If you've ever had a cake from Momofuku Milk Bar, you know they're impossibly moist and and unreasonably delicious. Milk Bar's cakes are beautiful layer cakes stacked to fanciful if not dizzying heights. It's impossible not to feel giddy at the sight of them.
Once you get a load of their amazing flavors, you'll want to try every one. There's a mint cookies n’ cream cake with cookies n’ cream frosting, mint cheesecake and chocolate crumbs. There's also a salted pretzel cake made with stout ganache, burnt honey frosting and salted pretzel crumbs. And then there's the classic, and now iconic, birthday cake made with a rainbow cake crumble, sprinkles and vanilla frosting.
In a video by Bon Appetit, senior food editor Alison Roman visited Christina Tosi, chef and co-owner of Milk Bar, to learn just how to make this exemplary cake. The secrets to the birthday cake are manifold. They include clear -- not brown -- vanilla extract, sprinkles in the batter and a specific butter for the frosting, to name a few. One secret is a technique that's not just limited to the birthday cake, but used in many Milk Bar cakes. It's a milk wash, and it's brilliant.
Tosi uses different washes to leave her cakes super moist and flavorful. The birthday cake soak consists of whole milk and clear vanilla extract. Milk Bar's chocolate malt layer cake uses an Ovaltine soak, and the apple pie layer cake has an apple cider soak. In Bon Appetit's video, Tosi uses a ladle to spoon the soak onto the cake and spread it around, and in her cookbook she recommends using a pastry brush. Whatever your method, the soak is the way to go.
This simple trick that yields outrageous results is one that you can try on your own cakes. Maybe you're already a pro at pouring a glaze or syrup onto your Bundt cakes to make them extra moist. Either way, take a page from Tosi's book and bring this technique to the next level with a milk, Ovaltine, cider soak or maybe something entirely different. While other Milk Bar cake elements, like, say, the homemade crumbs or liquid cheesecake, may sound difficult or at least time consuming, a simple soak is well within your reach -- and well worth your while.