It happened. On Monday I officially said “goodbye” to my 20s and dove headfirst into the big 3-0. I’m officially a grown up, and I know this because I got furniture for my birthday. Yep. Furniture.
Not only did I get furniture, but I was excited about it. EXCITED. ABOUT FURNITURE. WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?
There are some pretty cool things about becoming a grown up, like that I can afford to get my friends real gifts instead of just a cookie. An added benefit is that my friends can get me some rocking gifts, too. Like, a cake from Momofuku Milk Bar. Not only did she get me a cake from one of the most famous bakeries around, but she got me a whole cake sampler! IT’S LIKE HAVING TWO BITES OF EVERY CAKE!!!
Naturally, I feel the need to share with you the results of this cake sampler… I mean, what if you find yourself in NYC and unsure of what type of cake to get? Well, I’m here to help you out with my helpful descriptions below.
First and foremost, you will not be disappointed with ANY of the cakes. They are all great, but below I gave a small description and shared my top three cakes, which was NOT an easy decision.
- apple pie cake: cheesecake filling, apple compote, pie crumbs – Tastes like apple pie. Like, just like apple pie, with sweet cinnamon apples, a slight tang from the cheesecake, and a strong “pie crust” flavor.
- banana cake: banana cream, hazelnut crunch, gianduja fudge – My memory is hazy on this one…. I remember thinking that the gianduja fudge was actually quite hazelnut-y.Clearly it didn’t leave a super strong impression on me either way so I will say if you are into banana and/or hazelnut to give it a shot.
- birthday cake: rainbow cake crumble, sprinkles, vanilla frosting – Everything you’ve ever dreamed your birthday cake would be. Not a single complaint here. Five stars. It would be my top three but I decided to go with more “unique” flavors for the top three that I chose.
- chocolate chip cake: passion fruit curd, chocolate crumbs, coffee buttercream – The flavor of the cake is somewhat overpowered by the tart passionfruit. I ended up liking my own version better. (Sorry!)
- chocolate malt cake: chocolate cake, malt fudge, malted milk crumbs, charred marshmallow – I was pumped for this one (mostly because of the marshmallows) – this cake was slightly dry but it was day two by the time I got to it but the flavor was chocolatey and delicious without being overkill.
- dulce de leche cake: dulce cake, dulce de leche frosting, dulce de leche, milk crumbs – This was like dying and going to caramel heaven.
- german chocolate jimbo cake*: chocolate cake, crack pie filling, flaky coconut, pecan crunch – I’ve spent my whole life despising coconut and german chocolate cake so I was shocked when this was one of the best things I’d ever tasted. The chocolate cake was the perfect texture with a strong chocolate flavor, while the coconut and pecan crunch added a great texture to the cake. This one goes into my top three, for sure.
- mint cookies n’ cream cake: cookies n’ cream frosting, mint cheesecake, chocolate crumbs – If you like mint and oreo together then you will love this cake. That’s pretty much all there is to say about it. Delicious, minty goodness.
- pineapple upside down cake: coconut cake, pineapple upside down frosting, yellow cake crumbs, cherry-buttermilk soak – Oh my god, it was like summer in a bite. It almost made it into the top three.
- pistachio cake*: lemon curd, pistachio frosting, milk crumbs – LAYERS AND LAYERS OF FLAVOR. I felt especially douchey when I told my BFF that this flavor “really bloomed in your mouth” but IT WAS SO TRUE. There was no other way to describe it. The only downside to this cake was having to reassure Mr. Eats that he was most definitely not eating marzipan, that it was pistachio and that he was loving it. This easily made the top three.
- salted pretzel cake: stout ganache, burnt honey frosting, salted pretzel crumbs – I was worried about the stout in this but, while I could taste it, it wasn’t super strong and it balanced the salty pretzel which balanced the sweet chocolate. I loved this one.
- strawberry-lemon cake*: lemon cheesecake, pickled strawberry jam, milk crumbs – “Pickled strawberry jam?” Yes. Pickled strawberry jam. Despite my initial reservations about the pickled strawberries, this cake was light, refreshing, and I wanted to keep stuffing it into my face. Top 3.
