Milk Bar Carrot Layer Cake


Apr 13

A unique twist on an Easter favorite, this carrot cake is stacked with carrot spice cake layers, soft cheesecake filling, milk cookie crumbs, graham cracker frosting and toasted graham cracker. 

Growing up, I was never a fan of carrot cake. Why would anyone put nuts and raisins in a cake? It made no sense to me and I stayed away from the traditional Easter cake for years. 
I’ve been making her carrot cake for Easter ever since, but when I recently noticed that Milk Bar also doesn’t include nuts and raisins in their cake either, I thought I’d give it a shot and see if it’s another one I should have on rotation. 

The carrot cake itself reminds me of a spice cake, with shredded carrots thrown in. The flavor and texture of the cake aren’t overly exciting on their own but the cake is certainly moist and pairs wonderfully with the other flavors and textures from the other fillings.
My favorite part of this cake is the graham frosting and toasted graham cracker crumbs I made from the leftover graham crust recipe. I most certainly will be using both in another cake recipe! Christina Tosi of Milk Bar has come up with a truly unique way of creating flavorful but not overly sweet frostings that taste just like other baked goods in a smooth, silky consistency. Similar to the Apple Pie Cake I love so dearly, she first blends the graham crust with milk in a blender before adding it to the butter and powdered sugar. This gets the mixture nice and smooth, while still allowing a ton of flavor from a normally crumbly and dry baked good to get in the frosting. In the Apple Pie Cake, you blend pie crust crumbs with milk and then add it to the frosting – and it tastes just like pie crust!

I can’t say that I loved the cheesecake filling in this cake. I love it in the Apple Pie Cake but I feel like it was a little too overpowering in this cake. As I ate a slice, I found myself missing the white chocolate frosting from Sweetapolita’s cake, and actually think that would be perfect in this cake. 

Overall, it’s a super yummy cake but I think I’ll be making Sweetapolita’s cake again next year. I’m definitely coming up with a cake to use the graham frosting in, though!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the cake if you make it.

Milk Bar Carrot Layer Cake

Yield 1 3-layer, 6-inch cake

 Carrot spice cake layers with cheesecake filling, pie crumbs and pie crust frosting.

 

Ingredients

For the Carrot Cake

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick, 115 g) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120 g) light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup (40 g) grapeseed oil
  • 1 1/4 cups (200 g) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (4 g) baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.5 g) baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon (1.5 g) ground cinnamon (I used 1 full teaspoon)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons (5 g ) kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 cups (225 g) shredded peeled carrots (2 to 3 large carrots)

For the Liquid Cheesecake

  • 8 ounces (225 g) cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (6 g) cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2g) kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons (25 g) milk
  • 1 egg

For the Milk Crumb

  • 1/4 cup (20 g) milk powder
  • 2 tablespoons (20 g) flour
  • 1 tablespoon (6 g) cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon (12.5 g) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 g) kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick, 27.5 g) butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons (10 g) milk powder
  • 1 1/2 ounces (45 g) white chocolate, melted

For the Graham Frosting

  • 1/2 recipe of the Graham Crust (see below)
  • 1/3 cup (85 g) milk
  • 1/2 teaspoons (2 g) kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (85 g) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1 tablespoon (10 g) powdered sugar (I upped the amount to 4 tablespoons
  • 1/2 teaspoon (0.5 g) ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 (0.5 g) kosher salt

For the Graham Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups (190 g) cracher crumbs
  • 1/4 cup (20 g) milk powder
  • 2 tablespoons (25 g) sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3 g) kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick, 55 g) butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup (55 g) heavy cream

Instructions

For the Carrot Cake

  1. 1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a quarter sheet baking pan with non-stick spray and line with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper with non-stick spray as well. Set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugars in a bowl and mix on medium-high speed for 2 to 3 minutes until creamed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time. Mix on medium-high for 1 to 2 minutes until light in color. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. On low speed, stream in the oil. Once combined, increase the speed to medium-high and beat the mixture for 4 to 6 minutes, until the mixture is practically white and twice the size of your original fully butter and sugar mixture. It should also look completely homogenous, with no streaks of fat. Don't rush the process. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. On the lowest speed, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix for 45 to 60 seconds until your batter comes together and there are no remnants of dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  5. Detach the paddle attachment and remove the bowl from the mixer. Fold in the shredded carrots.
  6. Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes. The cake should 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. The cake should bounce back slightly and the center should no longer be jiggly.
  7. When the cake is cooked, take it out of the oven and cool on a wire rack. The cooled cake can be stored in the fridge or freezer, wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 5 days. 

