One thing that both amazes and saddens me is what I perceive as the average person’s inability to think outside the box, at least where cake is concerned. I realize this is a matter of incredible unimportance, but as someone who bakes a lot of cakes, this is something I think about a fair amount. When I am taking a cake request or order, I let people know that if they can imagine it as a cake flavor, chances are very good that I can make it happen. However, people tend to stick to what they know – the classics. Vanilla, chocolate, maybe they get a little wild with lemon or red velvet but it’s rare to get a unique flavor request. My kids, however, are a definite exception to this rule. They come up with some very interesting requests for sure! This is in large part thanks to the excellent example set by unique and innovative chefs and food makers such as Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, who always provide great inspiration! Our collective love for Jeni’s was bolstered by a trip to a scoop shop a few months ago, where Caroline discovered her current reigning favorite flavor – wild berry lavender. When I asked her what flavor of birthday cake she wanted, she didn’t hesitate. Wild berry lavender it would be.

Luckily, I had some black raspberries that I picked last summer stored in the freezer, so I used half of those and half blueberries. If you can’t find black raspberries (which you likely cannot, unless you pick them yourself), just use a mix of regular raspberries and blueberries here. Just like the ice cream that inspired it, I wanted this cake to have a nice balance between the berry and lavender flavors. The layers include a berry lavender vanilla cake, a mixed berry lavender sauce, and a raspberry curd. The whole thing is topped off with fresh whipped cream and I garnished mine with some freeze dried raspberry dust and a few extra black raspberries.

Now listen, you guys may start getting sick of me always using the Milk Bar method for my layer cakes these days but I am convinced this is the best method ever. I love the convenience of baking a single cake in a quarter sheet pan and using a cutter to make the rounds. I love the exposed layers and the flat sides that the acetate strips provide. But most of all, I love that the cake is just the right size. Unless I’m feeding a huge crowd, an 8-inch triple layer cake or a 9-inch double layer cake is simply way more cake than we need. If you haven’t tried the Milk Bar cake method yet, give it a try! I was a little skeptical initially but clearly, I have been converted. You might just end up loving it too.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 240 grams (2 cups) cake flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 264 grams (1 1/3 cups) sugar
  • 1½ tsp. finely ground culinary lavender buds
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 146 grams (10 1/3 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 182 grams (¾ cup plus 1 tbsp.) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 255 grams (1½ cups) fresh blueberries
  • 180 grams (1½ cups) fresh black or red raspberries

For the sauce:

  • 255 grams (1½ cups) fresh blueberries
  • 180 grams (1½ cups) black or red raspberries
  • 74 grams (6 tbsp.) sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground culinary lavender buds
  • 2¼ tsp. cornstarch
  • 27 grams (2 tbsp.) water
  • 14 grams (1 tbsp.) freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the curd:

  • 100 grams (½ cup) raspberry puree (black or red)
  • 65 grams (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. water
  • ½ tsp. powdered gelatin
  • 170 grams (12 tbsp.) butter, very cold
  • 2 grams (½ tsp.) kosher salt

To finish:

  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
  • Splash of vanilla extract
  • Freeze dried raspberries, ground (optional)
  • Additional fresh berries (optional)

Directions

  • 01

    To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour the edges of a quarter sheet pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk together and set aside.  Place the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the lavender and the seeds scraped from the vanilla bean to the bowl of the mixer with the sugar. Mix 1-2 minutes, until the sugar is fragrant. Add in the butter. Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the eggs and egg yolk one at a time until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer. Gently fold the berries into the batter. Spread the batter in an even layer in the prepared baking pan.  Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 32-36 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.  Let cool in the pan on a wire rack.

  • 02

    Combine the blueberries, raspberries, sugar and lavender in a nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries begin to release their juices.  In a small bowl combine the cornstarch with the water and lemon juice and whisk until smooth.  Stir the cornstarch mixture into the blueberry mixture.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 minute more.  Remove from the heat.  Cover and chill.

  • 03

    To make the curd, put the raspberry puree in a blender with the sugar and blend until the sugar granules have dissolved. Add the eggs and blend on low until incorporated. Transfer the contents of the blender to a medium pot or saucepan, and clean out the blender canister. Place the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top to bloom the gelatin. In the saucepan, heat the raspberry mixture over low heat, whisking often. It will begin to thicken as it heats up. Once it boils, remove it from the heat and transfer to the clean blender canister. Add in the bloomed gelatin, butter, and salt, and blend until the mixture is thick, shiny and very smooth. Transfer to a heatproof container, cover and refrigerate until completely cool, at least 1 hour.

