How to Make Milk Bar's Famous Birthday Cake

Milk Bar was founded in 2008 by James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef award-winner Christina Tosi; you may have heard of some of the bakery’s more popular items, like Cereal Milk ice cream, Compost Cookies and Crack Pie. With six locations in New York, one in Toronto and another in Washington, D.C., Milk Bar is becoming its own dessert empire. But it’s the eatery’s Birthday Cake that has won my heart and my stomach.

It’s a modern take on the classic Funfetti cake, and it makes an appearance every year when it’s my birthday (and also when it’s not). The key to the moist cake layers in this towering treat? A soak of whole milk and clear vanilla extract. That’s right: It’s like a tres leches cake gone birthday bonkers, in the best way possible. We stopped by Milk Bar’s test kitchen location in Brooklyn to see how the masterpiece comes together.

Start with a cake layer base, soaked in the whole milk and vanilla mixture, then top with birthday cake frosting. It’s a better version of buttercream that uses unsalted European-style butter, vegetable shortening and cream cheese.

Spread the frosting over the entire first layer of cake.

Top with birthday cake crumbs, which are made with cake flour, sugar and sprinkles (among other things) and are the key to giving a fun crunch and quirky surprise to every cake slice.

Cover the cake crumbs with more frosting.

Add a layer of cake and more whole milk mixture.

Add another layer of frosting and cake crumbs.

Top with more frosting.

Add the final cake layer and more whole milk mixture.

Finish with your remaining frosting.

Remove the cake ring.

Pipe on your message.

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