momofuku milk bar exam no. 5 {birthday layer cake}

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The birthday cake is the most anticipated dessert. I mean, there’s a whole ceremony dedicated to it. People light it on fire, they sing a song around it, they feel obligated to put all their hopes and dreams into one wish upon it. Plus it usually includes sprinkles!

This is the mother of all birthday cakes. Everytime I show this recipe to someone, they get so excited, almost giddy with childlike joy. And with good reason because the finished product is gorgeous– a showstopping funfetti cake made from scratch.

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Now I really had to trust Tosi with this one, some of these ingredients had me a bit… apprehensive. When it comes to cooking and baking, I pride myself on using as natural of ingredients as possible. But Tosi swears that certain products are necessary for that ‘boxed cake mix’ taste. Hence the vegetable shortening and the clear imitation vanilla extract… they’re necessary so I didn’t skip them, I just went incognito when I bought them.

Oh, can we just pause for a minute to talk about this…

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My new KitchenAid stand mixer. Ain’t she a beaut? My wonderful, gracious, beautiful, perfect mother surprised me by getting it for me. She’s the best. My mom’s pretty great too. I have to say I’m pretty obsessed with this new addition in my life and if you don’t get why, then you just don’t know love.

I’ve even decided to name her… which is where I could use your help. I can’t pick a name so I’m asking you to vote for your favorite! It’s the same as naming a baby, except this one churns out beautiful cakes, cookies, and bread instead of drool and spit-up.

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This birthday cake was made for an especially special birthday girl, Anne Larimer! Welcome to the 25 Club my friend.

I was lucky enough to get a slice of this cake before it got demolished, and ahh it’s so good. It really is like a funfetti cake but made even better due to the crunchy texture from the birthday crumbs. These crumbs are becoming my favorite snack food.

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And make sure not to waste the leftovers from this recipe… repurpose them into birthday cake truffles!

birthday layer cake
from Momofuku Milk Bar
makes 1 (6-inch) layer cake; 5 to 6 inches tall; serves 6 to 8

  • 1 recipe Birthday Cake
  • 1 recipe Birthday Cake Soak
  • 1 recipe Birthday Cake Frosting
  • 1 recipe Birthday Cake Crumb

(1) Put a piece of parchment or a Silpat on the counter. Invert the cake onto it and peel off the parchment or Silpat from the bottom of the cake. Use the cake ring to stamp out 2 circles from the cake. These are your top 2 cake layers. The remaining cake “scrap” will come together to make the bottom layer of the cake
– layer 1, the bottom –
(2) Clean the cake ring and place it in the center of a sheet pan lined with clean parchment or a Silpat. Use 1 strip of acetate to line the inside of the cake ring.
(3) Put the cake scraps in the ring and use the back of your hand to tamp the scraps together into a flat even layer.
(4) Dunk a pastry brush in the birthday cake soak and give the layer of cake a good, healthy bath of half of the soak.
(5) Use the back of a spoon to spread on-fifth of the frosting in an even layer over the cake.
(6) Sprinkle one-third of the birthday crumbs evenly over the top of the frosting. Use the back of your hand to anchor them in place.
(7) Use the back of a spoon to spread a second fifth of the frosting as evenly as possible over the crumbs.
– layer 2, the middle –
(8) With your index finger, gently tuck the second strip of acetate between the cake ring and the top ¼ inch of the first strip of acetate, so that you have a clear ring of acetate 5 to 6 inches tall—high enough to support the height of the finished cake. Set a cake round on top of the frosting, and repeat the process for layer 1 (if 1 of you 2 cake rounds in jankier than the other, use it here in the middle and save the prettier one for the top).
– layer 3, the top –
(9) Nestle the remaining cake round into the frosting. Cover the top of the cake with the last fifth of the frosting. Give it volume and swirls, or do as we do and opt for a perfectly flat top. Garnish the frosting with the remaining birthday crumbs.
(10) Transfer the sheet pan to the freezer and freeze for a minimum of 12 hours to set the cake and filling. The cake will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
(11) At least 3 hours before you are ready to serve the cake, pull the sheet pan out of the freezer and, using your fingers and thumbs, pop the cake out of the cake ring. Gently peel off the acetate and transfer the cake to a platter or cake stand. Let it defrost in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours (wrapped well in plastic, it can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
(12) Slice the cake into wedges and serve.

