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+ servings

Momofuku Milk Bar Chocolate Chip Layer Cake Recipe

yield: 1 (6-inch) 3-layer cake
Prep Time: 25 mins
Work Time: 1 hr 10 mins
Bake Time: 50 mins
4.89 from 17 votes
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Special Equipment

  • parchment paper
  • air tight containers
  • a stand mixer with a paddle attachment
  • a bench scraper
  • a blender OR immersion blender
  • a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan
  • a 9 x 13-inch quarter sheet pan
  • a 6-inch cake ring with 2-inch OR 3-inch tall sides
  • acetate paper, cut into one 20-inch long x 6-inch tall rectangular strip OR cut into two 20-inch long x 3-inch tall rectangular strips
  • a pastry brush

Ingredients

For the Chocolate Crumbs

  • cup (1.85 ounces or 53 grams) all-purpose flour
  • cup (1.15 ounces or 33 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted if necessary
  • ¼ cup (1.75 ounces or 50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 Tablespoons (1.5 ounces or 43 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

For the Passion Fruit Curd

  • ½ cup (3.5 ounces or 100 grams) passion fruit puree, strained of seeds
  • cup (2.30 ounces or 65 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons cold water
  • ½ teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks or 6 ounces or 170 grams) cold unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

For the Chocolate Chip Cake

  • 1 ½ cups (6.5 ounces or 185 grams) cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick or 4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups (8.80 ounces or 250 grams) granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup tightly packed (2.15 ounces or 60 grams) light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup (3.85 ounces or 110 grams) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • ½ cup (2.65 ounces or 75 grams) grapeseed oil
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup (5.30 ounces or 150 grams) mini chocolate chips

For the Coffee Frosting

  • ½ cup (1 stick or 4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (1.40 ounces or 40 grams) confectioner's sugar, sifted if necessary
  • ¼ cup (1.95 ounces or 55 grams) whole milk, at room temperature
  • ¾ teaspoon instant coffee powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Assembly

  • 1 recipe Chocolate Chip Cake (from above)
  • cup (2.15 ounces or 60 grams) passion fruit puree, strained of seeds
  • 1 recipe Passion Fruit Curd (from above)
  • ½ recipe Chocolate Crumb (from above)
  • 1 recipe Coffee Frosting (from above)
  • ¼ cup (1.40 ounces or 40 grams) mini chocolate chips

Instructions

Chocolate Crumb Recipe

  • Prep the oven and pan. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 300°F. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.
  • Mix the dry ingredients, then add the butter. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Mix on low speed until combined, 30 seconds.
    With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the butter. Beat on low for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the dough starts to come together in small clusters and crumbs.
  • Bake the crumbs. Use a rubber spatula to spread the clusters on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes, using a bench scraper to break them up every 4 to 5 minutes. After 20 minutes, the crumbs should still be slightly most to the touch at that point. They will harden and dry as they cool.
  • Store for assembling the layer cake. Cool the crumbs in the pan on a wire rack completely before storing or using in the recipe. The crumbs will keep, in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to 1 week. The crumbs will also keep, in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 1 month.

Passion Fruit Curd Recipe

  • Blend the passion fruit, sugar, and eggs. Combine the passion fruit puree and sugar in the blender's pitcher. Blend on high until the sugar dissolves, 1 minute. Add the eggs and blend on low until combined, another minute. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the mixture into a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  • Bloom the gelatin. Pour the water into a small bowl or mug. Sprinkle the powdered gelatin evenly over the surface of the water. Let sit for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the gelatin is soft but still keeps its shape and does not fall apart (see Baker's Tips).
  • Cook the passion fruit mixture, then blend with the gelatin, butter, and salt. Bring the the passion fruit mixture to a boil over medium-low heat, whisking continuously. Once it boils, remove it from the heat and use a rubber spatula to scrape the mixture back into the blender's pitcher.
    Add the bloomed gelatin, butter, and salt and immediately blend until the mixture is thick, shiny, and super smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Store for assembling the layer cake. To store, pour the passion fruit curd into an airtight container. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Cover with a lid and refrigerate for up to 1 week; do NOT freeze.

Chocolate Chip Cake Recipe

  • Prep the oven and cake pan. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously spray a quarter sheet pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. Spray the parchment, too.
  • Mix the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Beat the butter and sugars. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugars. Beat on medium until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume, 3 to 4 minutes, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary.
  • Add the eggs, oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and dry ingredients. Reduce the mixer to low and add the eggs one at a time, adding the next egg only after the previous one has been fully incorporated, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the oil, followed by the buttermilk and vanilla, and beat until the mixture is smooth, 3 to 4 minutes.
    Gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl once more, and beat on low for an additional 30 seconds.
  • Assemble the cake for baking. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to smooth its top if necessary. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the batter.
  • Bake the cake. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. When done, the top of the cake should bounce back when gently pressed and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake should come out with a few crumbs attached. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before storing or using for assembly.
  • Store for assembling the layer cake. Turn the cake out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to tightly wrap the entire cake (you may need an additional sheet or two of plastic wrap to cover it completely). The cake will keep, at room temperature, for up to 1 day. The cake will also keep in the freezer, wrapped in an additional layer of aluminum foil, for up to 3 months.

