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I bought Christina Tosi’s recipe book for Momofuku Milk Bar a few weeks ago, and got it in the mail last week. Milk bar is the sweets branch of David Chang’s growing Momofuku empire. A few years ago when I went to NYC to visit a friend, we went to Milk Bar and got their compost cookie, which is a cookie that has everything but the kitchen sink in it : coffee grounds, potato chips, pretzels… It sounded like the most unlikely combination for a cookie, but was it tasty! 

In skimming through the recipes from Milk Bar cookbook, I can tell a lot of time have been spent developing the unlikely flavor combinations and texture of the desserts. Quite a few of the recipes call for ingredients such as xanthan gum, glucose, milk powder, acetate sheets, etc.. I was able to find these ingredients through local health, organic, and specialty food stores. If you have no luck finding these items at your local stores, there is always amazon.com, where these items are all available at an affordable price.

I would suggest trying to get the correct ingredients as much as possible, as cooking, especially baking, is so much based on chemical reactions, and without the correct ingredients, the outcome will not be quite the same.

The first recipe I tried from this recipe book is a chocolate chip layer cake with passion fruit curd, coffee buttercream, and chocolate crumbles. The cool thing about this cake is that the sides are left unfrosted so you can see all the wonderful layers of filling and cake, and even though there are three layers of cake, the cake batter is baked in one quarter sheet pan at once, so the cake bakes evenly, and you don’t have to worry about one layer thicker or thinner than others.

Each component of the cake takes some time to make, but the assembled cake can be frozen for a few weeks, and the refrigerated cake is good for 5 days, so you can make the components well ahead of time.

To make the chocolate chip cake, butter and sugar are creamed together in a stand mixer, with a paddle attachment, on medium high until well combined, then eggs are added and mixed for another few minutes.

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Buttermilk, grapeseed oil, and vanilla extract are added to the batter and beaten until its white and doubled in volume. You should check the consistency of the batter as sometimes the batter on the bottom of the mixer bowl is thinner than the rest because the attachments does not reach all the way to the bottom of the bowl.

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Cake flour, baking powder, and salt are added to the batter and mixed at low speed for about 40 to 60 seconds until thoroughly mixed. It’s also a good idea to give the batter a few more folds with a large spatula to make sure the batter at the bottom of the bowl is well mixed as well.

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The batter is spread in an even layer in a quarter sheet baking pan lined with parchment paper.

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Chocolate chips are sprinkled on top of the cake batter, and baked in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, then cooled on a rack, and set aside in the fridge until ready for use. The cake can be stored for up to 5 days in the fridge.

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To make the passion fruit curd, I used fresh passion fruit pulp, but you can purchase passion fruit concentrate/purée online.

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Fresh pulp is blended together with sugar until the sugar has completely dissolved. Then eggs are added and blended into the sugar mixture, and the mixture transferred to a saucepan.

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Meanwhile, some gelatin is bloomed in a small bowl with a tablespoon of water until soft. This will be your binding agent.

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Heat the passion fruit, sugar and eggs mixture on low heat until thickened, then the mixture is transferred to a blender or processor and blended with the gelatin, salt, and butter until silky smooth.

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The mixture is transferred to a bowl and chilled completely in the fridge. The curd will keep for up to a week in the fridge but do not freeze it, it will change the consistency of the curd.

To make the coffee buttercream frosting, butter and powdered sugar are combined in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and creamed together until pale yellow.

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Milk and instant coffee are added together in a small bowl with a pinch of salt and whisked together.

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With the mixer running on low, the coffe milk is streamed in, a few tablespoon at a time, to the butter and powdered sugar mixture. Really take your time with this and make sure the previous batch of milk is fully incorporated before adding more milk. The frosting may look watery at first with the milk refusing to be incorporated into the butter, but with time the frosting will come together into a very silky, creamy and fluffy consistency.

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The frosting should be used immediately, so it is the only component that should be made at the time of cake assembly.

To make the chocolate crumbs, flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt are mixed together in the bowl of a stand mixer. The recipe tells you to use the paddle attachment to mix together the dry ingredients, but in my experience that would usually result in a puff of the dry ingredients rising up from the bowl and covering everything with in a 1 meter distance. So in this case I simply whisked the ingredients together in a bowl before dumping it into the stand mixer.

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Melted butter is added to the dry ingredients and paddled on low speed until the mixture starts to clump together.

The clusters are spread on parchment or Silpat lined sheet pan and baked for 20 minutes. The crumbs should be slightly moist still and will harden as they cool.

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The crumbs can be kept at room temp for up to a week, or a month in the fridge.

Now that all the individual components to the cake are complete, it’s time to assemble the cake.

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The quarter sheet cake is released from the pan and placed on a clean surface. The recipe calls for cake rings to stamp out the cake, but I just used my 6 inch springform pan without the bottom. Two whole cakes are stamped out of the cake sheet.

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Then two half cakes are stamped out. These will make up your three layers of cake.

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The cake ring is placed on a plastic cutting board, and an acetate cake collar is placed inside of the cake ring. I made my cake collar out of some bendable plastic folder material since I was not able to find acetate sheets at office depot, but you can find them through amazon.com.

Two cake halves are arranged in the springform cake ring.

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Half of the passion fruit curd is spread evenly on top of the cake, and chocolate crumbles sprinkled over.

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A third of the coffee frosting is spread on top of the crumbs, and the next layer of cake placed on top of the frosting.

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the process is repeated again with the next layer of cakes.

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When you get to the final layer of cake, the remaining third of the coffee buttercream frosting is spread on top of the cake, and topped with some extra chocolate chips and chocolate crumbles.

The cake is put into the freezer for a minimum of 12 hours, and up to 2 weeks. The day you are serving the cake, it’s taken out of the freezer and into the fridge at least 3 hours in advance. After removing the cake ring, you can see all the lovely layers of the cake.

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The acetate sheet can be easily peeled of, and your cake can be wrapped in plastic wrap until its ready to be served.

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The resulting cake is fluffy, creamy, with tiny bits of chocolate crumbles to mix things up. While it is time consuming, it can easily be broken down and be made ahead of time. I can’t wait to try all of the other recipes in this cookbook!

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