Hello Kitty Pink Funfetti Birthday Cake

What’s up my lovelies? I have exciting things for you today!

Hello Kitty Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen

My latest cake was this 21-layered Pink Funfetti Cake with Marshmallow Cheesecake Buttercream, decorated to honor everybody’s favorite kawaii character: Hello Kitty!! It is a towering sprinkle-laden explosion of whimsy, and I am pretty excited about how it came out! I took a bunch of video too, and will post about it when I launch my first proper YouTube tutorial this weekend!

Hello Kitty v2 EDITED (21 of 41).jpg

I wanted to try a couple new techniques with this cake, building off the first version that I made for a friend last week, and across the board I am blown away by how well they worked. Here’s a quick outline so that you may learn from my struggles:

1. No More Flouring the Pan: I noticed that a lot of my cakes were pulling away from the edges of the pan as they baked, and had a very thick, dark crust that was sometimes hard to cut away from the sides. I was losing a good deal of cake to trimming, given that the sides of my cakes were often sloping inward. I poked around online and saw that some suggest omitting flour when you prep your pan because it can cause that crust, and keep the cake from staying adhered to the sides of the pan for an even cake. I used pan spray to coat the bottom of my cake pans, added a parchment paper round, and then sprayed on top of that and maybe halfway up the sides of each pan. It worked beautifully. Each cake cooled in the pan, and when I used a butterknife to release them they popped out with a perfect, straight-sided shape! Hmm, should’ve taken a picture. Will do so down the road, because I am DEFINITELY using this technique FOREVER.

 Pretty batter before folding in the meringue.

Pretty batter before folding in the meringue.

2. Hurray for Reverse Creaming: Wow, this blew my mind a little. I had actually made cakes with this method before but never paid too much attention to why the ingredients were coming together in this weird, opposite-feeling way. So once again, I did some poking and it turns out that when you start by combining your dry ingredients with your fat, the fat coats the flour granules and prevents too much gluten from forming when you’re mixing your cake. The resulting cake texture was so different from the one I made the week before when I creamed the butter and sugar together first, added the eggs, then incorporated the dry ingredients. Regular creaming produced a fairly open crumb with more of a spongy chew to it, still delicious but not the melty fluffy texture I was looking for. But the crumb produced by the reverse creaming method is fine with lots of tiny, compact bubbles, which makes for a sturdy cake good for stacking up super high while still soft and fluffy. I’m going to start trying to distinguish what flavors and cake styles benefit from regular creaming, and which benefit from reverse creaming—for example, I feel that chocolate can probably stand up to that more elastic sponge from normal creaming under certain circumstances. Science!

 Post-meringue folding. Ugh so thick and luxurious, love it!!

Post-meringue folding. Ugh so thick and luxurious, love it!!

3. Whipped Egg Whites for Extra Lift: Finally, I whipped most of the egg whites in the recipe with some of the sugar and folded them in to see if I could achieve maximum lift. I was a little concerned that the cakes would collapse because of all the air I was incorporating, but am convinced that my updated pan prep method plus that reverse creaming kept the cake's structure intact. I wound up with a super fluffy, luxurious batter that baked up into a cake that is both pillowy and stackable! Thanks to the addition of whole milk powder, the flavor was nice and full despite there being so few yolks and so much bland, starchy cake flour in play. 

 These are very nearly over-whipped, incidentally. But still useable!

These are very nearly over-whipped, incidentally. But still useable!

So the cake base was great! Here’s the thing though: while the sprinkles (I used quin sprinkles rather than jimmies because I find their pastel colors prettier) didn’t all sink straight to the bottom of this foamy batter, quite a few of them made their way to the base and sides of the pan. I wonder if this was because the batter was too light from all those whipped egg whites. Usually thicker batter is better for funfetti, and I’d hoped the reverse creaming would help that. As you can see, the slice still looks nice, but the recipe could use some tweaks.

