Milk Bar Monday, you are finally here.   I thought you would never come.  This is probably because my inner 8-year-old has been swimming in sprinkles for the last – oh – twenty-something years, if I’m honest.  I mean, really, who doesn’t love all of these multi-colored gems.  And when they stud a sweet vanilla-y cake?  You just can’t go wrong.  Milk Bar Birthday Layer Cake…I am in love.

This cake, you guys, is probably the last cake recipe I’ll ever need.  It’s that good.  I think everyone needs their “go-to” white cake recipe and this is nothing short of amazing.  And it’s not from a box!  BUT it does act like it’s from a box.  I’ve never tasted a homemade recipe that tastes so close to the Funfetti boxed cake mix that I truly adore.

And since we have done a Milk Bar layer cake before, I feel like I was a little more prepared for this one.  It took far less time to put together than last time.  I was familiar with the process of making the batter, baking it, putting the layers together, etc.  It still takes some time and planning because the cake has to cool completely before layering, the cake has to freezer for 12 hours to set, and then thaw for several more in the fridge.  But fear not, not single second of effort is wasted for this cake.

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Birthday Layer Cake Recipe

Yield: 1 6-inch cake

Momofuku Milk Bar recipe for birthday layer cake with sprinkles and frosting resembling the Funfetti boxed cake mix.


for the layer cake:
1 batch birthday cake (recipe below)
1 batch birthday cake crumbs (recipe below)
1 batch birthday cake soak (recipe below)
1 batch birthday cake frosting (recipe below)

2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup + 2 Tbs. rainbow sprinkles
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) salted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbs. light brown sugar, tightly packed
3 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
2 tsp. clear imitation vanilla extract

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tbs. light brown sugar, tightly packed
3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. rainbow sprinkles
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 Tbs. clear imitation vanilla extract

for the birthday cake soak:
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp McCormick brand clear imitation vanilla extract

1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tbs. light corn syrup
1 Tbs. clear imitation vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
pinch baking powder
pinch citric acid


for the birthday cake:
Preheat the 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 a stand 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. Cover with the remaining 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 crumb:
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 soak:
Whisk together the milk and vanilla in a small cup or bowl.

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.

to assemble the layer cake:
Directions: Invert the birthday 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 the 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, it can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.)

Other observations:

– I feel a little at odds with the citric acid in the frosting.  Tosi says to not skip it because it brings out the sweetness.  So I didn’t skip it because you just do what she says.  And then I was frustrated that I didn’t skip it because I felt like my frosting tasted like I had sweezed the juice of a lemon into it and it was not satisfying.  Maybe I just got too much, but I think I’ll leave it out next time.

– The cake and frosting call for vegetable shortening.  Yes, I said shortening.  I don’t bake with shortening, I personally have never bought shortening.  My mom uses shortening in her chocolate chip cookies but I don’t.  However, sticking to the recipe, wanting the most authentic version of this cake as possible, I bought some Crisco.  It was terrifying but I got through.  And I am 100% positive that this cake and the frosting would not be the same without the shortening.  Don’t skimp here.

– When you make the birthday cake crumb, just go ahead and make a double batch.  Inevitably, you will eat half of it by the handful and since the cake needs a full recipe, you’ll end up having to make another batch anyway.  This might be a recommendation that I learned from experience.  Maybe.

– I didn’t use all of the birthday cake soak that the recipe makes.  I know (by the look of my cake) that I used more in the middle layer than the bottom layer.  I wish I would have used a little more on the bottom and a little more on top to even it out, but even still, I don’t think I would have used all of the soak.

– Make this cake.  Like, yesterday.  Just do it.

And check out the other posts here:

Audra – The Baker Chick
Krissy of Krissy’s Creations
Nicole of Sweet Peony Blog
Jacqueline of The Dusty Baker
Erin of Big Fat Baker
Meagen of Scarletta Bakes

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