Coffee Frosting Recipe

  • Beat the butter and sugar. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-low until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer to low and add the confectioners' sugar until combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make the coffee milk. While the butter and sugar is creaming, make the coffee milk. Whisk together the milk, coffee powder, and salt in a small bowl.
  • Slowly add the coffee milk to the butter and sugar. Once the butter is light and fluffy, scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl once more. With the mixer on medium-high speed, slowly add the coffee milk, one tablespoon at a time—do NOT add more coffee milk until the previous addition is fully mixed into the frosting! It will take a long time for the two ingredients to combine. Be patient! At first, the butter will clump and separate when the coffee milk is poured in. Keep beating until light, fluffy, and shiny, about 5 minutes.
    Use immediately for assembling the layer cake.

Assembly

  • First, prep the chocolate chip sheet cake for cutting. Place a piece of parchment paper large enough to hold the chocolate chip cake on your counter. Invert the cake onto it; peel and discard the parchment from the bottom of the cake.
  • Cut the sheet cake into the different layers. Use the cake ring to stamp out 2 full circles and 2 half circles from the cake.
  • The full circles will be your top two cake layers, while the half circles and remaining cake scraps will come together to make the bottom layer of the cake.
  • Prep the cake ring and acetate cake collar. Clean the cake ring and place it in the center of a sheet pan lined with clean parchment paper. Line the inside of the cake ring with the acetate paper (if using two strips of acetate paper, just use one strip).
  • Make the bottom layer of the Milk Bar chocolate chip cake. Nestle the two half circles in the cake ring, pressing their round sides against the cake ring. There will be a gap in the middle of the circles—this is totally okay, I promise!
  • Fill the gap between the two half circles with the remaining cake scraps. Use the back of your hand to press the scraps together to fit into the space. Head's up that you're going to have more scraps than can fit in the gap—that's totally normal, I promise! Simply take the excess scraps and press them down evenly on top of the rest of the cake layer, using the back of your hand to create a flat and even layer.
    At this point, the acetate collar will start to wrinkle from the pressure of the cake. Don't worry about it too much! It will even back out when you add the middle and top layer.
  • Brush the bottom layer with half of the passion fruit puree for assembly. Use a pastry brush to brush half of the passion fruit puree for assembly over the layer. If using a digital scale to weigh out the passion fruit puree, you'll need approximately 1 ounce (30 grams) of passion fruit puree for this layer.
  • Spread the half of the passion fruit curd over the bottom layer. Use the back of a spoon or a small rubber spatula to spread half of the passion fruit curd in an even layer over the cake. If using a digital scale to weigh out the passion fruit puree, you'll need approximately 6.25 ounces (177 grams) of passion fruit curd for this layer.
    Don't worry too much about making the top of the passion fruit curd smooth—you'll cover it with other ingredients in the next step. The more important thing is to try and spread it as evenly as you can across the top of the cake, and ensure that too much of it doesn't get up on the sides of the acetate collar.
  • Sprinkle half of the chocolate crumbs over the passion fruit curd on the bottom layer. Sprinkle half of the chocolate crumbs over the passion fruit curd. If using a digital scale to weigh out the chocolate crumbs, you'll need approximately 3 ounces (85 grams) of chocolate crumbs for this layer. Use the back of your hand to gently press the crumbs in place.
    If you want to go the extra mile, sprinkle slightly more crumbs along the outer edges of the cake. Christina Tosi recommends doing so in a YouTube tutorial of hers—doing so creates more contrast between layers in the final, assembled cake!
  • Spread a third of the coffee frosting over the chocolate crumbs on the bottom layer. Use the back of a spoon or a small rubber spatula to spread ⅓ of the coffee frosting as evenly as possible over the chocolate crumbs. If using a digital scale to weigh out the coffee frosting, you'll need approximately 1.15 ounces (33 grams) of coffee frosting for this layer.
    This is the most difficult process of assembling the layer cake! The coffee frosting will pull some of the crumbs up, and refuse to spread over their rough texture. But similar to the previous step of spreading the passion fruit curd, don't worry about making the frosting smooth. The more important thing is to try and spread it as evenly as you can across the top of the cake, and ensure that too much of it doesn't get up on the sides of the acetate collar.
  • Make the middle layer of the Milk Bar chocolate chip cake. If you're using two acetate cake collars, gently tuck the second strip of acetate between the cake ring and the top ¼ inch of the first strip of acetate. Doing so creates a ring of acetate that is 5 to 6 inches tall, combined—this will be high enough to support the height of the finished cake.
    Set a cake round on top of the frosting. If one of your cake rounds is jankier than the other, use it in the middle and save the pretty one for the top!
  • Repeat the process for brushing the middle layer with the remaining half of the passion fruit puree, the remaining half of the passion fruit curd, the remaining half of the chocolate crumbs, and a ⅓ (1.15 ounces or 33 grams) of the coffee frosting.
  • Make the top layer of the Milk Bar chocolate chip cake. Once you've finished assembling the passion fruit puree, passion fruit curd, chocolate crumb, and coffee layers of the coffee frosting, set the final cake round on top of the frosting.
  • Frost the top layer of the Milk Bar chocolate chip cake with the remaining coffee frosting. Use the back of a spoon or a small rubber spatula to spread the remaining coffee frosting as evenly as possible over the top layer. Again, don't worry about making the frosting smooth! You'll cover it with mini chocolate chips in the next step.
  • Garnish the frosted Milk Bar chocolate chip cake with the mini chocolate chips for assembly. Garnish the frosting with the remaining mini chocolate chips for assembly.
  • Freeze the cake. Transfer the sheet pan with the cake to the freezer. Freeze, uncovered and fully assembled, for a minimum of 12 hours to set the cake and all its fillings. The cake will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
  • Thaw the cake, then serve. At least 3 hours before you are ready to serve the cake, pull the sheet pan out of the freezer and use your fingers and thumbs to gently pop the cake out of the cake ring.
    Transfer the cake to a serving plate or cake stand. Gently peel off the acetate. Defrost in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours (or 1 hour at room temperature) before serving.
  • Store the cake. The assembled cake will keep, uncovered in the refrigerator, for up to 1 day. After that, tightly wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an additional 3 days. Leftover slices can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