Hello Kitty Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen
Hello Kitty Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen

That said, the cake tasted so good that I wanted to include the recipe anyways! I’m sure I’ll be able to work the kinks out further down the road.

The little splash of strawberry flavoring on top of the artificial vanilla flavoring adds a certain je ne sais quoi, a sort of light hint of childhood candy shop. The marshmallow fluff and cream cheese in the buttercream make for a filling both light and rich. This cake is totally approachable and would make an awesome kid-friendly birthday treat!

Just a note on the meringue you’ll be making for this recipe: try not to over whip your egg whites like I usually do, until the whites get almost a little chunky they’re so stiff, because then little puffs of white may not fully incorporate into the batter. It’s not the end of the world, but it won’t be perfect, and if you’re like me then you won’t be able to stop thinking about it.

NOTE: You'll need the following two recipes plus another 4-6 cups of buttercream, mostly colored with the same pink coloring as mentioned in the Pink Funfetti Cake recipe below although you'll want to keep some white if you want to do the fluffy ruffled piping I did on the top of the cake. You'll also need additional jimmies.

Hello Kitty Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen

Pink Funfetti Cake

2 cups whole milk at room temp
2 eggs at room temp
2 Tbsp artificial vanilla extract
2 tsp strawberry extract
6 (600g) cups cake flour
3 cups sugar divided (2 cups and 1 cup)
1/2 cup whole milk powder
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp fine salt
3 sticks unsalted butter at room temp
Americolor Soft Pink gel color
8 large egg whites at room temp
Scant 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/2-1/3 cup quin sprinkles or rainbow jimmies

Preheat your oven to 350°. Prep four 3" deep, 6" round cake pans by spraying the base and halfway up the sides with cooking spray. Place a baking paper round at the base of each and set aside.

Combine the milk, two whole eggs, vanilla and strawberry extract in a small bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine cake flour, two cups of the sugar, whole milk powder, baking powder, and salt and set the mixer on the lowest speed using the paddle attachment. Mix for about a minute to ensure equal distribution of elements.

Add in the butter and about a cup of your milk and egg mixture, continuing to mix as a paste starts to form. Then, raise the mixer speed to medium-low and stream in the remaining milk and egg. Add a few squeezes of the Soft Pink coloring. Beat until the mixture is homogeneous, scrape the bowl with a spatula, and check to make sure the color is what you’re looking for. If not deep enough, add another squeeze or two. Finally, beat on medium for 1-2 minutes to aerate the batter. Scrape this batter into another large mixing bowl and set aside.

Wash the stand mixer bowl thoroughly with soap and water, and add the egg whites. With the balloon whisk attachment, whip the whites until frothy, then add the cream of tartar. Continue to whip until finer bubbles start to form, then slowly stream in the remaining 1 cup sugar, turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and whip the whites until stiff peaks form. Try not to over-whip—once you see the meringue firm up to the point that it looks a little chunky when you stop the beater, or it starts to slip along the sides of the bowl, it's definitely time to stop!

Gently fold your meringue into the batter, starting with 1/3 of the meringue just to loosen things up, and then add the rest. Now, just as gently, incorporate your sprinkles, being as thorough as you can.

Portion your super fluffy batter equally between your four prepared pans and bake 45-50 minutes. The cakes are ready when they spring back when you press lightly on the top. Allow the cakes to come to room temperature, then use a dull knife to cut them out of their pans. Wrap thoroughly in plastic and let cool in the fridge for at least a couple of hours before torting.

Hello Kitty Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen

Marshmallow Cheesecake Buttercream Filling

2 Tbsp water
1/4 + 2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 + 2 Tbsp light corn syrup or glucose
1 1/2 large egg whites (about 2 oz)
Pinch cream of tartar
Pinch fine salt
1 tsp vanilla
8oz cream cheese at room temp (super important!!)
6 cups Italian Meringue Buttercream (or any other buttercream you prefer) at room temp

The first step of this recipe is to make a marshmallowy meringue, so put your water, sugar, and corn syrup into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Place a candy thermometer into the syrup and watch for when it reaches 240° F. 

