The Momofuku Milk Bar carrot layer cake is absolutely stunning – filled with layers of rich carrot cake, graham cracker frosting, liquid cheesecake, and buttery milk crumb, there is truly a culinary adventure packed into every bite.
If you’re in the market for a carrot cake recipe that will
(a) take up your entire weekend
(b) have you use literally every mixing bowl in your arsenal
and/or (c) BLOW YOUR TASTE BUDS OFF WITH ITS SHEER AWESOMENESS.
Yes, this is it.
I’m not saying I’ll never make another carrot cake again because, let’s be real, I really love carrot cake but don’t often have large blocks of time to devote to recipes with four subrecipes, buuuuuuuuuuutttttttt I will probably spend every future carrot cake bite wishing I were eating this carrot cake.
Just keeping it real.
This carrot layer cake is my first venture into the realm of Christina Tosi-style multi-layer naked cakes but I think it’s safe to say we can all rest assured that it won’t be my last. Truth be told, it was actually SO MUCH EASIER than I thought it would be! I started it pretty late in the day on Saturday, yet still managed to get all of the (MANY) components made/cooled/assembled and into the fridge by a reasonable hour on Saturday night so that it would be ready to be eaten on Sunday.
And, not to toot my own horn, but it looked pretty dang good. Those acetate strips, man. They’re better than airbrushing.
Milk Bar cakes generally follow the formula of layering a cake with some kind of soak (straight up milk in this case), a cream or curd, a crumb for crunch, and a frosting. Then repeat for two more layers and a top coat. As a result, a lot of heavy lifting goes into the making of the various components. Many of them can be made ahead of time, however, so you can totally NOT BE LIKE ME and drive yourself crazy trying to make them all in one night. The layering is actually the easy part because the cake is assembled in a cake pan/acetate mold so you really can’t mess it up or go wrong.
Each bite is truly a mouthful, but in the absolute best way given how well the various components pair together. I say make it at your own risk because, yes, it will be time consuming, but it will also probably be one of the best carrot cakes you’ve ever had. So – worth it.
- 8 tbsp butter, room temperature
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup grapeseed oil
- 1¼ cups flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1¼ tsp kosher salt
- 2½ cups shredded peeled carrots
- nonstick cooking spray
- 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp milk
- 1 large egg
- ¾ cup milk powder, divided
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp sugar
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 4 tbsp melted butter
- 3 oz white chocolate, melted
- ¾ cup graham cracker crumbs
- 2 tbsp milk powder
- 1 tbsp sugar
- ⅞ tsp kosher salt, divided
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- 2 tbsp heavy cream
- ⅓ cup milk
- 6 tbsp butter, room temperature
- 2 tbsp powdered sugar
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 recipe carrot cake
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 1 recipe liquid cheesecake
- 1 recipe milk crumb
- 1 recipe graham frosting
- Heat oven to 350F.
- Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, or 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs. Mix again on medium-high speed for another 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl again.
- On low speed, pour in the oil. Increase the speed to medium-high and mix for 4-6 minutes, or until white and fluffy with no streaks of fat. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix on low speed for 1 minute or just until the dry ingredients become fully incorporated. Scrape down the bowl again and fold in the shredded carrots with a spatula.
- Spray a quarter sheet pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper. Spread the cake batter in an even layer in the pan.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cake is no longer jiggly in the middle and bounces back slightly when touched.
- Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.
- Heat oven to 300F.
- Put the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream together on medium-high speed for 3-4 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, salt, and milk. Add the egg to the slurry and whisk until combined. Slowly pour into the stand mixer bowl and mix on medium-low speed for 3-4 minutes, or until mixture is smooth and loose. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with plastic wrap. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes. The cheesecake should be firm on the edges, but jiggly and loose in the center. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
- Heat oven to 250F.
- Combine ½ cup of the milk powder, the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir int he melted butter until the mixture starts to form small clusters.Spread the clusters on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool completely.
- Crumble the larger crumbs so that all of them are less than ½-inch in size. Place in a medium bowl and toss with the remaining milk powder. Pour the white chocolate over the mixture and toss to combine.
- In a medium bowl, toss together the graham cracker crumbs, milk powder, sugar, and ⅜ tsp salt.