For the Liquid Cheesecake

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degree F. Line the bottom and sides of a 6x6 inch baking pan with plastic wrap. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on low speed for 2 minutes. Add the sugar and mix for 1 to 2 minutes, until the sugar has been completely incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for another 30 seconds.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and salt. Whisk in the milk, in a slow, steady stream, then whisk in the egg until the slurry is homogenous.
  4. With the mixer on medium-low, stream in the egg slurry. Mix for about 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and loose. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  5. Pour the cheesecake batter into the pan, put the pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. When the time is up, gently shake the pan. The cheesecake should be firmer and more set toward the outer edge but still jiggly and loose in the center. If the cheesecake is jiggly all over, give it another 5 minutes.
  6. Cool the cheesecake completely to finish the baking process and allow the cheesecake to set. The final product will resemble cheesecake but will be spreadable. Once cooled, the cheesecake can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.

For the Milk Crumb

  1. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Combine 20 g (1/4 cup) milk powder, the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Toss with your hands to mix. Add the melted butter and toss until the mixture starts to come together and form small clusters.
  3. Spread the clusters on the parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes. The crumbs should be sandy at this point. Cool the crumbs completely.
  4. Crumble any milk crumb clusters that are larger than 1/2 inch in diameter and put the crumbs into a medium bowl. Add the 10 g (2 tablespoons) milk powder and toss together. 
  5. Pour the white chocolate over the crumbs and toss until your clusters are enrobed. Continue tossing them every 5 minutes until the white chocolate hardens and the clusters are no longer sticky. The crumbs will keep in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for up to 1 month. 

For the Graham Frosting

  1. Combine the graham crust, milk and salt in a blender. Turn the speed to medium high and puree until smooth and homogenous.
  2. Combine the butter, sugars, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. On low speed, add the contents of the blender. After 1 minute, turn the speed up to medium-high and mix for another 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for another minute.
  4. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

For the Graham Crust

  1. Toss the graham crumbs, milk powder, sugar, and salt with you hands in a medium bowl to evenly distribute the dry ingredients.
  2. Whisk together the butter and heavy cream in another bowl. Add to the dry ingredients and toss again to evenly distribute the wet ingredients. The butter will act like glue to help form small clusters.
  3. You only need half of the recipe for the frosting. With the other half of the crumbs, I suggest baking hem on a baking sheet for 15 minutes at 300 degrees F. I then added the extra crumbs to the cake, after each graham frosting layer and on top of the cake.

Assembly

  1. Put a piece of parchment on the counter. Invert the cake onto it and peel off the parchment from the bottom of the cake. Use a 6-inch cake ring to stamp out 2 circles from the cake. These are your top 2 cake layers. The remaining cake "scrape" will come together to make the bottom layer of the cake.
  2. Layer 1 - clean the cake ring and place it in the center of a sheet pan lined with clean parchment paper. Use 1 strip of acetate to line the inside of the cake ring.
  3. Put the cake scraps in the ring to form your first cake layer. Use the back of your hand to tap the scraps together into a flat, even layer.
  4. Dunk a pastry brush into some milk and give the layer of cake a good, healthy coat of milk.
  5. Use the back of a spoon to spread half of the liquid cheesecake in an even layer over the cake.
  6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the milk crumbs evenly over the cheesecake. Use the back of your hand to tap them in place.
  7. Using the back of a spoon again, spread 1/3 of the graham frosting as evenly as possible over the crumbs.
  8. If using the toasted graham cracker crumbs, sprinkle about half of them over the frosting and tap into place.
  9. Layer 2 - with your index finger, gently tuck the second strip of acetate between the cake ring and the top 1/4 inch of the first strip of acetate, so that you have a clear ring of acetate 5 to 6 inches tall - high enough to support the cake. Repeat the process for layer 1.
  10. Layer 3 - nestle the remaining cake round into the cake ring. Cover the top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Give it volume and swirls, or do it the Milk Bar way and opt for a perfectly flat top. Garnish with remaining milk crumbs and graham cracker crumbs. 
  11. Transfer the sheet pan to the freezer and freeze for a minimum of 12 hours to set the cake and filling. The cake will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
  12. At least 3 hours before you are ready to serve the cake, pull the sheet pan out of the freezer and, using pop the cake out of the cake ring. Gently peel off the acetate and transfer to a cake stand. Let it defrost in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours, but ideally 5 to 6, wrapped well in plastic wrap.

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