Guest Post: Momofuku Milk Bar’s Pistachio Cake

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Ok so remember how I went to Boston and ate all of the things and had a blast? Well, all of that was made possible thanks to BFF, her brother, and his wife, Kabrina. Though I’ve never met Kabrina, she’s a fan of the blog, and I’ve been hearing for awhile now that she and I are secretly soul mates… not the “let’s get married” kind, just the “let’s drink lots of wine, bake some stuff, and laugh maniacally” kind… So I was actually pretty excited to get to meet her.

Sadly, I didn’t get to meet her after all, but she is a fan of the blog, and a fan of baking… so we decided to have her guest star this week. It’s like we were baking together, but apart, and I wasn’t actually baking, ya know? She made a cake that I will probably never make because despite my deep love for Momofuku, and my deep love for baking, just looking at the recipes from Momofuku Milk Bar exhausts me. I am far too lazy for that. Although, I did eventually make those darned cornflake cookies… anyway, I digress, this week we give to you (by “we” I mean Kabrina, SHE gives to you)…

Pistachio cake, adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar, by Christine Tosi.         (Tadaa!)

“If I could marry this cake, I would. This cake is so good, I have decided that I can only share it with the people in my apartment, and even then only under certain circumstances. It’s too good to share with a downtrodden neighbor, a friend who is under the weather, a family celebration.  I can’t part with one crumb.”

Warning: this cake is a bit of a process.  And since I’m not into things that are a “process”, the fact that this is the third time I’ve made this cake means that it is so worth the process.
It’s not hard, just involved.
First, you have to make the milk crumbs.  This recipe is slightly annoying because you have to actually make some of the ingredients.  I sort of thought that was what grocery stores were for, but clearly I was wrong. Anyhoo, the milk crumb is a snap to make and completely addictive.  If I did crack I’d have a basis for comparison, but I’ve gotta think its close.
Mix the milk powder, flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt in a small bowl, then pour in melted butter and stir it together until it looks like sandy pebbles.  Spread the crumbs onto a cookie sheet lined (I used a silpat) and bake it at 250 for 20 minutes.  Take the crumbs out and let them cool, then toss them with another 1/4 cup of milk powder, and then drizzle (Christine says “enrobe”) with the melted white chocolate and continue tossing them until they are no longer sticky.
Next make the cake.  Here is another part of the “process”, there are a few ingredients I couldn’t find at the store (both local grocery store and Whole Foods) so I bought them on Amazon: Pistachio paste and Pistachio oil. Truth be told, I didn’t look that hard for them in the stores, so who knows, they could be there. (I have pic of the ones I used).
Heat the oven to 350.  Combine the pistachio paste and glucose in the bowl of your mixer on medium-low for 2-3 minutes.  (I have never made this cake with glucose, I have always used light corn syrup.  My good friend Christine says you can use corn syrup in pinch, but frankly I don’t think I’ll ever use glucose, its really expensive and this cake isn’t cheap to make. Plus its pure heaven with the corn syrup, so why knock it?) Scrape the bowl after mixing.  It is very thick and gooey. ( I have a pic)
Add the egg whites one at a time on low speed making sure to incorporate each before adding the next. Scrape the sides once or twice during this process.
Add the confectioner’s sugar and almond flour on low speed and mix for 2-3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides.
Stream in the pistachio oil and cream on low speed for 1 minutes, then scrape some more.
Last, add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix on low for 2-3 minutes until the batter is smooth and a little  thicker than a traditional cake batter.
Spray a 1/4 sheet pan with Pam and then line with parchment, or just use a silpat, and pour the batter into the pan.  Spread the batter evenly and bake for 20-22 minutes.  The cake should be spongy to the touch on the corners and slightly golden around the edges. Cool the cake on a wire rack.
Third step, make the frosting. Yum, its crazy good frosting and very easy.  Combine the softened butter and confectioner’s sugar in the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment and cream it together on med-high for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.
Next, add the pistachio paste and salt and mix on low speed for 30 seconds, then crank it up to med-high and let it go for 2 minutes.  Don’t forget to scrape the sides! If the frosting isn’t an even green color, keep mixing on med-high.  I didn’t have much faith in a frosting with so little sugar, but the pistachio paste is VERY sweet, it more than makes up for the paltry sugar.
That’s it!
Now assemble the cake.  Another process.  I also veered from the directions here.  First, this cake is supposed to be round and the three layers stacked using acetate rings.  Not going to happen. I make the three layers by just cutting the cake in thirds in the pan and using the rectangular layers.
Put one layer on a plate, and brush pistachio oil on the top of the layer. (Christine says to “give the layer of cake a good, healthy bath of half the oil”.  I like Christine.)
Next, use the back of a spoon to spread a layer of lemon curd over the cake. (I used store bought lemon curd, but if you are inclined to make this ingredient, knock yourself out.) Sprinkle 1/3 of the milk crumb on top of the lemon curd, and then spread 1/3 of the frosting on top of that.  I’m salivating…
Place the second layer on top and repeat the entire process.  Place the third layer on top and spread with the remaining frosting and sprinkle with the remaining milk crumb.
Get a fork and a glass of ice cold milk and you have just entered heaven.