In the meantime, whip your egg whites on medium with the balloon whisk attachment until frothy, and add just a pinch of cream of tartar. Raise your mixer to high and whip the whites until they hold soft peaks. Try to time this so it aligns with the syrup reaching 240°, at which point turn the mixer to high and slowly stream in the sugar. Continue to whip for at least 4-5 minutes on high, until the fluff has cooled a bit and is glossy. Add the vanilla and salt, and whip for another minute or so. The fluff doesn't need to be at room temp when you stop beating, but you should allow it to cool before adding the other ingredients. Remove the fluff from the mixer bowl and set aside.

Place the cream cheese in the mixer bowl and, with the paddle attachment, beat it until smooth. Add about 1/2 cup buttercream and continue beating until combined. Add a cup of buttercream, beat until combined, and then scrape the bowl to get the thicker bits of cream cheese off the bottom. Beat again for 10-15 seconds, then add the rest of the buttercream, beating to incorporate. Now add all of your fluff, and beat on medium until it's all combined. Scrape your bowl, taste, and add any vanilla or salt or anything you think it needs. 

Hello Kitty Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen

Assemble the Cake

Torte your Pink Funfetti layers and stack them with the Marshmallow Cheesecake Buttercream. Frost the cake with darker pink buttercream, and save a little to color darker still (maybe with a bit of fuchsia coloring thrown in) to pipe your hearts with a medium round tip. Top with pillowy white buttercream piped through a Wilton 2D tip, and top with more sprinks!

This buttercream is SO DELICIOUS. When you layer it with the super fun cake, the result is like you took "plain" vanilla cake and gave a real sprinkle-covered kick in the pants. 

I think this might be the best non-box birthday cake that has ever existed.

 Snatched!

Snatched!

Hello Kitty Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen
Hello Kitty Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen
Hello Kitty Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen
Hello Kitty Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen

Yum!! Stay tuned for my YouTube walkthrough, dropping this weekend!

Infinity Cake

I have always been a nerd.

 
Infinity Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen
 

When I was really little, I was obsessed with high fantasy. My favorite books were the Oz series and anything Tolkien. As I got older fantasy was replaced by horror and a splash of sci-fi... But I never got into superheroes.

 
Infinity Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen
 

That is, until a) I started dating a huge comic book nerd, and b) Marvel started putting out superhero movies that are in my opinion objectively solid films: funny, strange, oftentimes subversive, and sometimes just plain revolutionary (WAKANDA FOREVER!!!!).

When I went to see Infinity War on opening night, my hopes were pretty high. I was not disappointed—the movie is a lot of fun, and the visuals are completely out of control! I felt weirdly moved by the tragic story of Thanos, the villain, and wanted to capture his mad quest for power in my cake topper. I also got to leverage the rainbow of Infinity Stone colors in my layering, which you can see peeking through the finished cake:

 
Infinity Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen
 

And now, for the fun part: I tried something new and crazy with my layering that I am so excited to share!! I was able to achieve these warped layers by working with a sponge of my own creation that is insanely flexible, so I was really able to push it and prod it into whatever shape I wanted.

 
Infinity Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen
 

I think if I had figured out how to make the sponge just a bit less... spongey, the buttercream would've stayed cleaner and the slice would've looked tighter. That said, the cake was also somehow pretty crumbly at the same time, which I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around!! How do I lower the sponginess while not raising the crumbliness at the same time??? I'll try to figure it out. Is butter going to be involved?? I certainly hope so.

So no recipes yet; this is one that needs a good deal of tinkering.

 
Infinity Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen
 

But all told, I'm pretty excited about the new options that are opening up to me now that I'm really messing around with the guts of my cakes! This has got to be the baddest ultraslice I've ever revealed. 

 
Infinity Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen
 

Almost as bad as Thanos. Spoiler alert: Thanos is... pretty bad.

