Reminiscent of box funfetti cake mix, this Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake is made with layers of cake loaded with rainbow sprinkles, creamy vanilla cream cheese buttercream frosting, and crunchy cake crumbs.
My birthday is coming up! There is no better way to celebrate the special day with a special cake, isn’t it?
Yes, I made today’s cake for my birthday. Is that weird? I love making my own birthday cake. This way, I can make whatever I want. I decided to finally try the Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake recipe I had eyed for a long time ago.
Look at this vibrant, playful rainbow-speckled tower cake that screams party. A three-layer cake with sprinkles, soaked in vanilla milk, slathered in creamy vanilla cream cheese buttercream frosting. For the best part… drumrolls… the crumbs. The crumbs add flavor, crunch, and make the cake a lot more interesting!
This is no your ordinary cake because of the ingredient long list, unfamiliar tool, and the assembly is a little unusual. But I decided that it was the only cake for me this year. It took me a week to complete the purchase of the tools and ingredients. Let me tell you what the fuss is about and if the cake is worth enough to make at home.
About Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake
If you have not heard of this Milk Bar cake, let me explain to you what it is about. So, Milk Bar is a chain of dessert and bakery restaurants founded by chef Christina Tosi. Tosi owns the chain with the Manhattan-based Momofuku restaurant group.
What’s special about Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake?
- They are baked in a quarter sheet pan, then stamped out with a 6-inch cake ring to make three layers of cake.
- The cakes are not frosted on the sides.
- The cakes include complimentary “crumb” recipes that are sandwiched between the layers.
- The birthday cake takes inspiration from the funfetti cake and tub of frosting that sits on the aisles of the grocery stores. Christina Tosi’s goal is to replicate the flavors of her favorite funfetti cake mix and capture all the nostalgia and feeling that we had in the past.
Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake consists of 4 parts:
- Birthday cake – vanilla rainbow-speckled cake
- Birthday cake crumb – sweet and a little bit salty crunchy morsels with strong imitation vanilla flavor
- Birthday cake frosting – smooth and silky white cream cheese buttercream with strong imitation vanilla flavor
- Birthday cake soak – vanilla milk to make the cake moist
Special Ingredients You Need
There are a handful of ingredients that you may/may not be familiar with:
- Vegetable shortening. Shortening is mixed together with the butter to make the birthday cake and frosting white, not too yellow.
- Clear vanilla extract. Milk Bar uses McCormick vanilla extract in the birthday cake, crumbs, and frosting. The taste of imitation vanilla recreates the classic flavor of the cake box mix. Clear vanilla extract also helps the cake components white in color.
- Grapeseed oil. Grapeseed oil is low in saturated fat and has a light color and flavor that won’t conflict with the other flavors in your cake.
- Glucose. Liquid glucose, often referred to as glucose syrup, is a liquid form of simple sugar. Glucose is added to birthday cake frosting. It keeps the frosting soft and moist. You can substitute glucose with corn syrup, but the frosting will be sweeter.
- Corn syrup. The corn syrup adds moisture to help dissolve the sugar. It also makes the frosting more glossy and luscious. You can substitute half the amount of corn syrup for glucose by volume.
- Citric acid. Citric acid is a weak, organic acid naturally found in citrus fruits. It is most often used as a natural preservative or to add an acidic or sour taste to food and baked products. If you can’t find any, you can also substitute citric acid for a little amount of lemon juice.
Special Tools and Equipment
You will also need to gather these tools and equipment to make this cake:
- 1 quarter sheet pan. The most important note when it comes to this birthday cake is that you are not going to bake three 6-inch cakes. Instead, you will bake one large sheet cake. Then, you will stamp the 2 cake rounds with a cake ring. For the third cake layer, you will need to put together the remaining off-cuts from the sheet cake.
- 1 6-inch/15 cm cake ring. A cake ring is used to stamp out the birthday cake. Then, the stamped cake rounds are stacked in the same cake ring lined with an acetate cake collar.
- 2 strips 3-inch/7.5 cm cake acetate. Cake acetate is a type of sturdy plastic that comes in sheets or rolls. It is used to line the inside of the cake ring. They will serve as a protective wrap for naked cakes.
- Pastry brush. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the cake soak into each layer of cake.
- Bent spoon or small ladle spoon. In many Christina Tosi videos, she uses a bent spoon to spread the frosting. I found using a small ladle spoon works as well.
My Thought After Making and Trying Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake
This Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake is a labor of love. It looks intimidating at first. But in some ways, I actually found it easier than a typical layer cake because you don’t need frosting on the sides.
The most difficult thing was purchasing the specific ingredients and tools. I tried finding tools and ingredients that Tosi has in her original recipe because I believed that you will need to follow the exact recipe for making ‘her’ cake.
I tried recreating her original recipe to the greatest extent of my ability, but I really could not find the specific pan and clear vanilla extract around my area. Instead of using a quarter sheet pan, I used 11×11-inch/27.5×27.5 cm pan which had the same area bottom surface and fit two 6-inch/15 cm rounds. I also purchased a small bottle of imitation vanilla with the lightest color I could find. I was happy that they totally worked!
Mixing, baking, and assembling the cake were easy as long as you follow the recipe. It took me three days to make it:
- Day 1. Make the birthday cake and crumb.
- Day 2. Make the birthday cake frosting and cake soak. Assemble and freeze the cake.
- Day 3. Defrost the cake and serve.
Honestly, the cake was phenomenal but way too sweet for me. The taste did taste like ‘the cake box mix and tub frosting taste’ that Tosi wanted to achieve. The cake itself was nice and perfect – soft, fluffy, and moist. The frosting was soft and silky, but it tasted overwhelmingly sweet with supersaturated vanilla flavor which was very off-putting.
The crumb was a brilliant idea because it made the cake a lot more interesting! It tasted sweet, surprisingly a little bit salty, with a perfect crunch. I just could not stop eating the crumb because it was really the best part of this cake.
What I Will Change If I Make This Cake Again
If I have a chance to make this again, I will adjust the recipe like below:
- Cut down one-third amount of confectioners’ sugar in birthday cake frosting.
- Reduce the clear vanilla extract in half in birthday cake frosting and crumb.
More Cake Recipes
Looking for a perfect cake to celebrate birthdays? Try out these cake recipes!
- Naked Carrot Cake
- Moist Steamed Chocolate Cake
- Japanese Strawberry Shortcake
- Korean Fried Chicken Cake
- Tiramisu Layer Cake