Milk Bar Birthday Cake


When I was rotating at an ER in NYC my soul sister, Monica, took a train up from DC to meet me for my birthday which was the best gift in the entire world. We went from living 4 feet away from each other to across the country after college, and only get to see each other every year or so at the most. Luckily we are very good at leaving 3 minute-long voicemails (you know you are good friends if you feel like you can ramble for 3 minutes on a machine and they won't totally hate you) on each other's phones and tracking each other down for long phone chats, but nothing beats getting to hang with your girl in person. In NYC we went for rooftop cocktails, ate homemade pasta for dinner, and finished off with Big Gay before heading back to our hotel and watching movies at 9:30 (the perfect night). That's when Mon whipped out 12 B'day truffles from Milk Bar and holy cow, they were one of the best things I've ever eaten. We ate 2 each that night and then I slowly doled out the rest over the coming week--1 per ER shift. I promised myself when I got back from the residency interview trail I would make the full birthday cake from Milk Bar! 

Making the cake required a little bit of planning--it calls for a couple unusual things for a cake, namely corn syrup for the frosting and grapeseed oil for the cake and the cake crumbles. You will also need a 6-inch cake ring to cut the cake with as well as cake acetate (the round clear stuff that goes around the cake so that you have nice, crisp edges). The later is a little hard to find, but if you are in SLC you can get it at Orson Gyggi or Amazon (though it is a little more expensive). Also a workaround if you don't have a cake round would be to trace a parchment 6-inch circle and cut out a circle with a knife using the parchment as a guide. I had a couple things I had to re-work on the fly for this cake but overall I was happy with how it turned out! Recipe and instructions below :). Also I looked online and this cake costs $50.50 to buy online (not even counting if you get it shipped) and making it costs a fraction of that! I've never had the real thing but I think the flavor was pretty much spot on compared to the B'day truffles. 



  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles, divided
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ⅓ cup grapeseed oil
  • 2 teaspoons clear imitation vanilla extract, preferably McCormick brand
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup vegetable shortening
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs


  • ¾ cup cake or all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon clear imitation vanilla extract


  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon clear imitation vanilla extract, divided
  • 1¼ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt


  • 1/4-1/3 cup milk (I felt like my cakes were on the drier side so I used a bit more of the soak) 
  • 1 teaspoon clear vanilla 

TO START: Preheat oven to 350. Place parchment down on baking sheet (recipe calls for 9x13 inch baking sheet but I didn't have that--mine was much larger which affected my assembly as seen below. However, moral of the story is use what you have, it will be fine). Use non-stick spray over the parchment and on the edges and corners of pan. Combine butter, sugars, shortening and beat until fluffy. Then add eggs 1 at a time and beat until mixture volume increases and the mixture turns pale yellow (below to the right). In a separate bowl combine oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. The secret to the birthday cake flavor is using the CLEAR vanilla extract--it has that box cake taste but in a good way. In a third bowl combine flour, salt, and baking powder and stir with a fork to incorporate. Add oil mixture to egg/sugar mixture, alternating with flour mixture until just combined. 




Pour batter onto prepared sheet and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sprinkles on top (below). Recipe says to bake for 30 minutes, but because mine was on a larger sheet and more spread out mine baked in 16 minutes. Don't let it overbake and check it frequently. Let it cool on baking sheet. 


MEANWHILE, make your cake crumbles. 

Combine all ingredients into small bowl and mix with your fingers. Spread onto baking sheet lined with parchment, making sure there is a mix of large, medium, and small chunks (make the large chunks by squeezing a handful of the mixture and then breaking it apart into 2-3 big pieces). Put in oven and bake at 300 for 12 minutes. 


Once cake is cool to touch take 6-inch cake ring and cut out 2 circles. I cut out four because again, my baking sheet was big. I stacked 2 of these thin circles on top of each other to make 1 "full" cake layer. For the bottom layer take your cake ring and set it on your cake stand. Then line the middle of it with your cake acetate (mine was cut roughly to 12 by 18 inches). The acetate should stick up about 8 inches above the cake ring. Take the scraps leftover from your circle cut-outs and arrange them into the bottom of your ring + acetate structure. I promise it won't look pretty but you won't be able to tell at the end, it's amazing! 

Cake scraps at bottom, surrounded by cake acetate on sides. 

Cake scraps at bottom, surrounded by cake acetate on sides. 

Since my cakes were thinner I cut out 2 and stacked them to make 1 full layer. 

Since my cakes were thinner I cut out 2 and stacked them to make 1 full layer. 

Next, make your cream cheese icing.

I personally love cream cheese but I know not everyone is a fan, but any fluffy white icing would work. For some reason I ran out of icing while assembling my cake so I used 1.5 batches of the frosting total, but maybe that was just me! To make whip your cream cheese, shortening, and butter together for 2 minutes, add corn syrup and beat for another minute on high, followed by powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla. Transfer to piping bag if you have one to make the assembly easier, or a ziplock bag with the tip cut off. 

Finished frosting. 

Finished frosting. 


For the milk soak combine 1 teaspoon milk with 1/4-1/3 c. whole milk (above). By brushing a little of this on top of the cake your cake stays super moist! To assemble start with the scraps layer, already in the bottom of the pan. Add a 2 spoonfuls of milk soak on top, spreading it around as best you can (if you have a pastry brush that would be great, too). Next add a 1/2 inch layer of frosting (below left) followed by a layer of crumbs. Try to put the biggest crumbs on the outside edges so they show. Finish with another 1/2 inch layer of frosting. Then add the next layer of cake and repeat: milk soak, frosting, crumbs, frosting, cake layer. On the last cake layer do the milk soak and a thick layer of frosting on top, and finish by making a mound of the remaining crumbles on the center of the cake. Place in FREEZER for at LEAST 2-3 hours with cake ring and acetate still on. If you try to remove the acetate too early the frosting will peel off with it! 


After cake is firm and frozen, remove cake ring and acetate and TA-DA! You have a milk bar cake! Let sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes before serving! 


Thanks for reading! Xx