Last week was our nephew’s 28th birthday. Because of the age disparity between my husband and his sister, my husband and his nephew grew up quite close to each other – more contemporaries than uncle/nephew.
Of course you know that this calls for birthday cake, right? And what better birthday cake to make than Milk Bar’s Birthday Layer cake. Another delectable cake base with a delicious vanilla frosting, and plenty of sprinkles to be had. Since you will likely have cake scraps left over,
if you don’t immediately scarf them down like we did, I would recommend using the scraps for the Birthday Cake Truffles.
Let me tell you, though. This cake is RICH. The idea behind it is to mimic the boxed Funfetti cake, as well as that creamy white icing from a can. The recipe does call for the clear vanilla extract that McCormick makes, but ironically in the land of Frog Eye Salad and Jell-O molds, there was no clear vanilla extract to be had. Well, at least not in the supermarket I frequent, and I didn’t want to trek up to Gygi’s to see if they had it (probably). I guess your commitment to the fake vanilla-y flavor depends on how much you love it. Me? Not so much. The thought of that fake, overly vanilla flavor makes me wretch, so I was perfectly content to stick with my Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean paste.
The only thing that I didn’t have a problem finding was rainbow sprinkles. I know you are probably thinking “why would you have a problem finding those?”, but I tell you they were on CLEARANCE for $1.11 per container. Who puts rainbow sprinkles on clearance? Well, I won’t complain. I’m set for the next few times I make this since I cleared out whatever they had. 🙂
In any event, it was a big hit with the birthday boy. I could also see customizing this cake with different colored sprinkles for whatever theme you are hosting for. I’m also becoming faster at making these Milk Bar layer cakes. The techniques are reasonably similar from cake to cake, though if anyone has any advice on how to avoid breaking the cake when adding the next layer in I’d be grateful. Good thing they are covered by lots of other things!
Now on to the recipe:
1 recipe birthday cake (recipe below)
1 recipe birthday cake soak (recipe below)
1 recipe birthday cake frosting (recipe below)
1 recipe birthday cake crumb (recipe below)
1 (6-inch) cake ring
2 strips acetate, each 3 inches wide and 20 inches long
1. Put a piece of parchment or a silpat on the counter. invert the cake onto it and peel off the parchment or silpat from the bottom of the cake. use the cake ring to stamp out 2 circles from the cake. these are your top 2 cake layers. the remaining cake “scrap” will come together to make the bottom layer of the cake.
layer 1, the bottom
2. Clean the cake ring and place it in the center of a sheet pan lined with clean parchment or a silpat. use 1 strip of acetate to line the inside of the cake ring.
3. Put the cake scraps together inside the ring and use the back of your hand to tamp the scraps together into a flat even layer.
4. Dunk a pastry brush in the birthday cake soak and give the layer of cake a good, healthy bath of half of the soak.
5. Use the back of a spoon to spread one-fifth of the frosting in an even layer over the cake.
6. Sprinkle one-third of the birthday crumbs evenly over the frosting. use the back of your hand to anchor them in place.
7. Use the back of a spoon to spread a second fifth of the birthday cake frosting as evenly as possible over the crumbs.
layer 2, the middle
8. With your index finger, gently tuck the second strip of acetate between the cake ring and the top ¼ inch of the first strip of acetate, so that you have a clear ring of acetate 5 to 6 inches tall – high enough to support the height of the finished cake. set a cake round on top of the frosting, and repeat the process for layer 1 (if 1 of your 2 cake rounds is jankier than the other, use it here in the middle and save the prettier one for the top).
layer 3, the top
9. Nestle the remaining cake round into the frosting. cover the top of the cake with the remaining frosting. give it volume and swirls, or do as we do and opt for a perfectly flat top. garnish the frosting with the remaining birthday crumbs.
10. Transfer the sheet pan to the freezer and freeze for a minimum of 12 hours to set the cake and filling. the cake will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
11. At least 3 hours before you are ready to serve the cake, pull the sheet pan out of the freezer and, using your fingers and thumbs, pop the cake out of the cake ring. gently peel off the acetate, and transfer the cake to a platter or cake stand. let it defrost in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours (wrapped well in plastic, the cake can be refrigerated for up to 5 days).
