Birthday Cake: Homemade Momofuku Style

Photo Credit: Stacey Bryan
You can’t say I don’t deliver on my promises! You may remember my earlier foray into birthday-style cakes, and my impassioned promise to bring back birthday cakes for one and for all. What better way to begin, I thought to myself, than with the birthday-ing-est cake of all! Momofuku Milk Bar is a crash hot New York bakery belonging to the David Chang empire, which recently expanded to Sydney (please come north!). Christina Tosi, the hard-bodied head baker, was a great contributor to the recent world-wide explosion of nostalgia based baked goods. She takes the genre to a whole new level with this box-cake inspired Birthday Cake.

Photo Credit: Stacey Bryan
Sadly for me (or happily? Not sure), I was not brought up with the particular brand of box-mix cake that inspired Tosi to create “the Birthday Cake”. The brand name of the cake mix is “Funfetti”. The name alone makes me feel like my childhood did not contain nearly enough artificial flavours or colours. Because of this and, that other great motivator, laziness I chose to deviate from the Milk Bar original in a couple of ways. Firstly, I ditched the icing and replaced with a personal favourite, my white chocolate cream cheese icing. It is rich and unctuous in texture and has a slightly tart and strongly vanilla-y taste. Moreover, it’s easy to make and I had all the ingredients on hand.

Photo Credit: Stacey Bryan
Secondly, it’s impossible to easily procure a “sheet pan” of any description in Brisbane. If anyone knows of a supplier, I would love to get the deets. The original recipe dictates a quarter sheet pan that you stamp cake rounds out of, and stack up using rings of acetate as a dam to hold in the various filling ingredients. This also was a little out of my league. So I followed the cake recipe to the letter, using my biggest pan, a 9x13inch Pyrex dish, and then trimmed three layers out of the rectangle, and stacked ‘em up.

Photo Credit: Kayla Flude
The other genius of this cake is that there are crumbled chunks of crispy cookie between every layer. The cookie rubble provides some slightly salty relief, and crunchy textural contrast to the overall confection. I will caution you, this cake should not be doled out in large portions. When I say sugar hit, I mean SUGAR HIT. It’s a five-year-old’s delight, and a dentist’s nightmare. I was happy to know that I would be making this cake for someone who would really appreciate it. If you need to bake a cake for your grandma, try a different recipe. If you need to bake a cake for a colleague with a sense of fun, who shares your love of the joys of being a big kid, then do I have the cake for you! Birthday Cake! It tastes like Birthdays.

Momofuku (ish) Birthday Cake
Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi, Absolute Press, 2012

The Crumbs
100 grams granulated sugar
25 grams light brown sugar
90 grams cake and pastry flour
2 grams baking powder
2 grams salt
20 grams rainbow sprinkles
40 grams grapeseed oil
12 grams vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 150C. Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add in the wet ingredients and then paddle them together until they form small crumbs and clusters. Spread these gently on a baking paper lined tray and slide into the oven to bake for 20 minutes. You should get in with a spoon and bust these up occasionally. When done, the crumbs will still be moist to the touch, they will dry and become very crisp as they harden. Stored in an air-tight container these will keep for a good month.

The Cake
115g unsalted butter, softened
250g caster sugar
50g light brown sugar
3 large eggs
110g buttermilk
65g grapeseed oil
8g vanilla extract
245g plain flour
6g baking powder
3g salt
1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 180C, and lightly spray and line a 9×13 inch dish. Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer and cream together on medium high speed, for at least 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs and mix again on medium high speed for a further 2 to 3 minutes.

On low speed add in the remaining liquid ingredients. Increase the mixer speed to medium high again, and beat for at least 4 to 6 minutes, until completely combined and extremely white and fluffy. On very low speed, add in the remaining ingredients, and mix until just combined, no more than a minute. Spatula the mixture into the lined pan and spread out evenly. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the edges spring back when pressed lightly, and the middle is no longer liquid. Set aside to cool in the tin on a wire rack.

The Icing
250g cream cheese, at room temperature
100g salted butter, softened
3 cups icing sugar
100g white chocolate, melted
1 tsp vanilla bean paste

Combine the cream cheese and butter in a mixer on medium speed until just combined, do not overbeat. Add the icing sugar all at once and beat again on medium speed until combined, thick and smooth. Add additional icing sugar, if the mixture is not thick enough to hold a very stiff peak. You may need up to a cup extra. on low speed stream in the white chocolate, and vanilla.

The Assembly

Trim the edges from the cooled cake and slice into three evenly sized rectangles. Place one rectangle on the plate you wish to serve it on. Fill a piping bag with icing and pipe into the cake, or simply spread it on with an off-set palette knife. Sprinkle onto this layer about 2 tbsp, or one small handful of crumbs, and press lightly into this icing, to anchor. Spread the bottom of the next layer thinly with icing, line up carefully and press on top of the first layer.
Pipe more icing on top, add more cookies as before, and thinly ice the bottom of the next layer, placing carefully on top. Finally, spread a thin layer on top of the cake, and pipe the remaining icing around the edge of the cake. Fill the closed in area with as many remaining cookie crumbs as you can.
CHEAT: I stuck two cut off skewers in the cake for insurance. I reccomend this. Enjoy!

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