“You want me to make a choice?” manservant exhaled, with the fork still in his hand. It wasn’t like I was making him choose between Penelope Cruz or Angelina Jolie, for God’s sake. No, I just wanted to know which birthday cake he preferred. Our standard, triple layer, chocolate fudge cake or the new one set before him made from components of the Milk Bar cookbook. Was it the banana cake layered with chocolate malted crumbs, fudge sauce and nutella frosting or the perfectly moist, chocolatey, to die for fudge frosting, chocolate cake that I’ve been making for over thirty years? “Well”, he looked at me totally perplexed with his mouth still full of banana cake. “Well”, with a glint in his eye, he said, “Maybe…Maybe you could rotate every other year?” Nothing like diplomatic-my manservant.
The truth is – it is a hard choice. I love the old fashioned taste of a good cake, and the devil’s food chocolate layer cake certainly fits the bill. But now and then, it is time to discover something new and Milk Bar’s cake certainly does THAT. So, I guess it is time for a wrap up. I’ve been baking a lot from the Milk Bar cook book and it is now time to return it to the library. After three renewals, I can’t renew it anymore. I did clean the pages really well and I think they are now unstuck. I need to buy this book.
I loved baking from it. But I will also admit I didn’t love everything I baked. I loved it because it is fun to try new ideas and see what great chefs come up with. It is fun to get in their head and see what they do and let me assure you that Christina Tosi has an incredible head. In my opinion, not everything in the book is worth the trouble but I was able to learn from everything I did. And that is worth the price of the book.
So here goes:
1. I made the chocolate crumb cookies with dried cherries. Totally worth it.
2. Black Pepper brioche turned into garlic bread. A bit too salty with a quick bread texture. It made great croutons, but this is one I wouldn’t do again. Not sure if this is how it was supposed to be, but this is how it was for me!
3. Hot Fudge Sauce – this was a good one!
4. White Chocolate Crumbs should be in anyone’s pantry. They can be added to cakes, cookies, used as a topping on ice cream or fruit, in oatmeal, on yogurt or just to snack on. All the crumbs I tried made anything taste new and fresh and the crumbs themselves are addicting!
5. Cinnamon Bun Pie – this was so good and we all wanted seconds of which there were NONE! But the consensus was that since it is easier to make a cinnamon roll, why go to all the trouble to make this? If I owned a restaurant, like this was intended for, then I would make these again. Hmm. Maybe I should open a restaurant.
6. Bagel Bombs – OMG. Yes, these were a hit and I still have frozen cream cheese balls ready for the next go round. These utilize the mother dough recipe which is then wrapped around scallion bacon frozen cream cheese balls and then baked. Yes. It tastes like a bagel loaded to the gills exploded in your mouth. And they were easy to make!
7.Banana Cake with Nutella Frosting and Malted Chocolate Crumbs. YES, you know the answer to this. It is now in the rotation, not that I have one.
8. Birthday Cake- this is a sprinkle style confetti cake that to my daughter and myself was not worth the trouble. I’m not saying it was bad but I think you can capture the same effect with the boxed cake. My daughter has made the boxed cake and totally concurs. However she tells me, I should still make the crumbs and put it in the cake rings to make it pretty. Notice she said-me!
9. Crack Pie – I did not make this for this go round, but I have made it before. If you like pecan pie, you will adore this. It was a bit too sweet for me but I can see why most love it.
There are still many things from this book I need to take on. The carrot cake sounds very yummy as does the apple pie cake. I didn’t try the Volcanoes made with caramelized onions and scalloped potatoes. They sound like a knish on steroids and I need to make these soon! They also have a blue cheese version. I’m told the peanut butter cookies are the best out there but I am not a huge pb fan so I skipped those. There is still a lot I skipped. Bummer.
A few tips if you choose to cook from this book. Plan ahead and read everything carefully. In general the directions are very good but there were a few times I had to beat things a bit longer than required. I would say it’s pretty necessary to have a good stand mixer. I did buy glucose, but other than that I used regular ingredients. You can find glucose at cake decorating stores and I bet it is even in cake decorating departments like Michael’s.
Christina’s recipes have lots of steps. None of them are that hard. Most can be done ahead so you can make the entire recipe over a few days if that helps. I combined parts of different recipes without a problem. Like the following cake… I didn’t want the banana cream filling so I used a frosting and crumbs. If you read the book, you’ll see how it rocks! I did buy the 6″ cake ring that is three inches deep. AND the acetate strips. I’ve washed the acetate and reused it without a problem. This technique makes a pretty cake but you can simplify and cut the cake in three rectangles and layer them, too.
Give it a try. It’s fun to deviate and try something new like I did with the banana cake. The components of the cake required ingredients I didn’t have such as feuilletine and hazelnut paste. So I just made the cake and combined it with different components from the book. This was a good thing and if Christina wants to use this version, that is OK with me. It was a hit! Manservant was happy and since that is all he received for his birthday, I guess that was a good thing!
Banana Cake with Chocolate Malted Crumbs, Nutella Frosting, and Chocolate Malted Sauce
6 T butter at room temp
1 c sugar
1/2 c buttermilk
2 T neutral tasting oil, like grapeseed
1/2 t banana extract
2 very, very ripe bananas
1 1/3 c flour
3/4 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t kosher salt
Heat the oven to 325. Grease, use parchment or a silpat in a 13 x 9″ pan.
