milkbar strawberry milk cake pocky fork to belly
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Strawberry Milk Cake & A 3rd Blogiversary

Fork to Belly is 3 years old!!! THREE WHOLE YEARS. I can’t imagine how much money I’ve spent on things like butter, flour, and sugar – fun fact: I originally dabbled with using the domain “flourbuttersugar” – or how different my life would feel without getting to connect with so many sweet and truly wonderful people through food and the internet. Who says internet friends can’t be some of the best friends? 🙂

This year’s cake is a version of the ever so wonderful Milkbar Birthday Cake. I’ve never had a slice of one myself, but this cake has been on my to-bake list since I first started this blog. It’s only fitting I’d share it here today in celebration of another year. I swapped the rainbow sprinkles for white and vanilla frosting for strawberry, but the recipe has stayed relatively unchanged after that. What I love so much about this cake is it’s so damn different than any other cake I’ve ever made. The frosting isn’t sweet but the cake itself is, and all the different textures going on? MMM MMM MMM. The crunch of the crumbs and incredible silkiness to the frosting… my mouth is watering just remembering how delicious this cake was! It’s not an easy recipe but if you break it up over 2-3 days it won’t seem so hard at all.

milkbar strawberry milk cake pocky fork to belly milkbar strawberry milk cake pocky fork to belly

milkbar strawberry milk cake pocky fork to belly

Last week I turned 25 and I am so happy and my heart so full from all the surprises I’ve had in the past few days. As a munchkin I always wanted my parents to throw me some elaborate surprise party. You know, the ones you see in movies where you think none of your friends can make it and you get home turn on the lights and everyone pops up with balloons and presents and a giant cake? That never happened, at least not to me – until this year’s birthday where I had three surprise parties over the course of three days. By the end of it, I was so filled with alcohol and cake I could barely move.

I knew my old college roommate was planning something the weekend before I left for Hawaii because she refused to let me know anything about it. Saturday night, I opened my front door to a small barrage of hugs from my dearest friends in LA, one of the most obnoxious balloons I’ve ever loved so much, a pizza, and a dozen cupcakes from my favorite shop in Downtown. I got to see an old friend from college who’d recently moved back to the city and we drank champagne and sipped whiskey from Roy’s fancy tumblers and played celebrity fish bowl. We made our way over to 7th and Grand where my now very intoxicated college roommate told the bartender it was my birthday and therefore I should get a drink on the house. We ended the night with a quick stop for tacos and I later dug into a cupcake or two or three before collapsing on my bed.

milkbar strawberry milk cake pocky fork to belly milkbar strawberry milk cake pocky fork to belly

milkbar strawberry milk cake pocky fork to belly

The next night, Roy and I headed over to my Aunt & Uncle’s for homemade Persian food where I ate my weight in tahdig and was later surprised with a tiramisu birthday cake served with the most amazing new Häagen-Dazs flavor that I’m ashamed to have forgotten the name of. I’ve been blaming the fact that I left my camera cord and curling iron at home on the fact that I had to pack with my mind all foggy from too much food. And if any of that wasn’t already special enough, a few hours off the plane I was whisked away to a dinner with one of my mom’s friend which turned out to be another surprise birthday dinner Roy had planned with my parents and a few of our best friends at home.

Within the last week since I’ve been home I’ve noticed so many things that I hadn’t realized I’d missed, like the way light shines between the trees in the hours before dusk, waking to the pitter patter of rain, cool winds and the warmth of the sun on my shoulders, the endless blue sky and all its big billowy clouds – so many things I was never too exceptionally amazed by growing up but now can’t seem to stop staring at. These days and moments in between have made me feel like the happiest girl and not just for the wonderful birthday surprises, but also to be able to be here on this little island that I hope to call home again for good someday.

milkbar strawberry milk cake pocky fork to belly

Strawberry Milk Cake
Adapted from Momofuku Milkbar. Recipe makes one 6-inch cake.

for the crumb
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tbsp light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp white sprinkles
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 tbsp clear vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the sugars, cake flour, baking powder, salt, and sprinkles until well combined.
3. With the mixer on low speed, stream in the oil and vanilla extract. The mixture should start to clump together. Once this happens, stop the mixer and transfer the crumbs to a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
4. Bake for 20 minutes. Break up any extra large clumps as needed. However, you will want a variety of sizes for the crumbs. Once baked, store in an airtight container if not using immediately. The crumbs will keep for 1 week at room temperature of 1 month in the fridge or freezer.

for the frosting
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp vegetable shortening
3 oz. cream cheese, cold
1 1/2 tbsp glucose
1 1/2 tbsp corn syrup
1 1/2 tbsp strawberry extract if available or strawberry jam
1 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp (300g) powdered sugar
3/4 tsp salt
a pinch of baking powder
a pinch of citric acid