As for the actual home-made birthday cake…. I spent forever trying to figure out which cake I wanted to make from the Milk Bar cookbook (hysterical, considering I then received cake from THAT EXACT LOCATION!) when I decided I wanted to try the chocolate chip cake. I was (as it turns out, rightfully so) skeptical about the passion fruit portion of the recipe.
First off, I don’t really have super great access to passion fruit, and although I believe the Asian market about 25 minutes away might sell it, I wasn’t totally sure and didn’t feel like driving all the way there just to be let down. Secondly, I like passion fruit, it’s delicious, but passion fruit and chocolate? I don’t know. And passion fruit and COFFEE?? Um… no thanks. I didn’t want to spend all that time on a cake if there was even the slightest chance that I might end up not liking it, so…. I brainstormed.
What would go well with this cake? Peanut butter was an obvious choice, but we recently acquired a peanut-averse family member so that was out. I finally settled on the liquid cheesecake, which I’ve been wanting to try ever since Shannon posted about the dessert bar that she compiled with it.
Did I have to change any other parts of the cake? Chocolate crumb?Well that sounds great! Coffee frosting? Count me in! So, my cake was complete: chocolate chip cake, liquid cheesecake filling, chocolate crumb, and coffee frosting. I decided to do a little research on the liquid cheesecake portion and stumbled across this recipe… for the exact flavor combination I had chosen!
You may remember that Faygie was the inspiration for one of my birthday cakes last year, which means that Faygie’s daughter and I have now had the same birthday cake for two years in a row…. Oops?
The recipe is long, and is actually four recipes combined to make one cake. I understand that you might view that as being “overkill” but trust me when I tell you that it’s worth it. You can easily split up the work over a couple days or weeks and I provided tips in the “notes” section of the recipe if that is something you would want to do.
If you don’t have (and don’t feel like purchasing) a 6-inch cake ring, you can cut the sheet cake into thirds and have a three layer rectangle cake instead. I tried to vine the assembly of each layer but kept forgetting to vine each step. I did get a a decent bit of it together for you though.
[ UPDATE: Our good friends at Bon Apetit have since posted a video of Momofuku cake assembly which is far better than any Vine I could possibly image. You can start from the beginning if you want to see the whole process, but I’ve set the video to start at the assembly portion. ]
- 1 quarter sheet pan
- 1 half sheet pan (optional)
- 8 inch square baking pan
- Parchment paper
- 6-inch cake ring
- 2 acetate strips
- Offset spatula - I used 1 large and 1 small
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup dutched cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons whole milk, room temperature
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
- 1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
- 3/4 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Heat oven to 300F degrees
- Combine dry ingredients in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mixing until combined.
- Add butter and continue mixing until the mixture forms clumps.
- Spread clusters onto parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mixture will puff as it bakes.
- Remove from oven and let cool completely on the pan. The mixture will harden as it cools. They can be stored in an airtight container for 1 week at room temperature or up to 1 month in the fridge.
- Heat oven to 300F degrees and line a 8-inch square baking pan with parchment.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat teh cream cheese on low speed for 2 minutes. Add sugar and continue mixing for another 1 to 2 minutes, until sugar has been incorporated.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the cornstarch and salt together. Slowly add the milk, whisking while pouring, then whisk in the egg until the mixture is homogeneous.
- With the mixer on medium-low speed, stream in the egg mixture. Continue beating until the mixture is "smooth and loose" - about 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Pour into parchment-lined baking pan and bake about 20 minutes, checking after the first 15 minutes. The cheesecake should be firm around the outside ofthe pan but tsill jiggly and loose in the very center. If the chesecake is still jiggly all over, give it another 5 minutes, but it should not take more than 25 minutes total. If it starts to brown at all, remove it from the oven immediately.
- Cool the cheesecake completely, then stir it to loosen it up.
- Once cool, the cheesecake can be stored up to 1 week in the fridge.
- Heat oven to 350F degrees.
- In a small measuring cup, stir together the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. In another small bowl, whisk together to flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition until combined. Return to medium-high speed and continue beating another 2 minutes, then scrape down sides of the bowl.
- With the mixer on low speed, slowly stream the buttermilk mixture into the butter mixture. Beat until just combined, then return mixer to medium-high and continue beating until the mixture doubles in size, about 4 to 6 minutes.