 
Infinity Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen
 

Enjoy the movie! 

Azara

Kendrick Lamar DAMN. Cake

Tell me who you loyal to
Is it money? it is fame? Is it weed? Is it drink?
Is it comin' down with the loud pipes and the rain?
Big chillin', only for the power in your name
Tell me who you loyal to
Is it love for the streets when the lights get dark?
Is it unconditional when the 'Rari don't start?
Tell me when your loyalty is comin' from the heart

                                           —Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.

Kendrick Lamar DAMN. Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen

This month, April 2018, Kendrick Lamar won the Pulitzer Prize for Music with his fourth album DAMN.

Kendrick Lamar DAMN. Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen
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This marked the first time a genre other than classical or jazz won this prestigious award, which indicates a possible broader shift going on in people's perception of rap as a complex and legitimate art form (yay!).

In honor of the occasion, I designed a cake inspired by the album cover using Edible Art Paint to achieve a brick look on my buttercream and gumpaste to hand-cut the titular "DAMN" with an x-acto knife—fussy work, but totally worth it for the effect!

Kendrick Lamar DAMN. Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen
Kendrick Lamar DAMN. Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen

This is also the most precipitously tall cake I've ever built, and especially given what's going on on the inside, when I planned it out I was not sure it would a) stand or b) slice. You see, I decided to experiment with putting layers of cheesecake inside, and was concerned that if the cheesecake was too squishy, the structural integrity of the whole cake would be shot.

But I played with a great recipe from Toba Garrett's The Well-Decorated Cake and I can't believe how well it held up under all that weight! Recipe below.

Kendrick Lamar DAMN. Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen

I feel like I say this a lot, but this cake... might be the best thing I've ever made.

In my life.

Ten layers of Vintage Chocolate Mayo Cake (sounds weird but trust me, so moist and delicious) paired with Pecan Praline Buttercream; six layers of Electric Red Velvet paired with Vanilla Buttercream; and three thick layers of Bourbon Cheesecake to finish this tower of deliciousness off. All recipes follow! Make this cake, regret nothing.

Kendrick Lamar DAMN. Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen
Kendrick Lamar DAMN. Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen

Vintage Chocolate Mayo Cake

Based on Old-Fashioned Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake by Jill O'Connor in her awesome book Cake, I Love You (highly recommended!!!!), this cake is spongey and dark, not too sweet, and so incredibly moist. 

2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (60g) cocoa powder
1/4 cup (20g) black cocoa powder
1/3 cup (30g) whole milk powder (optional)
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 cups (400g) sugar
2 eggs at room temp
1 cup (240g) mayonnaise at room temp
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups coffee, boiling

Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Prep two 3" deep 6" round pans.

Whisk to combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat sugar and eggs at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the mayonnaise and vanilla, beating until incorporated.

Reducing the speed to low, add in half of the dry ingredients and mix until no streaks are left. Increase the speed to medium and add half of the hot coffee, mixing until it's all been absorbed by the batter. Repeat with the second half of the dry ingredients and the remaining coffee. Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat on medium for another 10 seconds or so to make sure the mixture is totally homogenous.

Divide the batter between your prepped pans and bake for 45 minutes, at which point you should check every three minutes or so until the cake springs back when you poke it right in the middle.

 

Kendrick Lamar DAMN. Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen

Electric Red Velvet Cake

This cake is adapted from Rose Levy-Beranbaum's Rose Red Velvet Cake from her iconic book Rose's Heavenly Cakes. I amped up the color and it is... incredibly red. Like perhaps a touch too red? If you are going for a serious fire engine color on your cake then follow this recipe exactly! If not, you can probably get away with reducing the amount of food coloring by a solid 1/4-1/3, maybe even 1/2. It is pretty though!

