I tried making the Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake

Testing if the famous cake is worth the work, so you don’t have to

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You can recreate the Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake easier by making each component ahead of time.

Hildy Maxwell | Cavalier Daily

The Milk Bar Birthday Cake is an icon — or at least that’s how my Instagram feed makes it seem. Pictures of the cake can be found all over social media, and its popularity is reflected by the crowds of people found in Milk Bar stores all over New York City and the fact that they just started shipping their bakes nationwide. If you’ve never heard of Milk Bar or even this cute little cake, then please, before reading any further, educate yourself and Google the heck out of this place. If — like me — your computer search history consists entirely of trendy foods, then you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. 

This weekend I thought I would try something new — recreating, or attempting to recreate, the Milk Bar cake. Milk Bar recently released the recipes for the birthday cake and several of their other most famous goodies, like Crack Pie and Compost Cookies. You can find them here. So I figured I might as well give the complicated-looking cake a shot to see if it’s truly as hard to make as it seems. 

In all my time spent baking, I have never made a cake — and now I know why. Who knew a simple three-layer cake that isn’t even frosted on the outside could require so much attention and so, so many bowls. I probably did more dishes this weekend than I have all semester. This cake is definitely for a special occasion, not just any old thing you throw together for your roommate’s 21st birthday party or your family reunion potluck — unless you’re trying to upstage your Aunt Edna’s self-proclaimed award-worthy brownies. No, this is a “best friend just got engaged,” “landed your dream job” or “granny’s 100th birthday” kind of endeavor. 

Starting out I expected it to be difficult, so I decided to take the recipe’s advice and make each of the parts ahead of time. This made my life so much easier — it made me question why you would ever choose to torture yourself by making everything the same day. 

The frosting and cake were relatively easy to make. I followed the recipe exactly and everything seemed to come out like it was supposed to. The assembly, however, was a different story. 

Covered in birthday crumbs with an unfrosted exterior, this cake has a truly unique look. In order to create the naked look, you have to stack plastic film inside of a metal cake ring and assemble the cake inside, before chilling it and removing the plastic. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong.

Between trying to shove a perfectly cut circle of cake into the mold without crumbling the entire thing and spreading frosting over the layers without taking the crust of the cake with it, I couldn’t help but marvel at how Christina Tosi, Milk Bar owner, made this look so easy in “Chef’s Table.” Obviously, I am no highly experienced pastry chef like Christina Tosi. I am your average college student who dabbles occasionally in baking — assembling cakes is clearly not my forte. Even so, I somehow managed to squeeze all the layers in with minimal mess, but I’m afraid it didn’t look quite as pretty as the pictures I had seen on Insta. 

Upon removing my creation from the freezer after the three recommended hours, I had reached the moment of truth. Was everything going to come toppling down as soon as I removed the plastic? 

Much to my surprise, the cake stood up completely on its own, through removing the mold and slicing. Victory! 

What surprised me more after these few days was not the recipe’s success, but how truly straightforward it ended up being. Despite my struggle at actually putting the pieces together, following the exact directions from the recipe gets you pretty much where you need to go. I never thought making such a pretty cake could actually be doable — I kind of assumed that this experiment would just be another Pinterest fail. 

Some of you might be wondering, why make this at home when you could just buy the cake online and have it delivered right to your door? Well yes, buying the cake takes way less time, but it does cost more and who doesn’t want the satisfaction of saying, “Why yes, I did make this myself”? 

Before embarking on this culinary adventure, it’s important to know that it will take you around five hours, including prep, baking and chill time. In terms of cost, the only things you need to buy are your typical eggs, butter, sugar and flour, and also acetate strips, a cake ring and imitation vanilla. These will put you out about $25 in total.  

So, if you’re ever scrolling through Instagram and get the craving for a fancy slice of cake, don’t be afraid of trying to make one yourself! The Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake definitely isn’t a cake you can throw together in 30 minutes but it will impress the lucky group who gets to eat it. Plus you’ll save $50 or a trip to Milk Bar in NYC — although I would highly recommend that anyways, their Cereal Milk soft serve is hard to beat. 

Hildy Maxwell is a Food Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com

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