Notes

  • Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar
  • To use powdered gelatin, you’ll need to activate its properties by “blooming” it in water. To do so, simply sprinkle the gelatin over the surface of a few tablespoons of water. Just make sure to sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the water! Pouring it into a pile on top of the water will NOT bloom it properly since the granules in the center will remain hard. Allow the granules to soften entirely in the cold water for 3 to 5 minutes—the gelatin has bloomed when it has become soft. If it still has hard bits, it needs to bloom longer. If it’s so soft it is falling apart, it’s over-bloomed! Throw out the gelatin and start over.
  • In a pinch, you can use an immersion blender instead of a traditional blender. However, if you go this route, you’ll need to add the butter slowly instead of all at once. In order to do so, cut the butter into 1-inch cubes. Add the cubes slowly, 1 to 2 pieces at a time, only adding the next portion when the previous portion is fully blended into the mixture.
  • In the cookbook, Christina Tosi warns that there is a ton of liquid and fat in the chocolate chip cake base. She encourages you to make sure that the batter is homogenous at each step (meaning no streaks, discolorations, or any other signs of separation and unincorporation). In fact, the book specifically states that you need to mix the batter on medium-high for AT LEAST 4 to 6 minutes, or until the mixture is “practically white, twice the size of the original fluffy butter-and-sugar mixture, and completely homogenous.” Don’t rush the process!
  • I mentioned this earlier, but making the coffee frosting is the most time-consuming part of the cake. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for the coffee frosting to come together! Add the coffee milk slowly, 1 to 2 Tablespoons at a time, to the butter and confectioners' sugar. Wait until the liquid is fully integrated before adding more. The mixture will look very clumpy—but keep mixing! It will eventually come together. To make the process go by faster, scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl frequently and make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature.
  • In the original recipe, Christina Tosi instructs you to assemble the cake with two acetate cake collars, each roughly around 20 inches long and 3 inches tall. These days, you can easily buy acetate cake collar rolls that are taller and measure either 6 or 8 inches in height. Truthfully, these rolls suit the recipe much better since the resulting cake is around 6 inches tall. So if you opt for a taller cake collar roll, you’ll only need to use one cake collar for the whole cake! But there are some disadvantages to doing so—checkout the Troubleshooting and FAQ section of the blog post for more info!
  • The original recipe is also pretty vague about dividing up the passion fruit puree, passion fruit curd, chocolate crumbs, and coffee frosting between the layers. The book only gives you rough estimates (e.g. “Use half of the passion fruit puree for the bottom layer”) as opposed to giving you exact volume or weight measures for each layers. So the first time I made this cake, it was wildly uneven! I ended up using way more coffee frosting for the first layer, and ran out by the time I needed to frost the rest of the cake. Similarly, I had way too much passion fruit curd and chocolate crumbs in my bottom layer versus the middle layer. So when adapting this recipe for Hummingbird High, I made sure to give you EXACT weight measures of the different components needed for each layer. Doing so ensures an even, perfect cake with just the right textures and quantities for each layer! I mean, truthfully, you can probably just eyeball it too. But why not just strive for perfection?
  • After freezing the cake, the recipe instructs you to pop it out of its cake ring before thawing in the refrigerator. Doing so actually more difficult than I anticipated! The acetate cake collar was frozen around the cake ring. I ended up taking an offset spatula and running it between the acetate and the cake ring. I then pressed my fingers around the outside of the cake, rotating it to methodically apply gentle pressure all around.