better. It is a beautiful, stark, fluffy white, and I will repeat this icing recipe for any other cake I make.
- The crumbs: This seems too obvious! Of course people want a delicious crunch in their cake.
- Acetate strips: They aren’t that easy to find. In D.C., I know that the art supply store, Utrecht, carries them, but I just used aluminum foil.
- 6-inch mold: I like this size because it’s not a giant, crazy big cake (yes, height-wise). But I don’t own a 6-inch mold, so I made do with a 6″ bowl and a little ad-libbing.
So, my process (keep in mind, this needs to freeze for about 12 hours to set):
- Day before, make the icing and the crumbs.
- Day of, make the cake and the soak.
- Assemble, somehow. Like I said before, I imagine that acetate helps make the cake look GREAT, but for now, aluminum foil and a little TLC did the trick.
The recipe follows with some pictures. This is a really fun project and delicious the whole way through.
Birthday cake crumb
(makes about 2 1/4 cups)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar, tightly packed
- 3/4 cup cake flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
- 1 tablespoon clear (fake!) vanilla extract
- Heat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Combine the sugars, flour, baking powder, salt and sprinkles in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until well combined.
- Add the oil and vanilla, and paddle again to distribute. The wet ingredients will act as a glue to help the dry ingredients form small clusters; continue paddling until that happens.
- Spread the clusters on a parchment or Silpat lined sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes, breaking them up occasionally. The crumbs should still be slightly moist to the touch; they will dry and harden as they cool.
- Let the crumbs cool completely before using. Stored in an airtight container, the crumbs will keep fresh for one week at room temperature or one month in the fridge or freezer. I suggest you make these a day ahead of when you actually want to make the birthday cake/soak/frosting to save time.
Birthday cake frosting
(makes 2 cups)
- 16 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
- 4 oz. cream cheese, cold
- 2 tablespoons corn syrup
- 2 tablespoon clear vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- a pinch of baking powder
- a pinch of citric acid
- Combine the butter, shortening and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- With the mixer on its lowest speed, stream in the glucose, corn syrup and vanilla. Crank the mixer up to medium-high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is silky smooth and a glossy white. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the confectioners’ sugar, salt, baking powder and citric acid and mix on low speed just to incorporate them into the batter. Crank the speed back up on medium-high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until you have a brilliant stark white, beautifully smooth frosting. It should look just like it came out of a plastic tub from the grocery store.
(makes 1 quarter sheet pan cake)
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar, tightly packed
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1/3 cup grapeseed oil
- 2 teaspoons clear (fake!) vanilla extract
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Combine the butter, shortening and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs and mix on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once more.
- On low speed, stream in the buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and paddle for 4 to 6 minutes until the mixture is practically white, twice the size of your original fluffy butter-and-sugar mixture and completely homogenous. Don’t rush the process — there should be no streaks of fat or liquid. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- On very low speed, add the cake flour, baking powder, salt and the 1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles. Mix for 45 to 60 seconds, just until your batter comes together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Spray a quarter sheet pan with cooking oil and line it with parchment or a Silpat mat. Using a spatula, spread the cake batter in an even layer in the pan. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of rainbow sprinkles evenly on top of the batter.
- Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes. The cake will rise and puff, doubling in size, but will remain slightly buttery and dense. At 30 minutes, gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger: the cake should bounce back slightly and the cake should no longer be jiggly. Leave the cake in the oven for an extra 3 to 5 minutes if it doesn’t pass these tests.
- Take the cake out of the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Birthday cake soak
makes 1/4 cup
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon clear (fake!) vanilla extract
- Whisk together the milk and vanilla in a small bowl.
The finished product
Okay. Ready to make this all happen? Do you have all of your ingredients together? Here’s the simple process:
- Using either a mold or finding a circular object that is 6 inches in diameter, cut your cake into pieces. I regret not taking a picture of this (I was flustered!), but you’ll get two full 6-inch circles, two 3-inch semi circles and scraps. You’ll use the full two circles for the second and top layer of the cake, and the first layer, your bottom, will be a combo of your two half circles and whatever scraps you needed to use to fill in the holes.
- Once you’ve got your layers, and you’re either using the mold and acetate tape or whatever else that will wrap around a 6-inch circle, the rest is easy. My aluminum foil may have looked a bit piecemeal, but it worked. This is the layer format:
- Bottom cake layer soaked using a pastry brush
- Birthday crumbs
- Cake soaked
- Birthday crumbs
- Cake (Your best looking piece!)
- Crumbs (I used my biggest pieces here)
- Keeping this wrapped, freeze this for at least 12 hours, taking out about 3 hours before eating.