5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, shortening, and cream cheese on medium-high for 2-3 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl afterwards.
6. With the mixer on low, pour in the glucose, corn syrup, and strawberry extract or jam. Beat on medium-high for 2-3 minutes until the mixture turns silky smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
7. In a separate bowl, sift together the powdered sugar, salt, baking powder, and citric acid. Add the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl and beat on medium-high for another 2-3 minutes. The frosting should be very smooth and resemble the kind you can buy in a plastic tub at the grocery store. If making ahead of time, transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

for the cake
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 tbsp light brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
2 tsp clear vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp white sprinkles, separated

8. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a quarter sheet pan (10 x 15 in.) and line with parchment paper and set aside.
9. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugars on medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the eggs and mix for another 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl again.
10. With the mixer on low speed, stream in the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract. Increase the mixer to medium-high speed for 4-6 minutes until the mixture doubles in size and is completely homogenous. Do not rush this step. Make sure that there are no uncombined streaks of fat or liquid in the batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
11. On the mixer’s lowest speed, add in the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/4 cup of sprinkles. Mix for 45-60 seconds until the batter comes together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
12. Pour the batter into the sheet pan and use a spatula to spread the batter out evenly. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons sprinkles around the top of the batter.
13. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Check the cake at 30 minutes by poking the top with your finger. If the cake bounces back then it’s done baking. If not, leave it in for another 5 minutes and check again. Once ready, set on a wire rack to cool completely.

for the cake soak
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp clear vanilla extract

14. Whisk together the milk and vanilla extract in a small bowl.

assembly
Watch this video for visual reference!

vanilla crumbs
strawberry frosting, split into three even portions
one 10×15 in. layer of vanilla cake
1/4 cup of cake soak

1. Use a 6 inch cake ring to cut three rounds of cake from the single layer we baked in the sheet pan. My sheet pan was slightly larger and I was able to get four thinner layers in total. If using a 10 x 15 in. pan, you should get two full rounds and two half circles. Don’t throw away any cake scraps as that can be used to fill the gaps between the two half circles and act as another full layer of cake.
2. Cut a piece of acetate to fit flush against the sides of a 6 inch cake ring. Place the ring on a cake board or serving platter.
2. Gently slide a full round of cake down the acetate tube and tuck it into the bottom of the cake ring. Use a pastry brush and wet the bottom layer with the cake soak. Use a spoon to spread 1/3 of the frosting into an even layer on top the cake. Add crumbs.
3. Take the two half circles of cake and fit them over the top of the crumbs. Use extra cake scraps to fill any gaps between the two circles to form a cohesive layer. Add more cake soak, frosting, and crumbs, and repeat the same process for the last layer of cake. Decorate the top of the cake with as many crumbs as desired.
4. Transfer the cake to the freezer to firm up overnight. Let it defrost a little at room temperature before removing the acetate and cake ring the next day. One the frosting has become tacky, decorate with your favorite asian candies and serve!

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About Courtney C.

  • happy, happy birthday to you and your blog!

  • happy birthday and happy blogiversary! it sounds like you had/are having an amazing time with great company (and ofc wonderful food). on a semi-random note, there’s a buzzfeed vid about taste testing “unusual” pocky flavors and um (while tasty) none of them were unusual.

    • YESSS I totally watched that! I think it’s pretty hard to get a lot of the same flavors that are in Japan – though I did see orange, banana, and *men’s pocky* recently lol

      • oh, men’s pocky. i remember it being pretty good the one time i had it, but still questioning the marketing dept on that one.

  • Rachel | La Pêche Fraîche

    This is the dreamiest post! I love the whimsy of every photo—and you are such a beauty! So glad to hear that you had a wonderful birthday, here’s to many, many more for you and Fork to Belly! Big hugs!! xxxxx

    • Aww thank you so much, Rachel! You are always too sweet<3

  • happy anniversary! omg that cake is festivity encapsulated. many happy returns!

  • YAYAYAY happy blog birthday (and real life birthday)!!! I’m so in love with this beautiful cake, it’s so whimsical and happy! Your blog is totally one of my favs, you are a total inspiration! <3

    • Thanks Erica!! Your comments are always so sweet, lady 🙂

  • Mon Petit Four

    You and your cake are gorgeous!! Happy birthday to you (and your blog!)! This cake truly looks incredible.

    P.S. surprise parties rule!! <3

  • Happy birthday and happy blog birthday!! Love your alterations to the milk bar birthday cake – it’s been on my to-make list forever as well, and the strawberry frosting is such a lovely twist (+ your gif of unpeeling the acetate is the BEST).

    • YOU HAVE TO TRY IT. I swear, it’s an experience. So different but definitely one of the best cakes I’ve ever made.

  • Happppppy birthday Courtney!! (sorry, so belated!!) man what an awesome amount of birthday-partying! 25, I could be your teen mom!! LOL! I love this cake so much and the photos are beautiful as always. Happy 3rd birthday Fork To Belly too! Your recipes and ideas are always so creative and hilarious and I’m so glad your blog is around to make the internet better!! XO

    • Hi Lyndsay!!! I don’t even feel like I’m 25 yet, I’m really not good at being an adult lol. And thank you so much, you are seriously the sweetest. I absolutely love getting comments from you! <3