- (The book notes here that, "you are forcing too much liquid into a very fatty mixture tht doesn't want to make room for the liquid," so you want to make sure it gets fully incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure everything is homogeneous and combined.
- Turn mixer off and add the flour mixture. Mix on low just until combined, about 45 seconds.Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure the flour mixture is fully combined.
- Spray a quarter sheet pan and line it with parchment. Pour the batter into the pan and spread to an even thickness with an offset spatula. Give the pan a light tap on the counter to settle the batter and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the cake.
- Place quarter sheet pan into a larger half-sheet pan and place into the oven. (The half-sheet pan will catch any drips in case your cake gets unruly.)
- Bake 30 to 35 minutes until the cake bounces back when gently poked and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- 'The frosting should be made immediately before assembling the cake. Cristina warns that if you refrigerate this frosting you will be very sad when you try to warm it back to temperature to frost your cake.'
- In a small bowl, mix the instant coffee granules and salt with the milk; set aside.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and powdered sugar until fluffy and pale yellow, about 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- On low speed, gradually stream in the milk mixture. The butter mixture will likely separate and clump up, it will not be pretty... just keep mixing.
- Once the milk is incorporated into the butter mixture, increase speed and continue mixing until the frosting is fluffy and shiny. Use immediately
- Put liquid cheesecake and coffee frosting into piping bags (for me, "piping bags" are also known as gallon-sized Ziploc bags with the ends snipped off). A small (5-inch) offset spatula will come in handy for this part also. Set aside a couple tablespoons of the chocolate crumbs to sprinkle on top of the cake.
- Put a sheet of parchment on the counter and invert the cake onto it, removing the parchment from the bottom of the cake (which is now the top of the cake).
- Using the cake ring, cut out two circles from the cake to make your top two cake layers. The remaining cake scrapes will become the lowest layer of your cake.
- Clean the cake ring and place it in the middle of a sheet pan lined with parchment. Use 1 strip of acetate to line the inside of the cake ring. Press cake scraps (chocolate-chip side up) into the cake ring and use your hand to press them down. (You won't need all of the scraps, so it's ok if a few accidentally get pressed into your mouth instead of the cake ring).
- Dunk a pastry brush into the milk soak and brush about half of the milk onto the cake layer.
- Squeeze half of the cheesecake onto the cake layer and use the offset spatula to gently spread it across the cake layer. Wipe any remaining cheesecake off of the offset spatula.
- Sprinkle half of the remaining chocolate crumbs over the cheesecake and gently press it down into the cheesecake to anchor it in place.
- Squeeze 1/3 of the coffee frosting over the chocolate crumbs and use offset spatula again to spread the frosting over the crumbs.
- Gently tuck the second acetate strip between the cake ring and top 1/4-inch of the first acetate strip so that you have a clear ring of acetate about 5 to 6 inches tall.
- Gently place the second cake round (chocolate-chip side up) on top of the frosting and gently press down.
- Repeat the steps from the first layer, using the remaining cake soak, the other half of the cheesecake, other half of the crumbs, and other 1/3 of the coffee frosting.
- Place last cake round on top of the other and press down gently to secure in place.
- Frost with remaining coffee frosting and, if desired, sprinkle with reserved chocolate crumbs.
- Transfer the sheet pan to the freezer and freeze for 1 hour until firm. Cover the top with plastic wrap and keep in freezer at least another 11 hours (for a total of 12 hours) to set the cake and filling.
- At least 3 hours before serving, pull sheet pan out of the freezer and pup the cake out of the cake ring. Allow to defrost in fridge at least 3 hours (kept securely-wraped in plastic, the cake can remain refrigerated for up to one week).
* If you wanted to break this up into parts, the chocolate crumb can be made up to 1 month prior to assembling the cake. The cheesecake filling can be made up to 1 week prior to assembling the cake. The cake could be made up to 1 day prior to assembling the cake. The coffee frosting should be made immediately before assembling the cake.
* If you don't have a 6-inch cake ring, you can cut your sheet cake into thirds to create a three layer rectangle cake.
[ Recipe from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook ]