On Monday, I caught a death cold (wheezing coughing, extreme fatigue and so much mucus I thought I would never breathe right again) which was probably compounded by staying up until 1 a.m. to finish this cake for my sweet friend, Cali.
Luckily, no one else got sick (although we did have the strangest service at her birthday dinner where the probably well-meaning waiter sliced her cake into fourths and placed a candle in each quarter before bringing it to the table…as if we were each going to eat a quarter of the three-layer, six-inch cake. In his defense, I could probably definitely eat a quarter of this cake but not in polite company!!).
My other friend Christine’s birthday was the following Saturday. After eating a slice with Cali, she very politely requested this same cake and I was thrilled to oblige since Cali’s cake was delicious but ONCE AGAIN lopsided and I needed redemption. If I were to describe the style of cakes I make, it would be “approachable.” Heh.
I wasn’t sure what Cali’s dream dessert flavors were but I didn’t peg her for a chocolate nut, so I went with a vanilla cake, a salty-sweet milk crumb and strawberry frosting. OMG no chocolate to be found and I still ate it. And genuinely enjoyed it. Who am I any more? Is this growing up? I think the answer must unfortunately be yes because during this weekend’s escapades of a Houston breakfast taco tasting from 16 different places, car conversation turned to the acne that is now flaring up on our adult faces, wrinkles and the importance of early skin care and best moisturizers. Nooooooo.
For the cake layers, I used Sweetapolita’s perfect, fluffy, tight-crumbed buttermilk cake. It has a great, delicate, cottony texture yet is sturdy enough to make great layers. I added a pared-down Momofuku milk crumb (minus the white chocolate) between the layers and threw together a very simple buttercream frosting spiked with strawberries and voila! One frosting, one crumb, one cake: this is the easiest Momofuku-style cake I’ve ever made.
I adapted Rosie’s cake recipe slightly to two-thirds the recipe so it fits perfectly in a 9×13 pan, which is ideal for the Momofuku layer cake technique (you’ll stamp out two 6-inch circles of cake and use the remaining scraps to form the third bottom layer). Make sure to either use cake strips or level the cakes manually after baking to avoid lopsided cakes! (These photos are of Cali’s cake, but Christine’s cake was much more normal looking just FYI.)
Strawberry Momofuku Cake
For the vanilla buttermilk cake:
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1 1/3 cups superfine or regular sugar
- 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into pieces
- 1 1/2 tablespoons oil I use olive or vegetable
- 2/3 cup milk room temperature (I use almond milk but any kind will work), mixed with 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (this will be divided in two parts).
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the milk crumb
- 1/2 cup instant nonfat dry milk such as Carnation
- 1 ⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 ⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 1-2 tablespoons milk optional
For the frosting:
- 1 stick of butter room temperature
- 2.5 cups powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- pinch of salt
- scant 1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries chopped (if using frozen strawberries, thaw and drain liquid before using).
For the vanilla buttermilk cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 baking pan.
- Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using an electric beater, add in the butter in small pieces, about 10 seconds apart. Beat until the butter is incorporated in small crumbs, then add the oil and continue to beat until there are no clumps and you have a fine, crumbly, cornmeal-like texture.
- Add 1/2 CUP of the milk to the mixture and beat for 4 minutes (beating for this long will help create a more even consistency that will bake into a more even cake). Beat the eggs and vanilla into the remaining milk mixture and gradually add the egg mixture to the rest of the ingredients. Increase speed to medium and beat for one minute, then scrape down the sides and fold batter a few times to make sure everything is incorporated.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until edges are golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool before cutting.
For the milk crumb:
- Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
- Whisk the dry milk, flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt together. Stir in the melted butter until you get small clumps. If there are too many dry crumbs remaining, add an additional 1-2 tablespoons of milk until you get a mixture with a few pea-sized clumps and some smaller crumbs. Pour onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring once or twice.
For the frosting:
- Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the vanilla and salt. Fold in the strawberries.
- Use the bottom of a six-inch springform pan as a guide to cut out two 6-inch round circles from the 9x13 pan of cake. Remove layers, set aside, and level as necessary.
- Re-assemble the springform pan and line it with plastic wrap. Use the remaining scraps from the 9x13 cake to form an even layer of cake in the bottom of the pan--make this layer the same thickness as the whole layers you just cut out (you will have more than enough scraps, so eat the rest).
- Spread 1/3 of the frosting over the scrap cake base. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the milk crumbs. Add one of the whole layers on top. Repeat with 1/3 of the frosting and 1/3 of the crumbs. Add the last layer of cake and repeat with 1/3 of the frosting and 1/3 of the crumbs.
- I like to freeze the cake, uncovered, until everything has set, then cover the top with foil. Allow to freeze at least 2-3 hours but preferably overnight to help everything set. Thaw for 2-3 hours in the fridge or 1-2 hours at room temperature before serving.