Monthly Milk Bar: Birthday Cake / by Chelsea Zwieg

If you've ever gotten me started on baking-talk in real life or if you've read this pretzel tart post you will know how obsessed I am with Christina Tosi. Not only does she seem so cool that I just want to hang out with her and be her best friend, but her creativity in baking and the recipes that she has created at Milk Bar are the most inspiring thing to me as a baker. I asked for the Milk Bar cookbook for my birthday and now that I have it (thanks mom!) I have gone full on crazy person in my excitement. 

And so I've decided to start a new segment on here called Monthly Milk Bar (because I love a catchy, newspapery sounding title), where I will make a recipe from the book once a month and write a little post about it. I will include the recipe for people who love a big ol' baking project as much as I do but I'm not even going to pretend that these are simple and quick. Worth it, absolutely. For people who don't like baking? Probably not. But it's too exciting for me not to share, so here we go.

Since I got the book as a birthday present, it only seemed fitting to choose Birthday Cake as the first recipe. I love funfetti. Just looking at it makes me happy. Of course most funfetti is of the boxed cake mix/canned frosting variety, which is mega tasty but also super boring to make. So why not make each part from scratch? Fluffy, sprinkle studded cake, super creamy perfectly white frosting and birthday cake crumb (aka the most addicting thing you will ever eat). 

Tosi figured out that the key to making authentic-birthday-of-your-childhood funfetti is to use clear vanilla extract. Pure vanilla extract is what you usually use in baking while clear extract is actually just imitation vanilla. The cookbook describes clear vanilla as "vanilla in more of a tub-of-frosting, box-cake sort of way" and I could not think of a better way to describe it. It's pretty obvious in any good funfetti cake that no actual vanilla beans made it near the cake and yet it has an undeniable vanilla flavor, in the most un-fancy way. I love that.  

I also love birthday cake crumb. Like a lot. To me they taste like crunchy birthday cake flavored sugar cookies. The cookbook also has a recipe for confetti cookies, which is basically a sugar cookie with birthday crumb mixed into the dough. So that needs to happen SOON. The frosting and the cake are also great, because really, how can you not love something completely overtaken by rainbow sprinkles? 

I would declare Birthday Cake and my first milk bar venture a success. Now I just have to decide what to make next! 

Milk Bar's Birthday Layer Cake

Recipe from Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi

Makes 1 6" cake

| Ingredients| 

Birthday Cake: 

  • 4 tbsp. butter, room temp
  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1  1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 tbsp. light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup grapeseed oil
  • 2 tsp. clear vanilla extract
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. rainbow sprinkles

Birthday Cake Frosting: 

  • 8 tbsp. butter, room temp
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp. glucose
  • 1 tbsp. corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp. clear vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • a pinch of baking powder

Birthday Cake Crumb: 

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. light brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. rainbow sprinkles
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp. clear vanilla extract

Birthday Cake Soak: 

  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. clear vanilla extract




Birthday Cake: 

  • Heat oven to 350. Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment or silpat and spray with non-stick spray. 
  • Combing butter, shortening and sugars in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream together on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes. Scrape the bowl, add the eggs, and mix on medium-high for 2-3 more minutes. Scrape again.
  • Mix the buttermilk, oil and vanilla together. With the mixer running on low, stream in the buttermilk mixture. Increase the mixer to medium-high and beat for 4-6 minutes, until the batter is almost white and double in size of the original butter-sugar mixture. There should be no streaks of fat or liquid. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl. 
  • Combine flour, baking powder, salt and 1/4 cup sprinkles. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients and mix 45-60 seconds, until the batter just comes together. Scrape the bowl again. 
  • Scrape batter into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tbsp. sprinkles over the top of the batter. Bake 30-35 minutes. The cake will puff up and double in size but will remain slightly buttery and dense. When you poke the edge the cake should bounce back slightly and the center should no longer be jiggly. 
  • Remove cake from oven and let cool on a wire rack. The cooled cake can be stored in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 5 days. 



  • In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, shortening and cream cheese on medium-high until smooth and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. 
  • Combine the glucose, corn syrup and vanilla. With the mixer running on low, stream in the glucose mixture. Crank the mixer up to medium-high and beat 2-3 minutes until the mixture is silky smooth and glossy white. 
  • Add the powdered sugar, salt and baking powder and mix on low to incorporate. Switch back to medium-high speed and beat 2-3 minutes, until the frosting is a brilliant, stark white and super smooth. If should look like plastic tub grocery store frosting! Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. 

Birthday Cake Crumb: 

  • Heat oven to 300. 
  • Combine sugars, flour, baking powder, salt and sprinkles in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low until well combined. Add the oil and vanilla and paddle again to combine. Continue mixing until the wet ingredients cause the dry to form small clusters.  
  • Spread the clusters on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, breaking up the clusters occasionally. The crumbs will be slightly moist when you take them out but will dry and harden as they cool. 
  • Let the crumbs cool completely and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 month. 

Birthday Cake Soak: 

  • Whisk together the milk and vanilla in a small bowl


  • Check out Milk Bar's website for super detailed assembly instructions: click here.  They explain it much better than I ever could. Also here's a video of Christina Tosi making it, if videos are more your jam.