Birthday Layer Cake

If you read my last post on Corn Cookies then you know that I have recently found Christina Tosi and everything Milk Bar related. I immediately got the Milk Bar Cookbook and decided that I was going to bake my way through it. After going through it I had decided what I wanted my first three recipes to be. Corn cookies, as you already saw, the famous birthday cake layer cake and crack pie (coming soon).

Was it anybody’s birthday? Was I celebrating something? Was there any reason at all to make this three tiered birthday cake? Absolutely not. But I did it anyway because I wanted to.

And it was so worth it.


Now, I will worn you, this cake isn’t a – throw a few ingredients together and add some icing on top – kind of cake. It has multiple components to it but they are all needed to create the perfect birthday cake. I will make this over and over for the rest of my life and don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.

You’ll need a couple of special items to complete this piece of art. A 9×13 sheet pan to start off with and a 6” round cutout to make those perfect circles. Lastly, you’ll need acetate sheets to keep the cake held together before it has time to set. You can but these pre-cut or in a roll that you cut to size yourself. These are the ones I have and they work great. And since you have to cut them to size, they can be multi-purposeful.

One big thing Tosi talks about in her birthday cake recipe is the fact that she uses clear vanilla extract throughout the entire recipe. She states that you really get the funfetti, boxed cake kind of taste with clear vanilla better than using vanilla bean paste or a high quality extract.

Another thing Tosi recommends is to break up this entire process over a couple of days. Why kill yourself in one day trying to bake and assemble a cake when it is supposed to be fun and relaxing? Don’t get me wrong, it is very doable to bake and assemble in one day (I did), just make sure you carve out most of the day to do and still make it fun.



•Birthday Cake•

55g (1/2 stick) room temperature butter

60g vegetable shortening

250g granulated sugar

50g (3 tbsp) light brown sugar

3 eggs

110g (1/2 cup) buttermilk (I used this powder blend)

65g grapeseed oil

8g (2 tsp) CLEAR vanilla extract

245g (2 cups) cake flour

6g (1 1/2 tsp) baking powder

3g (3/4 tsp) salt

50g (1/4 cup) + 25g (1/8 cup) rainbow sprinkles

Nonstick cooking spray (optional)

•Birthday Cake Milk Crumbs•

100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar

25g (1 1/2 tbsp) light brown sugar

90g (3/4 cup) cake flour

2g (1/2 tsp) baking powder

2g (1/2 tsp) kosher salt

20g (2 tbsp) rainbow sprinkles

40g (1/4 cup) grapeseed oil

12g (1 tbsp) CLEAR vanilla extract

•Birthday Cake Frosting•

115g (1 stick) room temperature butter

50g (1/4 cup) vegetable shortening

55g (2 ounces) cream cheese

25g (1 tbsp) glucose

18g (1 tbsp) corn syrup

12g (1 tbsp) CLEAR vanilla extract

200g (1 1/4 cup) confectioners’ sugar

2g (1/2 tsp) kosher salt

Pinch of baking powder

Pinch of citric acid

•Birthday Cake Soak•

55g (1/4 cup) milk

4g (1 tsp) CLEAR vanilla extract


» For the cake:

› Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

› Combine the butter, shortening, granulated and brown sugars into a bowl. Cream together on medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs and mix for another 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides.

› On a low speed, add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Increase the speed and mix on medium-high for 4 to 6 minutes, until mixture is twice the size, practically white and complete mixed together. DON’T rush this process.

› On very low speed, add the cake flour, baking powder, salt and the 50g rainbow sprinkles. Mix for 45-60 seconds, or just until batter comes together. Scrape down the sides.

› Line a quarter sheet pan with a silicone mat or spray with a nonstick spray and line with parchment. Spread the cake in an even layer in the pan. Sprinkle the remaining 25g of sprinkles on top of the batter.

› Bake for 30-35 minutes. Check the cake after 30 minutes: the cake should bounce back slightly and the center should no longer be jiggly. Add 3-5 minutes if it does not pass these tests.

› Take the cake out and let cool on a wire rack. The cake is good, wrapped and stored in the fridge, for up to 5 days.

» For the cake crumbs:

› Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

› Combine the sugars, flour, baking powder, salt and sprinkles in a bow and mix on low speed until combined.

› Add the oil and vanilla and distribute, the wet ingredients work like a glue to help the dry ingredients form small clusters. Continue mixing until this happens.

› Spread the clusters on a parchment – or silicone mat – lined sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes, breaking them up occasionally.

› Let crumbs cool completely. They will keep fresh at room temp for a week and in the fridge or freezer for a month.

» For the frosting:

› Combine the butter, shortening and cream cheese in a bowl and cream together for 2-3 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Scrape down the sides.

› On a low speed, stream in the glucose, corn syrup and vanilla. Increase to medium-high speed and beat for 2-3 minutes. The mixture should be silky smooth and glossy white.

› Add the confectioners sugar, salt, baking powder and citric acid and mix on a low speed until incorporated. Turn back up to a medium-high speed and beat for 2-3 minutes. You can store in the fridge for up to 1 week.

» For the milk soak:

› Whisk together the milk and vanilla in a small bowl. Set aside until ready to use.

» Assembling the cake:

› Invert the cake a piece of parchment paper or silicone mat and peel off parchment from the bottom of the cake. Use the cake ring to stamp out 2 circles from the cake. These are your top 2 layers. The remaining cake “scrap” will come together to make the bottom layer of the cake.


Layer 1, the bottom:

› Place the clean cake ring in the center of a sheet pan lined with clean parchment or a silicone mat. Use one strip of acetate (cut to 20 inches long) to line the inside of the cake ring.

› Put the cake scraps in the ring and use the back of your hand to stamp the scraps together into a flat even layer.

› Dunk a pastry brush in the cake soak and give it a healthy bath of half the soak.


› Use the back of a spoon to spread one-fifth of the frosting in an even layer over the cake.

› Sprinkle one-third of the cake crumbs evenly over the top of the frosting. Use the back of your hand to anchor them into place.

› Use the back of the spoon to spread a second second fifth of the frosting as evenly as possible over the crumbs.


Layer 2, the middle:

› With your index finger, gently tuck the second strip of acetate between the cake ring and the top of the first strip of acetate, so that you have a clear 5-6 inches of acetate to support the height of the finished cake.

› Set a cake round on top of the frosting (your “least pretty” of the two) and repeat the process for layer 1.


Layer 3, the top:

› Nestle the remaining cake round into the frosting. Cover the top of the cake with the last fifth of the frosting and decorate however you please. Garnish the frosting with the remaining cake crumbs.

› Transfer the sheet pan to the fridge or freezer for a minimum of 12 hours to set the cake and filling. The cake will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.


› When you are ready to eat, pull the sheet pan out and use your fingers to 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 or at room temperature for a minimum of 3 hours.

› Slice and serve!



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