This is an amazingly delicious and fairly easy layer cake you can have all year around not just birthdays! It’s rather decadent and I won’t pretend it’s healthy but sometimes you need that kind of cake right? It’s adapted from the recipe by Christina Tosi of Momofoku Milk Bar fame and has a wonderful balance of flavours and textures with just the right amount of salt complementing the sugar so overall the cake doesn’t taste overly sweet. The colourful buttery sponge is well-structured and brushed with a milk and vanilla soak, the frosting is delightfully soft and light contrasting beautifully with the moist crunchy cookie crumbs nestling inside and adorning the cake. The colourful sprinkles add that pretty magical touch. My version is a little smaller and discreetely gluten-free – you wouldn’t even notice it is but your slice should be more digestible. The caster sugar’s golden unrefined and there’s a lesser amount of maple syrup to replace the sugar in the birthday crumbs. As usual use standard flour and sugar if you prefer. The layering system is so relaxing, eliminating any need for piping skills. As Tosi explains on Netflix’s Chef’s Table, cakes should be all about flavours and the magic when you contemplate wonderful messy layers with childlike wonder. My current taste tester (aka friend) and I happily agree this is our very favourite cake these days. There’s a reason people go crazy about Momofoku cakes and if you make this signature Birthday Cake you’ll see why! 🙂
Christina Tosi’s original recipe is in her Milk bar book or at the official milk bar website: birthday cake (in both cups and grammes); My cake has the same quantities but a smaller diametre (14cm and not 15cm), lemon juice instead of citric acid in the frosting, maple syrup in the cookie crumb so it’s less sweet and Doves Farm self-raising glutenfree flour. Both times I’ve made this cake it’s been problem-free but my sponge batter didn’t double in size or become almost white as described in the original recipe. The first time it rose a little but this took 30 minutes on the standmixer (other bloggers mention it takes a while) and the second time it almost didn’t rise at all and I gave up after 45 minutes – maybe the hot humid kitchen didn’t help. I continued with the recipe regardless and both times the cake worked fine and rose nicely in the oven – yay for baking powder!
Here’s an earlier prototype (left photo) plus the latest cake and a slice for you…
Then with the birthday crumbs and sponge left over from this recipe you can make Tosi’s very easy birthday truffles, posted on the blog earlier this year. Really yummy portable powerballs of flavour! A friend had one in early June and still mentions them fondly. 🙂
But let’s make the cake first…
- Make birthday crumb previous day or Day 1 (10 mins work + 25-40 mins baking)
- Day 1 – Make sponge (30-40 mins work & waiting + 25-35 mins baking); cool 3-4 hours; make frosting (10 mins); assemble (20-30 mins); freeze (12 hours overnight).
- Day 2 – Peel off acetate strip (2 seconds); defrost in fridge minimum 3 hours before eating.
The sponge and crumb can be made in advance, wrapped in plastic film and stored in the fridge up to 5 days or freezer up to 1-2 months..
- Baking tin: 32cm x 23cm (13in x 9in) and 4.5 to 5cm high (2in) or similar to this rectangular tin.
- Cake ring: 14cm/5.5in diametre and 6cm/2.4in high (I used 4.5cm/1.7in high, which works okay).
- Acetate strip (6cm/2.4in wide) like this one or this one.
- Christina Tosi recommends McCormick clear artificial vanilla extract for its less chemical aftertaste but couldn’t find any delivered to Spain so combined Wilton’s clear vanilla with pure vanilla extract – the flavour’s lovely.
- It feels wrong to use Crisco vegetable shortening but it works so well for a light delicious frosting (a healthier substitute could be vegetable/vegan margarine).
- The rainbow sprinkles (like these) should be good-quality and decent-sized so they don’t lose their colour or melt. Yes they’re colourful and probably not part of a paleo diet but they’re very pretty and I think our bodies can cope with the occasional funfetti. 😉 Otherwise there are always chocolate sprinkles.
Healthier cookie crumb
- 25g/2 tbsp light brown sugar
- 170g/1 and 1/3 cups glutenfree flour mix (add more later if needed)
- 1/2 tsp (2g) baking powder, optionally gluten free
- 1/2 tsp (2g) fine sea salt
- 80g/4 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp (4-5g) clear vanilla extract and
- 1 tsp (5g) pure vanilla extract
- 40g/2tbsp grapeseed oil (or light olive/vegetable oil)
- 20g/2 tbsp rainbow sprinkles
Use around 2/3 (about 135g) of the crumb for the cake then eat the remaining 1/3 or make birthday truffles or confetti cookies (recipe at the Serious Eats website) or see Milk Bar book.
- 55g/4 tbsp/1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 60g/1/3 cup vegetable shortening (white baking fat like Crisco or margarine)
- 250g/1 cup + 5 and 1/3 tsp caster/superfine sugar, I used golden unrefined (or 1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar)
- 50g/4 tbsp light brown sugar
- 160-165g beaten egg at room temperature (about 3 medium-sized free-range eggs)
- 120g/115ml buttermilk at room temperature (110g/105ml when using standard plain flour)
- 65g/1/3 cup /80ml grapeseed oil (or light neutral olive oil/vegetable oil)
- 1 tsp (4g) clear vanilla extract
- 1 scant tsp (4g) pure vanilla extract
- 245g/2 cups glutenfree flour (I used Doves Farm gf self-raising) or plain flour
- 6g/1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder, optionally glutenfree
- 3g/3/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 50g/1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles
25g/1 tbsp + 1 tsp rainbow sprinkles
Can be stored in the fridge wrapped in plastic film up to 5 days or in the freezer up to 1-2 months. You can also cool it in the fridge…
Frosting (in the Milk Bar website recipe they use cornsyrup but in the book they don’t)
- 115g/8 tbsp/1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
- 50g/1/4 cup vegetable shortening (white baking fat like Crisco or margarine)
- 55g cream cheese/1/4 cup less 3/4 tsp (I used Philadelphia cream cheese)
- 50g/2 tbsp glucose (syrup form)
- 1 tsp (4g) clear vanilla extract
- 1 tsp (5g) pure vanilla extract
- 200g/1 and 1/4 cups icing (powdered) sugar
- 1/2 tsp (1.5 – 2g) fine sea salt
- a pinch baking powder (0.25g)
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice (or a pinch citric acid, 0.25g)
Assembling the cake
- Milk soak made with 56g/ml full-fat milk and 1 tsp (4g) clear vanilla extract
- Sponge, frosting and 135g (2/3 of above recipe) birthday crumb
Freeze overnight (12 hours) then the next day whip off the acetate and defrost in the fridge at least 3 hours before eating. The beauty of this cake is it’s supposed to look a bit messy. Can’t go too wrong really…?
Storing and eating the cake
If not eating the whole cake within 3 or 4 days cut slices from the still frozen cake (after the 12 hours overnight) and store in airtight tupperware up to 1 month or so in the freezer. Freezes really well. Just defrost 3 hours in the fridge before eating. Keeps in the fridge up to 3 or 4 days, maybe more. P.S. Having slices in the freezer is a guaranteed source of happiness – my friend from the birthday cake picnic has been whatsapping me to reserve their share of frozen slices. Lol.
Let’s have some now… yum yum!
Like many other Momofoku cake enthusiasts I simply adore this birthday layer cake. It clearly isn’t necessary to wait for a birthday when you can celebrate just having this cake in front of you. 🙂
So farewell again dear reader and I’ll just wish you an early or belated happy birthday now! May you have a lovely year ahead with lots of yummy cakes! 🙂 Lili x