June 4, 2017

Momofuku Milkbar's Birthday Cake

My (not-so-little) brother, my best buddy, turned eighteen this past Monday! Historically, he's always requested a red velvet birthday cake from Coldstone's, but he finally got tired of it last year. I've been begging him to let me bake a cake for his birthday, so this year was my year. 

I developed an obsession with Christina Tosi, the genius behind Momofuku Milkbar, a few months ago. I couldn't stop listening to podcast interviews and watching YouTube videos of her baking and talking about her creative process. She was a transfer student, loves math, can eat cereal all day long, and took an unconventional path into the culinary world. It's like we're twins. My dream is to become the mom who can bake like Christina Tosi!

This birthday cake is one of Milkbar's most popular items, and it's also one of the trickier recipes that other recipe/food bloggers have struggled with. As you can tell from my photos, the cake didn't turn out perfectly, but I was still pleased with the results - and more importantly, my brother loved it! I'll definitely be making this again in the future, using the tips that I've picked up from this trial (listed below). 

My tips: 
  1. Don't try to do this all in one day. It's certainly possible, but baking the cake/baking the cake crumbs/making the frosting can be divided into 1-2 days. Decorating the cake can take another day. It's easier to decorate a cold (or frozen) cake, anyways! 
  2. If you make the frosting ahead of time (and refrigerated it), microwave it for 10-15 seconds to loosen it up.
  3. Clear vanilla extract, citric acid, and glucose/corn syrup help to keep the cake/frosting white. I didn't have any (and didn't feel like buying them just for this recipe), so I used regular vanilla extract, omitted the citric acid, and used honey in place of glucose/corn syrup. Clearly, my cake is much more yellow, but I'm okay with that.
  4. Clear vanilla extract provides that signature "Pillsbury cake mix" flavor, but regular vanilla extract gives a great flavor, too.
  5. Christina Tosi calls for more vanilla extract than most chefs/bakers do in their recipes, so don't be thrown off when you're measuring out the vanilla. The vanilla flavor is pronounced, but in a good way!
  6. Get a cake ring - your cake will end up looking prettier (and more leveled) than mine. If you can't find acetate strips, wax paper should suffice. Again, it might not look as pretty, but the cake ring will help a lot. 
  7. I completely forgot to soak the cake. WHOOPS! Still tasted great.
  8. If you're using cake pans like me (instead of a quarter sheet pan), dividing the batter into two eight-inch cake pans will require a baking time of between 20-25 minutes. 
  9. Sprinkles...there's really no "natural" alternative to the conventional sprinkles we can find in the grocery stores currently. You can make your own sprinkles, but I haven't had much success with that (let me know if you have any tips!). I say it's okay to eat some artificial colors/dyes once in a while - cut yourself some slack. 

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