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I loved making the Momofuku Milk Bar birthday cake and the birthday cake truffles so much, I had to try my hand at another Milk Bar recipe, but this time I decided to get a little creative. When I started playing around with this recipe, first thing I tackled was the curd, and with this curd came a valuable life lesson (because when is anything straightforward and easy in my life?).
I followed the recipe for the passion fruit curd from the Milk Bar book, swapping in blackberry purée for the passion fruit. The results were, shall we say, gross not so tasty.
First thing I noticed was that it was way too salty. Tosi’s recipes are often salt-heavy, but usually that doesn’t bother me. Here it did.
Second, it was too buttery for a curd, and the blackberry flavor was largely overpowered by this, and the salt.
But, the worst part of all: the curd had a terribly metallic aftertaste that was concerning, to say the least.
I scratched my head for a long time over this because the blackberry purée I used was top quality and tasted just like it should. All my ingredients were as fresh as possible, so I was left with the only possibility: something happened when I was making the curd. In the moment, I blamed my poor blender because it was the only thing that was out-of-the-ordinary in the curd-making process.
It wasn’t until I was whisking a second batch of curd (no blender for me!)—this time, based on the lemon curd in Tosi’s book—that I figured out the culprit: the whisk!
For the first batch, I happened to grab one of my “dollar store” whisks without thinking (normally I use it with dry ingredients only). I ended up with an awful, inedible metallic curd (that may or may not be toxic, honestly).
For the second batch, I used my fancy OXO whisk. The curd tasted delicious, and there was no metallic aftertaste whatsoever.
I amicably refer to items I buy at the dollar store as “dollar store crap”, and this just proves my point. The OXO whisk is worth every penny and more since it’s actually stainless steel and not leaching metal into my foods. And no, OXO did not pay me for this post, nor ever supply me with a free whisk.
If you love almond paste, this cake is for you because it’s loaded with the good stuff. This recipe is based on Christina Tosi’s pistachio lemon cake in her Momofuku Milk Bar book. I used almond paste and almond oil instead of pistachio, and I used a combination of blackberry purée and lemon juice for the curd and cake soak. The crumbs I made as in the book.
P.S. If you love layer cakes, and you haven’t bought Tosi’s book yet, drop everything and go get it. This book is a fountain of information, with insight into why Tosi has constructed her cakes and recipes the way she has. There’s a method to her madness, and her book explains why.
Momofuku Milk Bar style blackberry almond cake recipe
Blackberry almond cake - Milk Bar style
This blackberry almond cake is a riff on the Momofuku Milk Bar pistachio layer cake with lemon curd. The cake layers are almond flavoured as is the frosting, and the curd is made with a mix of blackberry purée and lemon juice. Sinfully good!
For the blackberry curd
- 50 grams blackberry purée
- 30 grams fresh lemon juice
- 100 grams granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 gelatin sheet
- 115 grams Stirling Creamery unsalted butter
For the almond cake
- 190 grams almond paste
- 75 grams glucose
- 6 large egg whites
- 280 grams icing sugar
- 110 grams blanched almond flour
- 75 grams almond oil
- 55 grams whipping cream
- 160 grams all-purpose flour
- 6 grams baking powder
- 6 grams table salt
For the almond frosting
- 115 grams Stirling Creamery unsalted butter room temperature
- 40 grams icing sugar
- 230 grams almond paste see above
- 2 grams table salt
For the milk crumbs
- 40 grams milk powder
- 40 grams all-purpose flour
- 12 grams cornstarch
- 25 grams granulated sugar
- 2 grams table salt
- 55 grams Stirling Creamery unsalted butter melted
- 20 grams milk powder
- 90 grams white chocolate
For the cake soak
- 60 grams blackberry purée
To make the blackberry curd
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the purée, lemon juice, and half the sugar.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and the rest of the sugar, and then transfer to the saucepan.
- Place the gelatin sheet in a bowl of cold water to soften.
- Heat the fruit/egg mixture on medium heat with constant whisking until the curd thickens and begins to boil. Boil for 1 minute with whisking, then take it off the heat.
- Squeeze the gelatin of excess water, then whisk the softened sheet into the saucepan, followed by the butter.
- Strain the curd into a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap clung to the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Cool in the freezer for a maximum of 30 minutes, then in the fridge for several hours.
To make the almond cake
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a rimmed quarter sheet pan by spraying it with cooking spray and then lining it with parchment.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the almond paste and glucose on medium-low for about 2 minutes until it is smooth and homogeneous, scraping down the bowl as needed.
- On low speed, beat in the egg whites, one at a time, waiting til each is incorporated before adding the next, scraping the bowl as needed. At the end you should have a fluid, uniform batter.
- Add the icing sugar and almond flour and mix the batter on low speed to combine for about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Stream the oil and cream into the mixer bowl set to low. Increase the speed to medium to ensure it is well mixed.
- Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix them in on low speed for about 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. The batter should be smooth
- Spread the batter onto the prepared sheet pan and bake it for about 22 minutes or until the edges are golden and a cake tester comes out clean.
- Cool completely before using.
To make the milk crumbs
- Heat the oven to 250°F.
- Combine the 40 grams milk powder, flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and mix with a spoon until clumps form.
- Dump the crumbs onto a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes then cool them completely.
- Transfer the cold crumbs to a bowl and toss them with the remaining 20 grams milk powder, followed by the melted chocolate.
- Stir the mixture every so often to ensure all the crumbs are evenly coated. Let cool completely before using.
To make the almond frosting
- Beat together the butter and icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium.
- Add the almond paste and the salt and beat again starting at low, then increasing to medium-high, scraping down the bowl as needed. Use immediately.
To assemble the cake
- Cut out two 6-inch circles of cake, and two half circles.
- Fit the two half circles of cake at the bottom of the acetate-lined ring, filling any gaps with the leftover cake scraps.
- Brush the cake with half the blackberry purée (~30 grams), then smooth on half the blackberry curd and sprinkle one third of the milk crumbs over the curd. Dollop with one third of the almond frosting, then gently spread into an even layer.
- Gently fit a second strip of acetate between the first and the ring to give your mold height. Then, place the next layer of cake over the frosting, and repeat the previous step by brushing with purée, smoothing with curd, sprinkling with milk crumbs, then dolloping/smoothing with frosting.
- Place the final layer over top, pressing slightly. Spread with the final bit of frosting and the milk crumbs.
- Freeze 12 hours to set, then pop the frozen cake out of the ring, placing it on a cake stand. Pull off the strips of acetate and let the cake defrost for about 6 hours in the fridge before serving.
- For the fruit purée, I recommend Ravifruit brand frozen purée which you can purchase on Amazon
- For the gelatin sheets, I used Dr. Oetker “gold” gelatin which you can also find on Amazon
- For the butter, I bake with Amazon
- For the almond paste, I like I used Lebeca brandwhich has 60% almonds and you can buy from Vanilla Food Company
- I like to buy Wilton glucose (available on Amazon) because it comes in small containers (this way you aren't stuck with a 5 kg tub of glucose!)
- I bake with Cacao Barry chocolate usually. For this recipe I used Cacao Barry 30% Blanc Satin Amazon
Janice Lawandi is chemist-turned-baker, working as a recipe developer in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She studied pastry at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa and cooking at l’Académie Culinaire. She has a BSc in Biochemistry from Concordia University and a PhD in Chemistry from McGill University.