A couple of months ago, I was watching the Chef’s Table episode on Netflix that highlights Christina Tosi, the founder of Milk Bar. For those of you unfamiliar, she was the pastry chef at Momofuku, and through experimentation, developed her now-famous cereal milk ice cream and pioneered the now ubiquitous “naked” birthday cake that doesn’t have icing on the outside of the cake. As I was watching the episode, I remembered that the Milk Bar a few blocks away from my apartment offers classes of all kinds, so I texted my sister Jennifer and asked her if she wanted to take the Birthday Cake Class, and she was in!
In case you’re interested, they also offer chocolate birthday cake classes, strawberry lemon cake classes, and milk bar pie classes. They also offer classes in New York and Los Angeles in case you aren’t local to DC. (And, if you’re not local to any of those three cities, but playing tourist, I think this would be such a fun experience to sign up for on a trip!) The birthday cake class was $95/person, but we walked away with a six-inch birthday cake and a dozen or so birthday cake truffles each, which is a retail value of about $75. Given that, the cost of the class nets out to about $20, so I think the class is such a great value given how fun the experience was and how much you walk away with.
Since cakes take several hours to bake, this is an assembly/decorating class as opposed to a cake baking class. However, they do give you the recipe for the cake, so if you want to recreate it at home in your own kitchen, you totally can!
We arrived to class to check-in and sign the waiver 15 minutes before it started, and were given Christina Tosi bandanas to wear, which was such a fun way to pull the brand through this experience. I will also say that the early bird gets the worm in this class—cake assembly stations are first come, first served, and since we arrived early, we were able to snag spots in the front row.
When we started class, they brought us each out our own sheet pan of funfetti birthday cake, which is seriously the dream. One great thing about this class is they really encourage eating throughout the class—you can nibble only your cake or lick your icing as much as you want!
Even though we were making a circular cake, they cook the cake batter in a 1″ sheet pan so that it bakes evenly. To get three layers out of the singular sheet pan, we were instructed to cut two full circles and then two half circles, which would be put together to make the third complete circle. The leftover cake was used to fill in any uneven spaces between the two half circles or for our snaking enjoyment!
We built our cakes into a six-inch cake ring that had a piece of acetate in it so we could build up to three layers. The first layer of cake was the two half circles, and then to ensure the cake was very moist, we added a soak of two tablespoons of vanilla milk.
After the soak had a minute to set, we iced the first layer. Since it’s a naked cake, the key is to make sure you ice all the way to the edge of the acetate and there are no holes. Once the icing is well spread, we took our container of birthday cake crumbs and set aside the crumbs we wanted to decorate the top portion of our cake. The rest of the crumbs would be split between the two inside layers of the cake. To make sure the cake crumbs don’t fall out when you cut the cake, we put another spoonful of icing on top of them to set them in place.
We repeated those steps until we built the cake into a three-layer cake. Then we could decorate the top however we wanted to! Jennifer spread her cake crumbs all over the top of her cake in an abstract way whereas I opted for a ring design around my cake.
After our cakes were complete, there was a 15 minute break in class. During this time, they collected our cakes, put them in the freezer so they would be strong enough for us to take home, and cleaned up the classroom.
The second portion of class was dedicated to making birthday cake truffles. For this, we worked in teams of five or six to roll the cake into circular balls, coat them in white chocolate, and then dip them in ground cake crumb. The truffles were delicious—I actually enjoyed eating them more than the cake, since the cake is a tad too rich in my opinion!—but I enjoyed assembling our cakes more.
I had the best time at Milk Bar’s Birthday Cake Class and would definitely do it again in the future. This would be such a fun outing with girlfriends, for a baby shower, as part of a bachelorette party in DC—you name it. Let them eat cake!