- In a separate small bowl, whisk together the butter and heavy cream. Pour into the dry ingredients and toss to evenly distribute.
- In a blender, combine the graham batter, milk, and remaining ½ tsp salt. Turn the speed to medium-high and puree until completely smooth.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugars, and cinnamon on medium-high speed, until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the contents of the blender. Cream together on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium-high speed for the next 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Place a piece of parchment paper on your workspace and invert the cake onto that paper. Peel off the parchment from the bottom of the cake. Using a 6-inch cake ring, stamp out 2 circles from the cake. These will be the two top layers while the rest of the cake scraps will form the bottom layer.
- To make the first layer, clean the cake ring and place it on a piece of parchment paper. Use 1 20-inch long strip of acetate to line the inside of the cake ring.
- Put the cake scraps inside the ring and press them into a flat, even layer. Dunk a pastry brush in the milk and brush half of the milk onto the top of the cake. Top with half of the liquid cheesecake, followed by ⅓ of the milk crumbs and ⅓ of the graham frosting.
- Gently tuck a second 20-inch strip of acetate into the cake ring. Set one of the cake rounds on top of the frosting. Repeat the process for layer 1.
- Place the final cake round on top of the frosting. Cover with the remaining graham frosting and milk crumbs.
- Refrigerate or freeze for 12 hours or overnight.
- At least 3 hours before you are ready to serve the cake, remove from the refrigerator. Remove the cake ring and peel off the acetate. Transfer to a platter or cake stand and serve.
Gosh I’ve been meaning to make one of these cakes! So glad you are real that it’s a whole weekend and it’s worth it. I need all the carrot cake in my life.
This looks both daunting and AMAZING.
impressive! oh, how i wish i had the time and patience to make a momofuku creation, because i could definitely eat one! by myself!
I swear everyone is making milk bar cakes lately!
OMG. OMG. OMG.
you know how much of a cake-o-phobe I am, this would probably kill me, but it’s one of those culinary adventures that I get paralyzed with fascination, wondering “what if I go for it?”
I am sure it made your Birthday very special… 😉
I haven’t tried this one yet, but I will! They are work, but one feels so accomplished when they are done. And then of course, we get to eat the results!
This cake basically looks like a dream. I need an excuse to spend an entire day baking it asap!
ohhh man. what a great cake! hope your birthday was wonderful 🙂
Wow, I had no idea so many steps were involved! It looks so good!
Holy CRIPES, girl–I opened this up and my mouth fell completely agape. Talk about one gorgeous cake! Definitely finding an excuse to make this ASAP <3 girlllllll!
Everything about this cake is flipping beautiful!! LOVE!
My husband requested a carrot cake for Father’s Day so this is it! I made Milk Bar’s S’mores Layer cake a few weeks ago and it was a mad success, I’m ready for this one. I do have one question regarding lining the baking dish for the liquid cheesecake with plastic wrap – do I have to do this? I’m not a fan of heating plastics up in direct contact with food.
I’m so glad you’re going to attempt this!! It’s such an awesome cake.
Honestly I’m not sure about omitting the plastic wrap. I wasn’t crazy about using it either! I just did a quick internet search and from what I saw some people used parchment paper to make it instead of the plastic wrap, so I would try that! Let me know how it turns out!!
I’ll use parchment paper as I bet they meant that instead of plastic wrap in the oven
Do you think this cake could be baked in a loaf pan?
If you’re looking to make the layer cake, then I think it would be hard to construct after baking the cake in a loaf pan. If you’re looking to just make the cake part of the recipe and eat that as is, then making it in a loaf pan would probably be fine. Hope that helps!
Against my better judgement I followed the liquid cheesecake instructions and lined with plastic wrap. I melted in the oven! I should have followed my instincts and used parchment or foil instead 🙁
Hi Ally, I’ve definitely had hits or misses with the plastic wrap recently and have started just using a well greased pan. I will update the recipe to reflect this.
I’ve just made this a second time; my plastic wrap melted the first time too. Foil worked well.
In the “equipment” chapter of the book, Tosi says that she only uses professional plastic wrap and that Saran Wrap is a joke. Guessing that professional plastic wrap is thicker and can with stand some heat.