2 cups (200g) sifted cake flour
2 Tbsp whole milk powder (optional)
1 cup (200g) sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 cup canola oil
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick; 57g) unsalted butter at room temp
1/2 cup (115g) sour cream
1/2 cup (115g) milk
3 egg whites at room temp
1/4 cup no-taste red food coloring (can also opt to do 2-3 Tablespoons for less of a punch of coloring)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Prep two 3" deep 6" round pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk dry ingredients together to combine. Set aside.

Place the oil and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium for about one minute to combine. Add the dry ingredients, sour cream, and milk and mix on low until the mixture is moistened throughout. Raise to medium speed and beat 1-2 minutes to help build up the structure of the cake.

Add the egg whites in two additions, beating on medium for 30 seconds after each addition. Finally, add the vanilla and food coloring and beat on medium until completely combined.

Divide the batter between your prepped pans and bake for 30 minutes, at which point you should check every three minutes or so until the cake springs back when you poke it right in the middle.

Kendrick Lamar DAMN. Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen

bourbon cheesecake for stacking

I turned to Toba Garrett's classic The Well-Decorated Cake for a solid cheesecake that would taste amazing, and made some adjustments to ensure that the cake would layer up nicely. Plus, bourbon!

32oz (four 8-oz packages; 908g) cream cheese at room temp
3/4 (90g) cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs at room temp
14oz (392g) sweetened condensed milk
4 Tbsp bourbon
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 300°F (150°C) and prep four 5" round pans by greasing with shortening and lining the bottom with a round of parchment paper and the sides with a strip (or several) of parchment paper. Spray with baking spray as a finishing touch. Take four 7"-9" round pans or a large square pan that will fit all four 5" pans and set aside.

Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream on low speed for 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl down halfway through. Add the flour and sugar and incorporate fully, then add the eggs one at a time, beating to fully incorporate each egg before adding the next.

Add the sweetened condensed milk, bourbon, and vanilla and continue to beat on low for another 30 seconds or so.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Place each inside one of the larger pans you put aside earlier and pour water into the larger pan until it comes up to the height of the cheesecake batter—this will help distribute the heat throughout the cheesecake as it bakes. Place the double-panned cheesecakes in the oven and bake for 45 minutes, then reduce the heat in the oven to 275° and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Finally, turn the oven off and let the cheesecakes cool slowly inside the oven. All of this helps to avoid cracks in your cheesecake, important for structural integrity!

Kendrick Lamar DAMN. Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen

pecan praline buttercream

This amount is just for the pecan praline buttercream that goes with the chocolate cake; the whole cake took 2 lbs of butter's worth of buttercream to accomplish, so plan accordingly!

2-3 cups buttercream
200g (1 2/3 cups) pecans
20g (1 1/2 Tbsp) water
50g (1/4 cup) sugar
3g (1 1/2 tsp) butter

Put nuts in a microwave safe bowl and set aside. Prepare a sheet pan with a Silpat mat or parchment paper.

Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat. Bring to a boil for one minute, then turn off the heat; you should have a clear syrup in the pan.

At the same time, microwave the nuts for at least 1 minute until they are piping hot. Add the nuts to the hot syrup and, turning off the heat, stir until the syrup turns white and crystalizes on the nuts. Turn the heat back on to medium and wait for a minute or so until you notice the sugar start to melt.

Stir continuously (but slowly) as the hot sugar caramelizes. If you smell smoke at any point, immediately reduce the flame because you're starting to burn the nuts before they have time to roast.

When the sugar has turned into caramel, turn the heat off and pour the nuts onto the prepared sheet pan. Spread them out to allow for quick cooling and cool until just a little warm to the touch. 

Transfer the nuts to a vitamix or food processor and blitz them until they release their oil and become a runny paste. Cool to room temp and mix into your buttercream. Delicious!!
 

 

Now stack all of your elements into an insane tower of sugary yumminess and eat up!!

Kendrick Lamar DAMN. Cake by Milkmoon Kitchen

That's it =) Enjoy the cake, and enjoy the Pulitzer-winning album too! 

Azara