  • 04

    To assemble the cake, invert the cake from the sheet pan onto a work surface. Use a 6-inch cake ring to cut out 2 circles from the cake (these will be the top two layers.) Wipe off the cake ring and place it in the center of a sheet pan lined with clean parchment or a silpat. Use a strip of acetate to line the inside of the cake ring. Use scraps from the leftover cake to place in the ring and tamp together in a flat, even layer. Spread a heaping ½ cup of the berry sauce over the cake. Spread half of the raspberry curd over the top of the berry sauce gently, into an even layer. Gently tuck a second strip of acetate between the cake ring and the top ¼-inch of the first strip of acetate. Set a cake round on top of the curd, and repeat the layering process once more (heaping ½ cup of berry sauce, remaining half of the curd.) Place the remaining cake layer onto top of the curd. Use a mixer with the whisk attachment or an immersion blender to whip the heavy cream with the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until medium-stiff peaks form. Spread a final heaping ½ cup of berry sauce followed by the whipped cream in an even layer over the top. Garnish as desired.

  • 05

    Transfer the assembled cake to the freezer and freeze for a minimum of 6 hours to set the cake and the filling. At least 3 hours before you are ready to serve, remove the pan from the freezer, pop the cake out of the cake ring, and peel away the acetate layers. Transfer to a cake platter and defrost for at least 3 hours before slicing and serving.

Source

https://c2.staticflickr.com/2/1569/26358922205_64096df079_c.jpg
  • love the colors on the cake! and i keep meaning to try the milk bar cake layering technique, but have just never gotten around to it; seeing someone do it well always makes me want to, though, so maybe this time it’ll actually happen! (:

  • Aww, so good to hear that your kids are inspiring at least! I’m thinking of crazy cake flavours right now, I don’t think I’m very good at this. I’ve always wanted to try something with tea in a cake like chai, or Earl Grey, but it seems as though that’s not as wild anymore is it? Anyway. This cake looks both delicious and pretty! Love the colours.

  • Katie P.

    This cake looks AMAZING. After having made the Milk Bar birthday cake, I’m definitely a huge fan of the Milk Bar method! I’d like to be able to change it up and make different cake flavors (in addition to the ones in her cookbook and the ones you’ve posted here), now that I have all the equipment. Do you have any tips for scaling cake recipes that are normally for 8″ or 9″ cakes to a quarter sheet pan? Or what you take into consideration when taking an existing recipe and adapting it to work as a Milk Bar-style cake? Thanks!

  • Annie

    Very excellent question! I’m still experimenting with this in general but with this cake, I took a recipe that would have been for a 3 layer 8-inch cake and made a 2/3 recipe. However, I added 3 cups of berries which significantly increased the volume of the batter. I think without adding berries, just using the normal amount of batter in a 3 layer 8-inch cake (or a 2 layer 9-inch cake) should be close to the right amount for the quarter sheet pan.

  • Melissa Brooker

    I am not a cake baker, i have actually had zero success producing a good cake, i just suck at it lol! that looks so phenomenally good Annie! I want one for my birthday! and I’m super jealous because i can’t get Jeni’s here! the next time i travel to the US i will have to look for either a scoop shop or some in the grocery store.

    You are SO talented and i LOVE that your kids have such outstanding palates, better than most adults!

  • Your cakes are always so inspirational, and I love the addition of lavender! There’s something about eating flowers that makes me feel a little giddy and pretty. I think that out of all of the birthday party posts you’ve done, this is my favorite, and that’s saying something since they’ve all been so creative and beautiful.

  • Well this is just the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I love that your daughter requested such a unique flavor! That girl’s got style. ;)
    Also, please don’t stop with the Milk Bar style cakes! I love love love seeing your ideas. I’ve purchased all the supplies needed to make one of these beauties-now I just need to bite the bullet! I’m thinking I’ll save it for an upcoming sister weekend. :)
    But really, thank you for providing such wonderful content. I know it can’t be easy between being a wife, mom, and physician, but it’s so appreciated. Your blog is a consistent source of inspiration and go-to recipes!

  • addie

    do you use a taller cake ring for assembly? the cake ring you linked is only 1.75″ tall.

  • Annie

    No, the acetate strips provide the support for the rest of the height, not the ring itself.

  • Annie

    Thank you so much! You are so kind :)

  • addie

    awesome! yayyy so excited to try making one for my nephew’s first birthday! he’ll get a smash cake but the adults will (hopefully) get this.

  • Angela

    How on earth can anyone be sick of your milk bar inspired recipes? These photos are incredible. I am going to make this for my birthday.

  • Danita Day

    That is a beautiful cake.

  • Emma

    I’ve recently been getting really into the Milk Bar method for cake layering as well. Not only is it super fun to cut out the layers, but the result is just so pretty, and way easier than worrying that everything is super even/level when you’re filling and decorating. And 6-inch cakes are the perfect size. So … more please! I love seeing the adaptations that you come up with; they definitely inspire me in my own baking.

  • Marie_FeelingFoodish

    Hi Annie – beautiful cake as usual! I love the idea of sheet pan to make less cake because yes, there is always too much. But doesn’t a lot go to waste using that method?

  • Your daughter and I think alike! I have a birthday coming up soon and always make my own cake and was thinking of concocting a blueberry-lavender cake because that’s my favorite flavor combination EVER. This cake is gorgeous and I too am a big fan of the Milk Bar layering technique.