So I am making this beautiful carrot cake for a dear friend’s birthday. Fingers crossed that it looks as beautiful as yours and that my friend loves it! I’ll post picture after it’s done. Wish me luck!
I made this and it looked beautiful and ur instructions were perfect. But everyone in my family thought it was sickly sweet and just way too rich. Beautiful cake and so much fun to make but I just tossed the whole thing in the trash. Not to my taste at all but I am glad I tried it.
It is definitely very rich and sweet. I could only eat a small piece!
Hi , Can you explain if the graham cracker crumbs is pre-baked or not?
The graham cracker crumbs used in the graham frosting are just graham crackers (the kind you can buy in the store) that are broken down in a food processor or blender into fine crumbs. Hope that helps
I made this cake today and there was one part that really stood out…the amount of salt in the graham cracker frosting. Almost a whole tsp of kosher salt in a teeny tiny batch?! I didn’t realize how intense it was until I started assembling the cake so it was too late. I’d say that you don’t need any more than a pinch. It really ruined it for me.
All of the other components were fantastic though! I made the cream cheese filling in a ceramic pan without plastic wrap and only sprayed it with some cooking spray. I’ve made this filling a few times now that way and it’s always good… I’m not sure why anyone would bake anything with plastic wrap.
Anyways, I hate to leave a bad review for Tosi fans, but if you make this, save your cake and ditch all that salt!
The cake on the today show had marshmallow fluff in it but your recipe doesn’t
I used the recipe from the Milk Bar cookbook. It’s possible that the today show recipe simplified it by using fluff.
I am currently making this cake for a st judes baking challenge.. I have someone that donated and wanted a carrot cake so I found this recipe… but as I got i to it I realized what a shame to do all this work and not be able to taste it… and tomorrow is my birthday so I decided to make two… I already had the cake made when I decided so i just repeated that part and for all other steps I doubled the recipes… now I am worried doubling salt, and baking powder maybe bad but at least I will be able to taste it.. I don’t own a blender for the i’m cracker crust so going to try the food processor for that step… plus i only have one cake ring.. ( went to three stores today to but another but couldn’t find one). I will post again after I have tasted it, but I wanted to say how wonderful this recipe is and fun but time consuming to make. Happy birthday to me and I raised money for the children’s hospital ( was a month long facebook challenge).
Hi! If I want to make this cake 10 inches instead of 6, do I just double the whole recipe? Thanks!
I’ve never tried this. The way the cake is made is that you bake all of the batter in a 9×13-inch (quarter) sheet pan and then cut out two of the cakes with a 6-inch cake ring. The third layer is made by combining all of the scraps together to form the bottom layer. A 10-inch cake ring would be too large to fit into a 9×13-inch pan to cut out the layers so if you did this, you would have to double the recipe and then bake it in a half (18×13-inch sheet pan). Before you do this, though, I would make sure you can fit two 10-inch cake rings into the pan to cut out two layers. If you are on social media, you can also try tweeting or DM-ing Christina Tosi on twitter/instagram as she might have a better sense of how best to upsize the recipe. Let me know if this makes sense!
Can I make any of the layers ahead of time?
Hi, You can make the layers a day ahead of time OR if you wish to make them even earlier then I would freeze them. Alternatively you can make and assemble the whole cake and freeze it. Thaw in the fridge overnight before serving.
If this is stored in the fridge over night, will the crumble stay crunchy?
Yes, it will!
As beautiful as this cake is, it was unfortunately a miss for me. This is my second time making a Milk Bar cake and the first was (although quite sweet) was incredible. This one is SICKLY sweet almost to the point of being inedible. Very sad after spending the time on all the different components.
The saran wrap in oven should be corrected in the recipe as it’s written for home use and someone not familiar with baking might actually do this!
Save your time and make the rainbow birthday cake by Milk Bar. Waaaaay better results for the effort.
Thank you for sharing this recipe!! I made components of this cake and it turned out amazing! The cake itself was excellent – so moist and the perfect crumb!
After reading what the others had to say about the cake being overly sweet, I did a cream cheese swiss meringue buttercream and just added graham crumbs to that as well (and of course – the milk cookie crumble)!