You don’t need a colorful headband or a denim apron to make Milk Bar magic in your own kitchen, though if you want to go full Christina Tosi, her uniform couldn’t hurt. All you’ll need, as it turns out, are a few baking essentials, some sprinkles and patience.
The lauded Milk Bar founder and James Beard Award-winning pastry chef just shared some of her most iconic recipes, which means we too can whip up layer cakes and cereal milk for every occasion—and though birthdays come but once a year, Tosi’s famed birthday cake truffles are so good we could eat them nonstop (and thanks to this recipe, we just might).
Milk Bar makes these rolled, colorful morsels with the scraps left over from the bakery chain’s layer cakes, but if you’re not attempting one of those towering beauties, you can still whip up the truffles in your own kitchen by following this guide. Not feeling Tosi-levels of enthusiasm? That’s OK, too: As it turns out, you can make these cake truffles using a boxed cake mix straight off a grocery shelf when you don’t feel like baking your own.
Milk Bar’s Birthday Cake Truffles
1 dozen cake bites
Here’s what you’ll need:
For birthday cake base
- 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- ⅓ cup vegetable shortening
- 1¼ cups granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons tightly packed light brown sugar
- ½ cup buttermilk
- ⅓ cup grapeseed oil
- 2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup rainbow sprinkles
- Plus 2 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles, reserved
- 2 cups melted white chocolate, reserved for truffle assembly
For vanilla milk
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
For birthday sand
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 tablespoon tightly packed light brown sugar
- ⅔ cup cake flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon rainbow sprinkles
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
- 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
Here’s how to make birthday cake base:
- Heat oven to 350˚.
- Combine the butter, shortening and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs and mix on medium-high for another 2 to 3 minutes, then scrape down the sides of the bowl once more.
- On low speed, stream in the buttermilk, oil and vanilla.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and paddle for 4 to 6 minutes, until the mixture is practically white, twice the size of your original fluffy butter-and-sugar mixture, and completely homogeneous (there should be no streaks of fat or liquid). Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- On very low speed, add the cake flour, baking powder, salt and the ¼ cup rainbow sprinkles. Mix for 45 to 60 seconds, just until your batter comes together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Coat a quarter sheet pan with cooking spray and line it with parchment, or just line the pan with a baking mat.
- Using a spatula, spread the cake batter in an even layer in the pan.
- Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles evenly on top of the batter.
- Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes. The cake will rise and puff, doubling in size, but will remain slightly buttery and dense. At 30 minutes, gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger: the cake should bounce back slightly and the center should no longer be jiggly. Leave the cake in the oven for an extra 3 to 5 minutes if it doesn’t pass these tests.
- Take the cake out of the oven and cool on a wire rack or, in a pinch, in the fridge or freezer. The cooled cake can be stored in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 4 days.
Here’s how to make vanilla milk:
- Whisk together the milk and vanilla in a small bowl.
Here’s how to make birthday sand:
- Heat oven to 300˚.
- Combine the sugars, flour, baking powder, salt and sprinkles in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until well combined.
- Add the oil and vanilla and paddle again to distribute. The wet ingredients will act as glue to help the dry ingredients form small sandy clusters; continue paddling until that happens.
- Spread on a baking sheet and bake 15 minutes.
- Let the crumbs cool completely before using, and grind down in a food processor if the crumbs are not small and sandy enough. Stored in an airtight container, the sand will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature or 1 month in the fridge or freezer.
Here’s how to assemble birthday cake truffles:
- Combine the cake scraps and vanilla milk in a medium-size bowl and toss with your hands until moist enough to knead into a ball. If it is not moist enough to do so, add up to 2 tablespoons more vanilla milk and knead it in.
- Using a small ice cream scoop, portion out 12 even balls, each half the size of a ping-pong ball. Roll each one between the palms of your hands to shape it into a round sphere.
- With latex gloves on, put 2 tablespoons of the white chocolate in the palm of your hand and roll each ball between your palms, coating it in a thin layer of melted chocolate; add more chocolate as needed.
- Put 3 or 4 chocolate-covered balls at a time into the bowl of birthday cake sand. Immediately toss them with the crumbs to coat, before the chocolate shell sets and no longer acts as a glue (if this happens, just coat the ball in another thin layer of melted chocolate).
- Refrigerate for at least 5 minutes to fully set the chocolate shells before eating or storing. In an airtight container, the truffles will keep for up to 1 week in the fridge.
Find Milk Bar in New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. The L.A. flagship is located at 7150 Melrose Ave, and is currently open for pickup and delivery orders.
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