12. Slice the cake into wedges and serve.
makes 1 quarter sheet pan
55 g butter, at room temperature (4 tablespoons, 1/2 stick)
60 g vegetable shortening (1/3 cup)
250 g granulated sugar (1 1/4 cups)
50 g light brown sugar (3 tablespoons, tightly packed)
110 g buttermilk (1/2 cup)
65 g grapeseed oil (1/3 cup)
8 g clear vanilla extract (2 teaspoons)
245 g cake flour (2 cups)
6 g baking powder (1 1/2 teaspoons)
3 g kosher salt (3/4 teaspoon)
50 g rainbow sprinkles (1/4 cup)
25 g rainbow sprinkles (2 tablespoons)
1. Heat the oven to 350°F.
2. Combine the butter, shortening, and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and mix on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. scrape down the sides of the bowl once more.
3. On low speed, stream in the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. increase the mixer speed to medium-high and paddle for 4 to 6 minutes, until the mixture is practically white, twice the size of your original fluffy butter-and-sugar mixture, and completely homogenous. don’t rush the process. you’re basically forcing too much liquid into an already fatty mixture that doesn’t want to make room for that liquid. there should be no streaks of fat or liquid. stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
4. On very low speed, add the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and the 50 g (¼ cup) rainbow sprinkles. mix for 45 to 60 seconds, just until your batter comes together. scrape down the sides of the bowl.
5. Pam-spray a quarter sheet pan and line it with parchment, or just line the pan with a silpat. using a spatula, spread the cake batter in an even layer in the pan. sprinkle the remaining 25 g (2 tablespoons) rainbow sprinkles evenly on top of the batter.
6. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes. the cake will rise and puff, doubling in size, but will remain slightly buttery and dense. at 30 minutes, gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger: the cake should bounce back slightly and the center should no longer be jiggly. leave the cake in the oven for an extra 3 to 5 minutes if it doesn’t pass these tests.
7. Take the cake out of the oven and cool on a wire rack or, in a pinch, in the fridge or freezer (don’t worry, it’s not cheating). the cooled cake can be stored in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 5 days.
Birthday Cake Soak
55 g milk (1/4 cup)
4 g clear vanilla extract (1 teaspoon)
Whisk together the milk and vanilla in a small bowl.
Birthday Cake Frosting
makes about 430 g (2 cups)
115 g butter, at room temperature (8 tablespoons or 1 stick)
50 g vegetable shortening (1/4 cup)
55 g cream cheese (2 ounces)
25 g glucose (1 tablespoon)
18 g corn syrup (1 tablespoon)
12 g clear vanilla extract (1 tablespoon)
200 g confectioners’ sugar (1 1/4 cups)
2 g kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon)
.25 g baking powder (pinch)
.25 g citric acid (pinch)
1. Combine the butter, shortening, and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. scrape down the sides of the bowl.
2. With the mixer on its lowest speed, stream in the glucose, corn syrup, and vanilla. crank the mixer up to medium-high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is silky smooth and a glossy white. scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. Add the confectioners’ sugar, salt, baking powder, and citric acid and mix on low speed just to incorporate them into the batter. crank the speed back up to medium-high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes, until you have a brilliant stark white, beautifully smooth frosting. it should look just like it came out of a plastic tub at the grocery store! use the frosting immediately, or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Birthday Cake Crumb
makes about 275 g (2 ¼ cups)
100 g granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
25 g light brown sugar (1 1/2 tablespoons, tightly packed)
90 g cake flour (3/4 cup)
2 g baking powder (1/2 teaspoon)
2 g kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon)
20 g rainbow sprinkles (2 tablespoons)
40 g grapeseed oil (1/4 cup)
12 g clear vanilla extract (1 tablespoon)
1. Heat the oven to 300°F.
2. Combine the sugars, flour, baking powder, salt, and sprinkles in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until well combined.
3. Add the oil and vanilla and paddle again to distribute. the wet ingredients will act as glue to help the dry ingredients form small clusters; continue paddling until that happens.
4. Bake for 15 minutes at 300°F.
5. Let the crumbs cool completely before using in a recipe or scarfing by the handful. stored in an airtight container, the crumbs will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature or 1 month in the fridge or freezer.