Combine butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg. Mix on medium high for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down bowl once more.
Stream in the buttermilk, oil and banana extract while the paddle swirls on low speed. Increase mixer speed to medium high and paddle for 5-6 minutes, until the mixture is practically white and twice the size of your original fluffy butter and sugar mixture and completely homogenous. Basically you are forcing to much liquid into an already fatty mixture that doesn’t want to make room for it, so if after 6 minutes it doesn’t look right, keep mixing. You will see little fat globules in the mixture. They must be evenly distributed. No streaks! Scrape the sides of the bowl periodically. I did beat this for about 10 minutes.
On low speed, add the bananas and mix for about 60 seconds to ensure all the bananas have broken down.
On low speed, add the flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Mix until all dry ingredients have been incorporated-about 45 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Give the bottom of the pan a hard tap on the countertop to even out the layer. Bake for 25-30 minutes. The cake will rise and puff, doubling in size, but will remain slightly buttery and dense. At 25 minutes gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger; it should bounce back and the center should not be jiggly. Leave the cake in the oven for an extra 3-5 minutes if necessary.
Take cake out and cool on a wire rack. You can store the cake in the fridge or freezer wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 5 days.
8 T butter
1 c nutella
8 T confectioners sugar
1/4 t kosher salt
Put the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle, beat on medium high speed, until it is completely smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl.
Add the nutella, confectioners sugar and salt and mix on high until the frosting is fluffy and has no lumps; about 3-4 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix for 15 seconds to make sure it is nice and smooth. No fair tasting. This can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one month. Bring to room temp before using.
Chocolate Malted Crumbs
2/3 c flour
1 t cornstarch
1/4 c sugar
1/3 c cocoa
1/3 c chocolate malted Ovaltine
1 t kosher salt
6 T melted butter
Heat the oven to 300.
Combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa, Ovaltine and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and paddle on low speed until mixed.
Add the butter and paddle on low speed until the mixture starts to come together in small clusters.
Spread the clusters on a parchment or Silpat lined sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes. The crumbs should be slightly moist to the touch;they will dry and harden as they cool. Let cool completely before using in a recipe. They will keep fresh on a counter in a zip lock bag for a long time. Don’t ask me how I know. You could freeze them if you want!
Chocolate Malt Fudge Sauce
4 oz 60% dark chocolate chopped (this is how I did it)
1 c Chocolate Malted Ovaltine
1 t molasses
1/4 t kosher salt
1/2 c glucose or 1/2 c light corn syrup
1/4 c sugar
1/2 c heavy cream
Combine chocolate, Ovaltine in a medium bowl. Mix it up.
Combine glucose, sugar, molasses and heavy cream in a heavy bottomed saucepan and stir intermittently while bringing to a boil over high heat. The moment it boils, pour into the bowl holding the chocolate. Let sit for one full minute.
Slowly begin to whisk the mixture. Then continue, increasing the vigor of your whisking until the mixture is glossy and silky smooth. This will take 2-4 minutes, depending on your speed and strength. You can use this or store it for up to two weeks. Do not freeze. You can heat it in the microwave on low in 30 second increments for two minutes of you like hot fudge. If not-never mind….
1/4 c milk
2 T Ovaltine
Whisk together until Ovaltine is dissolved.
I used a 6″ ring with a 3″ acetate strip to hold the layers. You could also cut the cake into three rectangles and assemble it that way.
1. Invert cake out of pan onto a parchment lined counter top. Stamp out the top right corner with your cake ring and the lower bottom left. The rest will still be used.
2. Clean the cake ring and place it in the center of a sheet pan lined with clean parchment or a silpat pad. Use one strip of acetate to line the inside of the cake ring.
3. Put the cake scraps inside the ring and use the back of your hand to tamp the cake scraps together into a flat, even layer.
4. Dunk the pastry brush into the Ovaltine soak and give the layer of cake a good bath.
5. Using the back of a spoon, spread some chocolate fudge over the cake layer.
6. Top the fudge with a layer of crumbs.
7. Top the crumbs with a layer of hazelnut frosting. Spread it around.
8. More fudge.
9. Now tuck the second strip of acetate between the cake ring and the top 1/4″ of the first strip of acetate, so you now have a clear ring about 5-6 inches tall. Set a layer of banana cake on the fudge.
10. Repeat above steps.
11. After repeating the steps, top with the third cake round. Do the Ovaltine soak. Do the fudge. Do the crumbs. Do the frosting. Now do more crumbs. Drizzle with a little fudge.
12. Transfer the sheet to the freezer and freeze for a minimum of 12 hours. The cake will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks. At least three hours before serving, pull the sheet pan out of the freezer and using your fingers and thumbs, pop the cake out of the bottom of the ring. Gently peel off the acetate and transfer the cake to your serving plate. Let it defrost in the fridge for at least three hours but I like it at room temp so let it sit at room temp for another 20 minutes before serving.
NOTE: This cake would also be superb with just the cake and the nutella frosting. If you choose to keep it simple that is OK by me!
And please congratulate me for the world’s longest post!