So, I freeze what’s left of the cake after we have cracked into it because otherwise John and I won’t stop eating it.  I get a small slice every night, and I’m telling you I dream about it at work all day.  Dream about it, I say.
Oh, here is the actual recipe:
Momofuku Milk Bar’s Pistachio Cake
Milk crumb:
  • 1/2 cup milk powder
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 Tbs cornstarch
  • 2Tbs sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 ounces white chocolate, melted
Pistachio cake:
  • 2/3 cup pistachio paste
  • 3 Tbs glucose ( or 2 Tbs light corn syrup)
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 cup pistachio oil
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Pistachio frosting:
  • 1 stick butter at room temp
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 3/4 cup pistachio paste
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Lemon curd (Kabrina uses store-bought, but I’ve included a recipe below as well):
  • 3 lemons
  • 100g (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 gelatin sheet
  • 115 g (just under 1/2 cup) butter, very cold
  • pinch of salt

Make the crumb:

Preheat oven to 250F.

Mix the milk powder, flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt in a small bowl, then pour in melted butter and stir it together until it looks like sandy pebbles.

Spread the crumbs onto a cookie sheet lined (I used a silpat) and bake it at 250 for 20 minutes.

Take the crumbs out and let them cool, then toss them with another 1/4 cup of milk powder, and then drizzle with the melted white chocolate and continue tossing them until they are no longer sticky.

Make the cake:

Heat the oven to 350.
In a medium bowl combine the add the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside for later.
Combine the pistachio paste and glucose (or corn syrup) in the bowl of your mixer on medium-low for 2-3 minutes. Scrape the bowl after mixing.  It is very thick and gooey.
Add the egg whites one at a time on low speed making sure to incorporate each before adding the next. Scrape the sides once or twice during this process.
Add the confectioner’s sugar and almond flour on low speed and mix for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides.
Stream in the pistachio oil and cream on low speed for 1 minute, then scrape some more.
Last, add the flour, baking powder and salt; mix on low for 2-3 minutes until the batter is smooth and a little thicker than a traditional cake batter.
Spray a 1/4 sheet pan with Pam and then line with parchment, or just use a silpat, and pour the batter into the pan.  Spread the batter evenly and bake for 20-22 minutes.  The cake should be spongy to the touch on the corners and slightly golden around the edges. Cool the cake on a wire rack.
Make the frosting:
Combine the softened butter and confectioner’s sugar in the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment and cream it together on med-high for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.
Next, add the pistachio paste and salt and mix on low speed for 30 seconds, then crank it up to med-high and let it go for 2 minutes.  Don’t forget to scrape the sides!
If the frosting isn’t an even green color, keep mixing on med-high until it is.
Make the lemon curd (you over-achiever, you):
Zest the lemons. Put the sugar, lemon zest and 80 grams (about 1/3 cup) of lemon juice in a blender and blend until the sugar granules have dissolved.
Add the egg yolks and blend on low until you have a bright yellow mixture. Transfer the contents to a medium pot or saucepan.Bloom the gelatin by placing this sheet in a bowl with cold water for a few minutes to soften.Heat the lemon mixture over low heat, whisking regularly. It will start to thicken as it heats, once it boils, remove it from the stove and transfer it to a blender.Add the bloomed gelatin, butter, and salt and blend until the mixture is thick, shiny and super smooth.Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a glass bowl and put in the fridge until the lemon curd has cooled completely, at least 30 minutes.This can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Assemble the cake (FINALLY)
Assuming you’re following these directions and making a rectangle cake… cut your giant sheet-pan cake into thirds.
Put one layer on a plate, and brush a “generous amount” of pistachio oil on the top of the layer.   Next, use the back of a spoon to spread a layer of lemon curd over the cake.
Sprinkle 1/3 of the milk crumb on top of the lemon curd, and then spread 1/3 of the frosting on top of that.
Place the second layer on top and repeat the entire process.  Place the third layer on top and spread with the remaining frosting and sprinkle with the remaining milk crumb.

7 thoughts on “Guest Post: Momofuku Milk Bar’s Pistachio Cake

  1. …and now my hunger for pistachio cake kicks up again. i have the paste; just not the oil.

    dang it. i thought i had quelled it because i DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS CAKE AND NOW I WANT IT AGAIN.

    she did a great job. Kabrina, you did a great job! i’ve pretty much done the beater-licking picture (in my head) every time i do a Momofuku cake.

    guest posts are tres confusing for me because i have no idea who to address things to. :)

    • Shannon,

      I can find the oil, but not the paste! Is it time for a cross-country baking trip?? You bring the paste, I’ll bring the oil, we’ll both crash at Kabrina’s (and then eat all of Boston?) :)

      • Do it! I’ll make the milk crunch, eat it all, then make another batch and tell you it was the only batch I made. Shannon- thanks a mill for the props. Listen, I found pistachio oil in my Whole Foods the other day. I guess my looking skills aren’t so sharp. Anyhoo, check it out. The pistachio cake MUST be made…it has an undeniable and irresistible pull…it cannot be denied.

        • I made the cake with really good quality olive oil and honey instead of glucose, and it was really lovely as well. Also, I added some whipping cream to the frosting (it was too hard) to make it spreadable. Anyway, just sharing my mod for other readers out there that may not be able to get glucose or pistachio oil.

          • Thanks for sharing, Isabella! I know a lot of people have a difficult time finding pistachio oil. Great tip with the frosting as well :)

  2. Hi, I’m trying to make sense of this recipe but I can’t find any butter or white chocolate anywhere among the milk crumb ingredients… How come no one has commented on this? Please indicate the exact amount of the missing ingredients! Thanks

    • So sorry, Petya! I got a hold of our guest author and I was able to update the recipe (4 Tablesoons butter, 3 ounces white chocolate). Hope this helps!

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