If you're a Netflix junkie (who isn't in 2018?), you'll know that the popular series Chef's Table recently added a new season dedicated to pastry. The first episode features Milk Bar founder, Christina Tosi, and explores her reimagining of desserts. With menu items like crack pie, corn cookies, and birthday cake truffles, this "bakery" is a step away from traditional American favourites.
I've been a fan of milk bar for years. And while I had tried all the items mentioned above, I'd always been curious about their peculiar birthday cake. Now you must understand: I am the biggest fan of cake. I mean I am Lily Muffins after all.
So one fateful day, with my curiosity swirling inside of me, I took the plunge and shelled out a weeks worth of lunch money on this infamous dessert, or in my case, dinner.
For my fellow Torontonians, Milk Bar has a location downtown within the Shangri La hotel near University and Queen. Though it's hidden in the second floor within the momofuku restaurant, it's stocked full of popular goodies.
I headed upstairs, picked up a cake and made my way home at the end of a long work week.
In a very enthusiastic state of mind, I was looking forward to having cake for dinner on a Friday night. So here is my full review, coming from a cake-a-holic. Below I've given my full honest opinion using a rating system I have devised for the sole purpose of this post.
*Ratings below are represented as slices of cake. 5 slices (🍰) equals a full cake (🎂) - so 5 outta 5.
Very trendy. Given the popularity of "rustic" or unfrosted cakes, especially with weddings, pop culture skews toward this look. The many layers make the cake slightly majestic but in an approachable way. However, the crumb topping is extremely hard, making it difficult to slice at times.
Aesthetically, the cake is pleasing sans frosted sides, so I've given it a 5 🍰 out of 🎂.
Taste and texture: Cake
I've heard of these people that use cake simply as a vehicle for frosting. Somehow, these individuals walk the earth without appreciation for a perfectly textured slice of spongy cake. I, however, am not one of those people. I. Love. Cake.
And although I picked this dessert up in Toronto, it's my understanding that all Milk Bar products are actually flown in from NYC. So obviously, time and distance factor in the quality of consumed product. Having heard so much hype about this cake, I had very high expectations. And knowing the deliciousness of other Milk Bar desserts, the bar raised even higher. However, when the time came to bite into the slice of presumed heaven, l have to admit I was disappointed.
Now, this is not to say that the cake was so dry that an avalanche of crumbs tumbled to my plate. But the moist, freshness that give cakes that ever-so-desirable quality was seriously lacking. However I'm, chalking this up to sheer travel distance (and time). I mean, after a long road trip, people aren't exactly at peak quality either.
Cake texture earned a respectable 3.5 🍰 out of 🎂from me this round.
Taste and texture: Frosting
In the Netflix episode, Christina's rationale for not frosting the sides is that it's simply unnecessary. Now as a passionate cake-lover, I thought this would be appalling. Frosting is easily the best part of the cake, right?
Well, most cakes.
This concern was addressed head on, and I'm happy to report that the many layers of cake make up for the lack of outer layer frost. However, be warned of the misleading use of CREAM CHEESE in this not-so traditional birthday cake.
Expecting the usual vanilla buttercream that everyone pairs with a birthday cake, I was thrown astray when I finally determined the root of the bitterness my mouth was experiencing. The light use of cream cheese in Milk bar's frosting was certainly not something I anticipated (or condone). And while I'm a huge fan of cream cheese frosting, I have strong opinions about it belonging on a white confetti cake. Should this cake ever be made in my kitchen, it will be frosted perfectly white with some sort of vanilla buttercream (be it American, Italian or even roux-based).
Thus, due to the sheer unpleasant surprise of the tang in this frosting, I've scored it 2 🍰 out of 🎂.
This cake is definitely higher quality than most cakes I've bought in my lifetime. For Toronto folks, all Milk Bar products are shipped in from NYC, which deteriorates the quality to a certain extent. If I were to purchase a fresher cake, and now knowing the cream-cheese frosting situation, I'm sure it would gain a few more points in my book.
For now, I'll be reaching for birthday cake truffles when a craving for Milk Bar hits. Or now since summer has finally arrived in Toronto, I'll be serving up some crack-pie soft serve ice cream.
If you've tried a Milk Bar cake (any kind) share your pictures and opinions with me on Instagram. I'm always up for a healthy discussion on not-so-healthy food!