From the Top Shelf of Momofuku Milk Bar Comes Christina Tosi's Birthday Cake Recipe
America, it's my birthday, and even though I've given David Chang and Christina Tosi a lot of flack for ever corner they cut in establishing a branch of the Momofuku Milk Bar sub-empire in Williamsburg, I'd be bereft if I didn't give credit where credit was due: Tosi's delightfully whimsical birthday cake recipe is one of her finest. This is the one that I'll be making for myself this weekend, and if you happen to be in Williamsburg, follow the smell of good cooking and I'll be more than happy to share a piece.
Christina Tosi's Birthday Cake is a very simple entry into her pantheon of cookery, defined by her ambitions to walk the tightrope between the nostalgic and the cerebral. Unlike some of her other recipes (like the crack pie), this sees her finishing the high-fire act without a single misstep.
What sets this cake apart from any other? Take a look at it. She hasn't iced it the whole way down, allowing you to see every nook and cranny of her craft. This isn't the kind of cake you see on those truly awful Ace of Cakes-style shows: it's a raw, guts-out approach that, at the very least, invites you to take a bite.
It's on the sweet side, but unlike some renderings of her other sweets, it's not sickeningly saccharine. I follow the recipe to the letter, but because I like just a little more color, I add a handful of Fruity Pebbles to the top at the end. Sure, it doesn't do anything to make the cake any less sweet, but birthdays come but once a year.
That said, call your dentist in advance.
Part One: The Frosting
-Let's start with making the frosting, since it's the least time sensitive part of this dish. You'll want to mix together eight tablespoons of butter, 1/4 a cup of vegetable shortening, and 2 ounces of room temperature cream cheese using a mixer with a paddle attachment set to medium-high speed. It'll become fluffy in 2-3 minutes.
-Now, set the mixer to its lowest speed and add one tablespoons of glucose, one tablespoon of clear vanilla extract, and one tablespoon of corn syrup.
-Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat it for up to three minutes, or until the mixture is smooth as silk and the whiteness has a gloss to it.
-Add a pinch of baking powder, a pinch of citric acid, 1 and 1/4 cup of confectioners' sugar, and a half a teaspoon of kosher salt and incorporate them into the batter on low speed.
-Now that it's incorporated, raise the speed to medium-high and beat the frosting for up to three minutes. What you're looking for is a dazzlingly white, smooth-as-silk frosting.
-Store it in an airtight container. If you want, you can color the frosting at this time, but I wouldn't recommend it. And by that, I mean that I wouldn't recommend any color but light pink or purple.
Part Two: The Cake!
-Preheat your oven to 350 F.
-In the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together four tablespoons of butter, 1/3 a cup of vegetable shortening, and 1 and 1/4 a cup of granulated sugar for up to three minutes.
-Add three large eggs, then mix again at the same speed for three more minutes.
-Switch the speed to low, then add 1 and 1/4 cups of buttermilk, 1/3 a cup of grapeseed oil, and 2 tablespoons of clear vanilla extract.
-Switch the speed back to medium-high, then paddle away for anywhere between four to six minutes. What you're looking for is a mix that's almost totally white, twice the size of the original butter-sugar mix, and totally homogenous. Once you've achieved a mix with no streaks of fat or liquid, stop the mixer.
-On the lowest speed possible, add two cups of cake flour, one and a half teaspoons of baking powder, 3/4 a teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/4 a cup of rainbow sprinkles. Mix together for up to sixty seconds, just until the moment your batter comes together.
-Add the cake to a quarter pan and sprinkle two tablespoons of rainbow sprinkles on top.
-Bake the cake for thirty minutes. Poke the edge with your finger. It should bounce back every so slightly, and the center shouldn't jiggle anymore. If it isn't this way, leave it in the oven for another three to five minutes.
-Take the cake out of the oven and transfer it to a wire rack or the fridge. Top it with the frosting, then top that frosting with a handful of Cocoa or Fruity Pebbles, depending on your derangement.
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