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8-Inch Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake

The Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake is a showstopper!

“Momofuku” is the name of a group of restaurants owned by chef David Chang.  One of them, “Milk Bar,” is co-owned by chef Christina Tosi, who creates all the desserts, and there are now numerous Milk Bar locations.  One of the desserts they sell is the very cool-looking, awesome-tasting “Birthday Cake.”  The cake sold at Milk Bar, and the recipe they have on their website, is for a 6″ cake.  The version pictured above is 8″.  It turned out great!  And, more importantly, it tasted awesome!!  It looks difficult because there are several components–cake, frosting, crumble–and several layers, and reading through the recipe will only confirm your worst fears.  But, trust me, every component can be made ahead of time, and the cake can be assembled at least a day in advance.   Come take a look!

So, you have a recipe that you don’t think will make enough. What do you do?  In this case, the recipe was for a 6″ cake, but my wife and I thought that was not going to be enough for the number of people we were having over.  How would we scale up the recipe from a 6″ cake to an 8″ cake?  Actually, it was pretty simple.  Double everything.  Why?  The formula for the area of a circle is “A = π * r squared.”  The area of a 6″ cake is 28.26″.  The area of a 8″ circle is 50.24″.  That means an 8″ cake is a 77.778% bigger than a 6″ cake.  If you double everything, you will have more than enough of  all the components.

Special Equipment

  • Half-sheet (18″ x 13″) pan (This pan is my favorite.  It is very well made and reasonably priced. And, I prefer light-colored pans to dark pans.  Dark pans tend to burn the bottom of baked items too easily.)
  • 2 strips acetate (flexible plastic paper), each minimum 3″ wide and 20″ long 
  • Clear Vanilla Extract (Clear imitation vanilla extract is important.  It is used in every component of this cake.  It will give the cake the flavor of a “boxed” birthday cake you remember as a child … or as an adult!  Do not substitute.)

 

There are 4 components to this cake:  cake, frosting, crumb, and cake soak.  I started the cake 4 days before the party.  So the schedule was:

Day -4:  Birthday Cake Crumb

Day -3: Frosting

Day -2: Cake

Day -1: Assemble and freeze

Day zero of Party: Thaw, serve, and prepare yourself for all the compliments!

Day -4: Birthday Cake Crumb

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  • 1 ½ cup cake or all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt*
  • ½ cup grapeseed oil
  • 2 tablespoon clear imitation vanilla extract

*If you are using table salt instead of kosher salt, half the amount.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine flour, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, sprinkles, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

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Add oil and vanilla, and using your hands, mix until no dry spots remain and large clumps form when mixture is pressed together.

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As though you were making a crumble topping, break mixture up into clusters (some small, some large) and spread onto prepared baking sheet.  Bake, stirring occasionally, until crumble is light golden brown and crunchy, 15-17 minutes (it will firm up as it cools). Let cool completely.
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Do Ahead: Store the crumbs in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Day -3 Frosting

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  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • tablespoon clear imitation vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups powdered sugar
  • teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon citric acid (or 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice)
Combine butter, shortening, and cream cheese in large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  (Although the ingredients will fit into a smaller bowl, you are going to get a lot of splattering while this is mixing.  Using the largest bowl that comes with your mixer will prevent a mess.) Beat on medium-high until mixture is smooth and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and slowly stream in corn syrup and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Beat until mixture is silky smooth and glossy white, about 3 minutes.
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Scrape down sides of bowl and, with mixer on low, add powdered sugar, salt, baking powder, and citric acid until just combined. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until you have a brilliantly stark white, beautifully smooth frosting, about 4 minutes.  (It should look just like it came out of a plastic tub at the grocery store!)
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Do Ahead: Store frosting in an airtight container in fridge up to 1 week.
Note: if you make the frosting ahead, you will need to take it out of the fridge several hours before you intend to assemble the cake.  Otherwise, it will be difficult to spread and will tear up the cake.

Day -2 Cake

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  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 4 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  •  teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup plus 4 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles, divided
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup grapeseed oil
  • teaspoons clear imitation vanilla extract
  •  cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 6 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a half-sheet (18″ x 13″) pan rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and coat with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and ½ cup sprinkles in a large bowl.

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Combine buttermilk, oil, and vanilla in a medium bowl.

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Using an electric mixer on medium-high, beat granulated sugar, shortening, butter, and light brown sugar in another large bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

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Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl. Continue to beat mixture, occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl, until almost doubled in volume and very light, airy, and pale yellow, about 4 minutes.

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With mixer on low, add buttermilk mixture until incorporated. Add dry ingredients, beating until just combined, about 1 minute.

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Scrape batter into prepared pan.  Smooth top.

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Sprinkle with remaining 4 tablespoons sprinkles. Bake until cake is light golden brown, the center springs back when gently pressed, and a tester inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 30–35 minutes.

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Remove cake from oven and cool on a wire rack or, in a pinch, in the fridge or freezer.  (Don’t worry.  That is not cheating.)

Do Ahead: You can store the cake in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap for assembly tomorrow.

Day -1 Assemble and Freeze

  • 2 teaspoon clear imitation vanilla extract, divided
  • ½ cup milk
Place a silicone baking mat or piece of parchment on the counter. Invert cake onto mat.
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Peel off parchment.
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 Use cake ring to punch out two 8″ rounds from cake (or, using a springform pan as a guide, cut out 2 rounds using a paring knife). These are your top and bottom 2 cake layers.  Punch out 2 half-layers as well, as shown below.
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 Use a disposable cake platter (I bought a Wilton one at Walmart) or line a sheet pan with a clean piece of parchment.
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 Clean cake ring and place it in center of the pan. Use 1 acetate strip to line inside of cake ring.
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Use the worst of the 2 whole cake layers.
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Combine milk and vanilla in a small bowl. Dunk a pastry brush in the milk mixture and use half of it to generously moisten the base layer. Use the back of a spoon to spread about 6 tablespoons of frosting evenly over cake.
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Sprinkle ⅔ cup birthday crumbs evenly over frosting. Use the back of your hand to press them in place. Use the back of a spoon to spread another 6 tablespoons of frosting as evenly as possible over crumbs.

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With your index finger, gently tuck second acetate strip between cake ring and the top ¼” of the first acetate strip, so that you have a clear ring of acetate 5–6″ tall, which is high enough to support the height of the finished cake. Top with the 2 half cake rounds. Brush layer with remaining milk mixture.

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Repeat frosting-crumb layering process.

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Nestle remaining cake round into frosting.

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Cover top of cake with remaining frosting. Use an offset spatula to form decorative swirls, or do as they do at Milk Bar and shape it into a perfectly flat top. Top with remaining birthday crumbs. Transfer cake to freezer and freeze overnight (or at least 3 hours) to set cake and filling.

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Day zero of Party:  Thaw, serve, and prepare yourself for all the compliments!

At least 6 hours before serving the cake, pull sheet pan out of freezer and, using your fingers and thumbs, pop cake out of cake ring. Gently peel off acetate and transfer cake to a platter or cake stand. Defrost in fridge at least 6 hours.

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About Daddy

I am a husband and a father of two kids with whom I love to cook and eat. In this blog, I hope to share with you not only some of my, as well as my family’s, favorite recipes, but also some interesting things I have learned or done as a husband, father, and cook.

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