My family is gathering for a delayed Christmas, and so I decided I'd make a cake. I decided on the Momofuku Milk Bar Apple Pie Layer Cake, from the cookbook of the same name.
It's a complex recipe, and required some special equipment from Amazon to get everything in the pan. Essentially it's a brown butter cake, layered with liquid cheese cake and apple pie filling, along with pie crumb (pie crumb is to pie crust what Dippin' Dots is to ice cream) and frosting. It was a two day baking affair, with most of the components made the night before the day before we were going to eat the cake.
First up was the liquid cheesecake. The cookbook says this is like cheesecake, but liquid and pliable. That's fairly accurate. It's basically cheesecake, but you bake it just a little bit so it's not quite a complete custard, but more of cheesecake goo. It's a pretty damn fine tasting cheesecake.
If you make anything Momofuku, you'll quickly learn that accurate measurements are important. Hence the digital kitchen scale - probably one of the most important things to have in the modern kitchen.
You bake the cheesecake liquid in a contraption that won't make a lot of sense. It's plastic wrap in the oven. Now, maybe I didn't use the right kind of bakeware, but hey that's my problem. But, the plastic didn't melt as much as I feared it might, and it just sort of will shrink wrap itself to the glass. All the plastic was accounted for at the end of the baking.
You only can tell it's done based on kinetic jiggling tests. If it jiggles a little in the middle but not on the edges it's done. I guess.
Next up was the apple pie filling. It's a pretty standard apple pie filling, made from apples and pie filling. First you cut up apples.
The recipe calls for a little lemon water soak for the pieces of apple, which prevents browning (due to the acid in the lemons). It doesn't impact the flavor at all, so don't worry you dummy.
Apparently I didn't grab any photos of the making of the pie crumb. But basically, you're mixing up flour and salt with some melted butter. It forms little clusters, and then you put 'em in the oven. That hardens them. And makes them warmer.
Once they cool they get put somewhere (your choice) and then half of them end up in the frosting, half end up in the cake. But more on them later.
That was all I made the night before. The pie crumb can stay out at room temp, but the other stuff took a slumber in the fridge. The next day it was on to the cake, and most importantly the final assembly.
The brown butter cake involves some brown butter (which they have you do in a microwave, which is pretty crazy. It starts popping and sounding like an explosion, but sure enough it browns. The cake takes a pretty standard creaming method, but then it adds in buttermilk, eggs, vanilla. It's a lot of liquid. But the cake flour balances it out.
The cake goes into a quarter sheet pan, which was one of the special equipment bits I had to purchase. I think it was about $6 on Amazon. So if you want to make this cake, you should plan in advance.
Next up I made the frosting. But I neglected to take any pictures of it. Here's what you should know about the frosting: you blend the pie crumb with some milk to turn it into a paste of sorts. It all sounds crazy, I know. But it turns out to be a nice frosting with a lot of salty/sweet balance. The frosting is made with sugar and butter. Duh.
The last component I needed to make was the apple cider soak, which is made from apple cider and soak. It was for adding to the cake layers in the final assembly. A little extra dose of magic sauce.
Now it's on to final assembly. The cake has cooled, I turned it out on to the counter and then cut out the two rounds that will be layers 2 and 3.
The magic cake ring is then placed on a sheet pan with parchment, and then you take the non-circular bits of cake and assemble them into a round layer that would make any geometry teacher proud.
Next the soak was added, brushed on delicately and sweetly. Then it's half the liquid cheesecake, topped with 1/3 of the remaining pie crumb.
The other magic equipment in the recipe is acetate. What's acetate? Well, some call it cake collars. I call it overhead projector sheets, which is what I had to order because the proper cake collars wouldn't arrive in time. I cut the 8.5x11 sheets into long strips and had to use two strips on each layer of acetate, but I think it worked alright.
That's basically one layer of cake. Then it's repeated with the first of the proper cake layers, which is then soaked, liquid cheesecaked, and apple pie fillinged.
Eventually, you'll run out of things to put as layers in your cake. This is intentional and a good thing. Because cakes must end at some vertical point.
Finally, the cake is topped with the remaining pie crumb. If you do it the way you're supposed to, it'll go around the edge in a nice looking circle. If you're like me and forgot about that, you can put it all across the top of the cake and it's just fine.
When that's all on there, and all the layers are stacked. It heads to the freezer. That's right. It's been nearly 24 hours since I started making this cake and I still have another day before I get to eat any of it.
At some point, I'll taste the cake. I can assure you the individual components are quite amazing on their own. The cake is some kind of magic unto itself. Very fluffy and light. The cheesecake is great too.
So this thing freezes, then we have to thaw it before serving (which is about 17 hours from now). It's been a fun project, and I think if nothing else kind of solidifies the magic that cooking can provide. Each step along the way makes very little sense in the abstract. But eventually, it comes together and makes a pile of delicious things that you put in yoru freezer and wait another day to taste.