Birthday Cake
makes 1 quarter sheet pan

  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick, 55g) butter, at room temperatue
  • ⅓ cup (60g) vegetable shortening
  • 1¼ cups (250g) granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (50g) light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup (110g) buttermilk
  • ⅓ cup (65g) grapeseed oil
  • 2 teaspoons (8g) clear vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (245g) cake flour
  • 1½ teaspoons (6g) baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon (3g) kosher salt
  • ¼ cup (50g) rainbow sprinkles
  • Pam or other nonstick cooking spray (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) rainbow sprinkles

(1) Heat the oven to 350°F.
(2) 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.
(3) 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. You’re basically forcing too much liquid into an already fatty mixture that doesn’t want to make room for the liquid. There should be no streaks of fat of liquid. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
(4) On very low speed, add the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and the 50g (¼ cup) rainbow sprinkles. Mix for 45 to 60 seconds, just until your batter comes together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
(5) Pam-spray a quarter sheet pan and line it with parchment, or just line the pan with a Silpat. Using a spatula, spread the cake batter in an even layer in the pan. Sprinkle the remaining 25g (2 tablespoons) rainbow sprinkles evenly on top of the batter.
(6) 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 center 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.
(7) Take the cake out of the oven and cool on a wire rack or, in a pinch, in the fridge or freezer (don’t worry, it’s not cheating). The cooled cake can be stored in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 5 days.

Birthday Cake Soak
makes about 60g (¼ cup)

  • ¼ cup (55g) milk
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) clear vanilla extract

(1) Whisk together the milk and vanilla in a small bowl.

Birthday Cake Frosting
makes about 430g (2 cups)

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick, 115g) butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (50g) vegetable shortening
  • 2 ounces (55g) cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon (25g) glucose
  • 1 tablespoon (18g) corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon (12g) clear vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups (200g) confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon (2g) kosher salt
  • pinch (0.25g) baking powder
  • pinch (0.25g) citric acid

(1) Combine the butter, shortening, and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
(2) 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.
(3) 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 to 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 at the grocery store! Use the frosting immediately, or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Birthday Cake Crumb
makes for 275g (2¼ cups)

  • ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons (25g) light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • ¾ cup (90g) cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon (2g) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (2g) kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons (20g) rainbow sprinkles
  • ¼ cup (40g) grapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon (12g) clear vanilla extract

(1) Heat the oven to 300°F.
(2) 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.
(3) Add the oil and vanilla and paddle again to distribute. The wet ingredients will act as glue to help the dry ingredients form small clusters; continue paddling until that happens.
(4) Spread the cluster 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.
(5) Let the crumbs cool completely before using in a recipe or scarfing by the handful. Stored in an airtight container, the crumbs will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature or 1 month in the fridge or freezer.

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14 thoughts on “momofuku milk bar exam no. 5 {birthday layer cake}

  1. I love your new momofuku milk bar exam stuff on your blog!! Your creations are absolutely gorgeous. I am excitedly anticipating your exams featuring some of the crazier flavors in the book… like the candy bar pie, celery root ganache, maybe a riff on a recipe like a celery root cake with a milk soak, Tristar strawberry jam, ritz crunch, celery root ganache and liquid cheesecake…
    Gawd I love Tosi. She’s freaking brilliant!!! And a genius… My idol as well!
    Anyway I’m following your momofuku postings with pleasure!! Keep up the lovely work!!

    • thanks so much for your kind words, Jen! glad to have a fellow Tosi devotee… she really is amazing.
      I am looking forward to making all of those recipes as well and like the way you think!

  2. I’ve been eyeing on momofuku milk bar’s birthday cake for so long and your post just further convinced me- I’m so making this the moment I find a friend with a birthday coming up SOON. I’m so over birthday cakes that look pretty on the outside only but dry and dense on the inside. But this, oh boy, THIS cake looks delish top to bottom – perfect layers too!!

    • Hi Irene,
      This cake will definitely solidify you into best friend territory… even from those you don’t know. Get ready to have a million best friends.

      Let me know how it turns out when you finally do make it!

  3. Pingback: Cake Kick | Madison Suzanne

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  5. This is one of my favorite birthday cakes to make.. 🙂 My favorite part – the milk crumbs, which I could eat with a spoon and milk..yum!
    I just made their cereal crunch cookies yesterday…not a fan 😦 What did you think?

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