A. and I have this thing called the Sleep Chamber. No, it’s not our newest anti-aging mechanism! We’re pickling ourselves with salsa verde and queso for that, silly goose!
The Sleep Chamber is where you go, at least metaphorically speaking, when you just want to coast through a specific period of time that is standing between you and greatness.
You’ve got a big fiesta coming up on Friday – you Sleep Chamber through Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
You’re going on a shoe shopping spree on Saturday – you Sleep Chamber through Friday afternoon and Saturday morning cartoons.
There’s a pizza party on your Saturday evening schedule – you Sleep Chamber through toast and egg salad sandwiches.
The Sleep Chamber is your mental express pass to the destination, event, or pizza feast of your choosing.
My Sleep Chamber will be in full effect beginning later today: A. and I will be leaving on a mini vacation this Saturday and I’m just this side of hysterically bonkers excited.
It will definitely be a short one, but it will also be a necessary one, and I’m pretty sure my Sleep Chamber mode will prevent me from packing anything but my swimsuit, some sunscreen, and possibly my flip flops. The Sleep Chamber is my excuse for packing light this time around.
I’m putting some mileage on my Sleep Chamber, because it was also in high gear while I baked, assembled and froze this lovely Milk Bar Birthday Cake last week. For a Milk Bar creation, and a layer cake at that, this one is really not difficult to prepare.
And the results are spectacular!
It’s the waiting that’ll require your Sleep Chamber. Waiting while baking the layers and crumb, and waiting while freezing for the perfect, signature Milk Bar finish. It’s the quintessential Sleep Chamber-required 12 hours. Of waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more.
But that’s the thing about all legitimate Sleep Chamber opportunities: the end result is well worth the chamber stay.
This cake is light and fluffy and gorgeously adorned with rainbow sprinkles a-go-go. The baked crumb adds a wonderfully unexpected textural pop, and the frosting is just stupid good (that’s a technical term).
So, you know, roll out a sleeping bag and pitch a pup tent for your brain. You’re going to want to make this cake for your next special event (you don’t have to Sleep Chamber until you have a birthday to celebrate!). And while it’s baking and freezing your brain can get some beauty sleep. It was looking a little gray…
Of course, you should also check out my friends’ Milk Bar Monday creations!:
Birthday Layer Cake
recipe from Momofuku Milk Bar
1 batch birthday cake (recipe below)
1 batch birthday cake soak (recipe below)
1 batch birthday cake frosting (recipe below)
1 batch birthday cake crumbs (recipe below)
Chef’s Note: Following are the modifications that I made to this recipe:
1. I substituted colored vanilla extract for clear.
2. I used 1/3 cup instead of 1/4 cup of rainbow sprinkles in the cake and just folded them all directly into the batter. I like to live dangerously.
3. I did not do frosting-crumb-frosting between the two layers, I just did frosting-crumb.
4. I realized at the very last minute that I had completely run out of acetate strips. After a solid freakout, I MacGuyvered a solid column of parchment paper and duct tape around the bottom layer of cake. It frankly worked beautifully.
To assemble the finished cake, invert the baked cake onto a sheet of parchment paper or Silpat and peel off the parchment paper backing. Using the 6-inch cake ring, stamp out two circles from the cake. These will be the top and middle layers. The remaining cake “scrap’ will come together to make the bottom layer of the cake.
Clean the cake ring and place it on a sheet of parchment paper or Silpat atop a baking sheet. Use one strop of acetate to line the inside of the cake ring. Put the cake scraps in the ring and use the back of your hand to press the scraps together into a flat even later.
Dunk a pastry brush in the birthday cake soak and give the layer of scraps a good, healthy bath of half of the soak.
Spread one fifth of the birthday cake frosting over the base layer. Then sprinkle with one-third of the birthday cake crumbs evenly over the top of the frosting. Use the back of your hand to anchor them in place. Top with another fifth of the birthday cake frosting, carefully spreading it so that it is even, but without disturbing the crumbs.
With your index finger, gently tuck the second strip of acetate between the cake ring and the top 1/4 inch of the first strip of acetate so that you have a clear ring of acetate 5-6 inches tall – high enough to support the height of the finished cake. Top with a full circle of cake (save the nicest one for the top layer), brush the rest of the cake soak over this layer, top with another one fifth of the frosting, one third of the cake crumbs, and another one fifth of the frosting.
Nestle the remaining cake round into the frosting. Cover the top of the cake with the last fifth of the frosting. Give it volume and swirls, or opt for the perfectly flat top. Garnish the frosting with the remaining birthday crumbs.
Freeze the cake for at least 12 hours to set the cake and filling. (And to make the unmolding much easier.)
Three hours before serving, pull the pan from 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, this cake can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.)
For the birthday cake:
2 c. cake flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 c. + 2 tbsp. rainbow sprinkles
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/3 c. vegetable shortening
1 1/4 c. white sugar, granulated
3 tbsp. light brown sugar, tightly packed
3 large eggs
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/3 c. canola or vegetable oil
2 tsp. clear vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°.
Prepare a rimmed quarter sheet pan by spraying with cooking spray and covering the base with a sheet of parchment. Set aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and 1/4 cup sprinkles in a small bowl. Set the dry ingredients aside for later.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugars on medium-high speed for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed.
Add the eggs (all at once) and then beat again on medium-high for another 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl.
With the mixer on low speed, add the wet ingredients (buttermilk, canola oil, and imitation vanilla) in a steady stream. Increase the mixer to medium-high speed and beat for another 4 to 6 minutes. The mixture should double in size and turn practically white. Don’t stop mixing until the mixture is completely homogeneous, with no visible streaks of oil or fat.
With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients, and mix for another minute or so until the ingredients are just combined.
Pour out the batter into the prepared sheet pan, spreading it out into an even layer. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sprinkles.
Bake for 30–35 minutes until the cake bounces back slightly when gently pressed in the corner. The center of the cake should no longer jiggle when the pan is shook. Cool the cake completely in the pan on a wire rack.
For the birthday cake soak:
1/4 c. milk
1 tsp. clear vanilla extract
Whisk together the milk and vanilla in a small cup or bowl.
For the birthday cake crumb:
1/2 c. white sugar, granulated
1 1/2 tbsp. light brown sugar, tightly packed
3/4 c. cake flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. rainbow sprinkles
1/4 c. canola or vegetable oil
1 tbsp. clear vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 300° and line a baking sheet with a Silpat or piece of parchment.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugars, flour, baking powder, salt, and sprinkles. Mix on low speed until combined.
Stream in the oil and the imitation vanilla on low speed and continue beating the mixture until the ingredients clump and form small clusters.
Carefully spread the clusters in a thin layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake them for about 20 minutes, breaking up occasionally. They will be slightly moist but will harden as they cool. Let them cool completely before using.
For the birthday cake frosting:
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c. vegetable shortening
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tbsp. clear vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. powdered sugar
pinch baking powder
pinch citric acid
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening, and the cream cheese for 2 to 3 minutes on medium-high until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.
Add the glucose, corn syrup, and vanilla, and beat the mixture on medium-high speed for 2 to 3 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and glossy white.
Add the powdered sugar, baking powder, and citric acid on low speed until just combined. Crank the mixer to high speed and beat for 2 to 3 minutes or until the mixture is stark white and fluffy.
YIELD: approximately 6-8 servings