This is not the first foray I have taken into the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook. I did make Crack Pie for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but didn’t really know where to begin with choosing other recipes. There are a lot of things I would love to make, so I’m going to work through this book as I am Baking Chez Moi.
As a word of preface, this is not the cake that you just whip together. The book’s recipes employ more arcane tools and harder to find ingredients. Some things are common to grocery stores, and others require a little ingenuity to find. Luckily the fantastic folks at Orson Gygi have been phenomenal about sourcing many of these things for me. For example, Passion Fruit Puree. While not used in this recipe, I will be using it in the Chocolate Chip Layer Cake from this book (I think in about two weeks). I was reading other baker’s suggestions about sourcing this item from Mexican/South American grocery stores, but in spending half a day with my husband visiting all such stores, I was rebuffed with questioning looks. Gygi saved the day by special ordering it for me. Maybe you will be more lucky. Corn powder? Rather than order it from Milk Bar, find freeze dried corn from a food storage supplier and pulverize it in your food processor yourself. Also, once you have the ingredients, they are readily available for other recipes that require similar techniques and ingredients.
Making any of the layer cakes from the book requires creating several elements ahead of time. In the book it details how long you can store these items if you make them ahead. My recommendation (if you have the time) is to make one element each day in the lead up to the day you wish to serve your cake. Or you can just be a “hard body” (to quote Tosi), and make the whole thing in one fell swoop. Which I did, and in all honesty isn’t too bad once the techniques become more familiar. It only took me as long as it did because I was reading and re-reading the techniques and timing to ensure I “got it right”.
Notes on the recipe:
- My resolve was definitely tested with the charred marshmallows. They were so sticky that working with them was challenging at best. I was alternately cajoling them into place and cursing at them. I should have fridged them as recommended, but had no room. As a side note, I used the broiler to char my marshmallows. I left the oven open a crack so I could watch them as they went, and as soon as they were dark brown I pulled them out. While it is not the forest fire that Tosi describes in her book, I found them adequately tasty, albeit difficult to cut the cake through that layer (suggestions anyone?)
- With the Malted Milk Crumbs, Tosi calls for an entire recipe of the Milk Crumbs, then coated in the Ovaltine, and then with white chocolate. However, I think what was intended was to make the milk crumbs up to the point that you finish baking them, then switch over to the Malted Milk crumb recipe. After the point of baking the milk crumbs, I then tossed them in Ovaltine, followed by the white chocolate. Otherwise the process becomes bake, toss in milk powder, coat in milk chocolate, toss in Ovaltine, coat in milk chocolate.
- Speaking of Ovaltine, the book doesn’t call out which Malt Ovaltine to buy. Malted Chocolate or just Original Malt flavor? I used the original Malt flavor, but if anyone out there has made this cake with the Malted Chocolate, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.
- The fudge sauce that you create for the batter – of course the batter doesn’t use all of it. But damn. I am definitely guilty of eating the leftovers with a spoon while I baked off the cake and read up on the next components of the cake.
At the end of the day, many people would ask if it is even worth the time and effort, and I answer with a resounding YES. The various elements lend such depth of flavor that you are unlikely to find elsewhere. When I tasted the cake by itself I thought it might be very rich, but it’s incredibly balanced in texture and flavor. Plus it’s a great way to challenge yourself with new techniques and ingredients, which I love to do. If you would like to try your hand at this, you can find the recipe adapted on Bon Appetit. A few of the difference that I have spotted between the book and the online recipe are:
- Bakes each layer of the cake in a separate cake pan, rather than the whole thing in a quarter sheet pan, and then layers cut with a cake ring
- The online recipe uses corn syrup rather than glucose (which the book calls for)
- The cake batter doesn’t incorporate the use of fudge sauce
- The online recipe does not build the cake in a 6″ cake ring with a column of acetate sheets, but rather stacks the ingredients, creating a different visual. This doesn’t affect the taste though.