  • Laura Dembowski

    Annie, what a beautiful cake! I love the flavor combo. I keep wanting to make a Momofuku inspired cake, but I haven’t given it a go yet. I seriously need to.

  • Annie

    Because you make three layers from the quarter sheet pan, you use the vast majority of the cake. There are small scraps left but not much more than if you leveled the top of normal round cakes anyway.

  • Michele Standage Heiner

    SO beautiful!!! I have made many of your cakes for my birthdays over the years and they are always show stoppers!! I too love Jeni’s ice creams! Although I have yet to buy from her scoop shop I purchased her book and have made several of her ice creams. My birthday is around the corner again and I’d LOVE to make this cake. One question though. Where do you purchase the lavender buds?

  • Emily

    This cake is beautiful!! It’s especially perfect for spring! I’ve been admiring all of your Milk Bar recipes (especially because I’ve failed at their cookies recipes more times than I can count). I do have one question about the exposed layers look — have you had any trouble with the layers drying out at all (even near the edges)? I would imagine this wouldn’t be a problem if you eat the cake right away (as with a birthday cake like this), but I’m worried it might if the cake is eaten over a several day period. I normally make layer cakes for my family/friends on a whim and it ends up taking several days for us to eat them. I guess I might just need to make a smaller cake so we can enjoy it in one sitting!

  • mamy81

    I made it and it is quite possibly the prettiest cake ever! I used frozen berries because the cost of fresh was going to be around $40, sorry, but no. But it is so delicious. The curd came out very buttery tasting to the point of being off putting to me. However, once it is paired with everything else the taste combo is spot on. I just love it!!

  • Jeni’s crazy awesome flavor combos definitely help me to think outside the box! I love that Caroline has such mature taste buds when it comes to sweets…this is such a fun flavor combo.

  • Annie

    I am so happy to hear that! I agree, the curd doesn’t taste quite right on its own but in combination with everything else it is fabulous. Glad it turned out well!

  • mamy81

    Thanks! One thing though I forgot to mention. The cook time says 32-26 minutes.

  • Annie

    Fixed it. Thanks for catching that!

  • I have never seen an amazing cake like this. I have never seen black raspberries in stores, so as you mentioned they grow as wild berries which are not sold?
    When you say Lavender buds, are they the lavender flower buds which are dried? If I have to order them online, can I just search for lavender buds or there are different ones that are edible and different ones used for pillow stuffing etc.?
    Also have you ever used dried hibiscus petals? I saw them in the farmers market so wondering if you have used them in any of your recipes?

  • Annie

    I have only ever found black raspberries at berry farms where you can pick your own. I’m sure they are available in some places at farmers markets but I haven’t seen them at ours here. I have a link to lavender buds in the ingredient list above. I do use dried hibiscus petals and actually have two different hibiscus recipes ready to post very soon!

  • Annie

    I’ve never had a problem with the cake drying out. I keep it in a covered container so that helps. Though this recipe doesn’t have one, most of the milk bar cakes have some form of a “soak” to keep the layer moist, which I think helps prevent drying out. With the berry sauce and the curd here, I didn’t think a soak was necessary. If I had done one, I probably would have just used lavender infused milk.

  • Annie

    I updated the post to include a link. They are also easily found in the “Annie’s equipment” section under specialty ingredients.

  • Oh, I missed the link. I will check. Thanks, I will be waiting for the recipe with dried hibiscus petals. I should be buying that before they run out. Thanks Annie!

  • Emily Millard

    Hi Annie! I am going to make this cake this weekend for my daughter’s birthday party. I noticed you use a cardboard cake base. Do you place this on the sheet pan under the cake ring? Thank you!

  • Annie

    Yes, you will want a cardboard cake circle underneath the whole thing to easily assemble and move it. I’ll update the post to reflect that. Thanks for catching it!

  • Natalie Stachon

    This is one of the most stunning cakes I have ever seen!

  • Katrina Ann Magbitang

    This is gonna be the third year in a row that I will be making my birthday cake from your blog!!! I love this! Did you buy the raspberry purée or did you make it? And if it is the latter how did you make it? Thanks Annie, I’m so excited to make this!!!

  • Annie

    Yay! Not really sure what to advise on the carrier as it totally depends on what carrier you already have. I think most standard cake carriers should be fine. It’s on the tall side for its diameter, but it isn’t significantly bigger than other cakes I think. ENJOY, and happy birthday!

  • Annie

    I made the puree myself. Just puree raspberries in a food processor or blender and strain through a sieve to remove the seeds.

  • Michele Standage Heiner

    I wanted to come back and let you know I ended up making this cake for a special Mother’s Day brunch with my mom and sister. We all loved it! The flavor of the cake is just spot on and about the most divine thing I’ve ever tasted. The cake did get a bit weepy once it started thawing, so I guess it may better to eat it not quite thawed? Regardless, my sister and I both want to make it again soon. Thanks again.