How to make a Milk Bar(ish) cake

This is not a recipe post, because a.) Milk Bar cake recipes are pretty involved, and b.) I’m not making a recipe from the book anyway (the cake is for my son’s 19th birthday, and he picked out what he wanted, which was kind of a s’mores-inspired, but with lots of chocolate, kind of situation). Instead I’m just going to describe the style of the cake, and the process of making it. If you’re feeling inspired, you can freestyle your own, but Christina Tosi is a mad dessert genius, and I highly recommend picking up one of her cookbooks, or patronizing a Milk Bar near you.

Part 1: The Cake

Bake your cake in a sheet pan, then cut out rounds to use for your cake layers. The cookbook makes a quarter sheet cake, but, since I only have half sheet pans, and since everyone likes extra cake, I usually double the recipe. Use a 6-inch cake round to cut out 3 layers, and save the extra for snacking on. Or, you could make a taller cake, a wider one, or just make the original amount of cake and stop listening to me because I always make too much food. I’m making a pretty simple chocolate cake for this, but you could use any kind of cake, as long as it’s sturdy enough to cut out.

Using the cake round and an acetate strip, set up the cake form apparatus on a flat, portable surface, and put your first layer in there. If you’re using the quarter sheet pan, then the bottom layer is going to be a mishmash of cake scraps.

Part 2: The Soak

This is for moistening your cake layers. Milk Bar is obviously famous for their cereal milk, but I was worried that this cake was going to be very sweet, so I’m just using plain milk. You can use this step to add some extra flavor with any kind of syrup, juice, or milk.

Part 3: The Frosting

The whole deal about a Milk Bar cake is that it’s not frosted on the outside, keeping all the layers visible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have frosting as one of your layers. Since this is kind of a s’mores-y cake, I’m using graham frosting.

Part 4: Other Fillings

Here’s where you get to go nuts, maybe literally. There are so many options for adding some crunch, or something gooey, maybe some fruit, I don’t know. Use your imagination! We’re going with chocolate crumb, and toasted mini-marshmallows.

Part 5: Repeat

Try to make your layers even, but messiness is kind of the whole charm of this type of cake, so please don’t try to be perfect! However, since the layers are going to be visible, do try to push them all the way out to the edge. After you’ve done the first layer of frosting/fillings, add another strip of acetate between the cake ring and the first acetate strip, then repeat all the previous steps (cake, soak, frosting, fillings), and top with the last round of cake.

Part 6: The Top

Here’s where you might put any decorations you might want. I’m simply using chocolate fudge sauce.

Part 7: Freezing, Thawing, and Finishing

So the cake needs to go into the freezer overnight to set. Then, when it’s done, you pop it out of the mold and let it thaw out before serving it. Maybe throw it on a fancy platter or something.

Or don’t. It’s a pretty good time even served on a plain white plate.