White Chocolate Funfetti Birthday Cake from scratch for my two year old niece

by Irvin on January 16, 2012 · 23 comments

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Back in November I hosted Thanksgiving with AJ and made a huge dinner with all the fixings for us two, my brother and his wife, and their utterly cute daughter (my niece) who I absolutely adore. It also happened to be her second birthday so, of course, I had to make her a birthday cake. After hemming and hawing about what sort of cake to make her, I decided the best thing to do was the straightforward birthday cake that one makes for a child. A white chocolate funfetti birthday cake made from scratch, not the kind you make from a box mix. Luckily I had received a preview copy of the Momofuku Milk cookbook by Christina Tosi and there, in all it’s glory, was Chef Tosi’s version of the funfetti cake, made from scratch: the ultimate child’s birthday cake.


The made from scratch Funfetti birthday cake for my niece.

Of course, when I had initially thought to making a birthday cake for my two-year old niece, I did not think of what she might like. No, being the slightly self-absorbed typical San Francisco food blogger, I started to think about all the “seasonal” recipes I could create for her, the type that would be perfect for this blog! Maybe I could make a gorgeous upside down butterscotch pear cake, or an apple and quince bundt cake with toffee glaze. Maybe I could take advantage of the winter citrus and make a blood orange cornmeal cake or meyer lemon olive oil cake. Winter had just started up and I was falling back in love with grapefruit and pomegranates and kumquats. Gingerbread, peppermint, dark chocolate, all the heavy, beautiful flavors of the holiday season, start peaking around the corner of Thanksgiving, and my little niece was the excuse for me to bring them into the forefront.


My niece seemed obsessed with the pumpkin. Perhaps I should have made her a pumpkin cake.

But then I had to take a step back. Reason kicked in, and I remember that my adorable two-year old niece didn’t care at all for seasonal ingredients or fancy holiday flavors. She wanted cake. Heck she DESERVED a proper straight forward classic birthday cake. So, as the cool gay uncle that I was, I gave it to her. She got her funfetti birthday cake and oh boy was she happy.


My niece blowing out the candles with her two gay uncles.

Turns out my niece now associated her Uncle Irvin with cakes and cookies. True, she still hasn’t quite figured out which one is Uncle Irvin and which one is Uncle AJ (we’re both one single unit to her, names interchangeable) but that’s ok. She still picks up my brother’s calculator, presses a bunch of buttons on it, and then puts the calculator to her ear and speaks into it “Uncle Irvin? Uncle AJ? Cake? Cookie?” like a cell phone. That makes me love her all the more. It makes AJ and Irvin love her all the more in fact.


She loved the cake. What two-year old wouldn't?

So I was thrilled I found this recipe in the Momofuku Milk Cookbook. If you don’t have it, I definitely recommend running out and getting it. Sure there may be a number of recipes that have some difficult ingredients to get ahold of (milk powder, glucose, clear vanilla extract, citric acid etc). However, Chef Christina Tosi really just wants you to be able create her desserts the way she makes them which is why she wants you to use these ingredients. Thankfully she also includes some substitutions (not for the milk powder though – you should just bite the bullet and buy some, you won’t regret it). Though most of the recipes in the Momofuku Milk cookbook are super sweet (she tries hard to replicate the flavors or childhood, which is that super sweet packaged baked goods flavor) every now and then a treat like that, made from scratch without the weird preservative chemicals, is exactly what you need for a two-year old who equates you with cakes and cookies.



Special thanks goes to Clarkson Potter Publishing for providing me a review copy of Momofuku Milk Bar. Though the book was provided by them, I was not compensated for anything I wrote above and all opinions are my own.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Sara {Home is Where the Cookies Are} January 16, 2012 at 5:18 am

Oh, I love that you did this for her. I bet she was head over heals. One of those box-cake brands used to make a Cherry-Chip cake that was a favorite for me and my BFF in middle school, and I’ve never been able to find it again. I’ve always wanted to make one and send it to her on her birthday. I wonder if somehow this one could be altered to do that? Kudos for leaving the food-blogger impulse behind and giving her a two-year-old dream cake!


Gail January 16, 2012 at 5:37 am

You are now MY Uncle Irvin, who makes great birthday cakes & cookies. What a wonderful treat for a child (not to mention the child in all of us ‘adults’).
It’s such a pretty cake, too, in all its deconstructed glory.
Thanks for posting this, Irvin. Clearly I need to add this book to my arsenal and adapt some of these recipes for my clients’ cakes.


Karin January 16, 2012 at 5:54 am

How could you not become ones favourite uncle, if you make your niece cakes like that? It looks lovely. And she looks so, so happy sitting there with her cake and her uncles. Precious!


Laura January 16, 2012 at 6:08 am

I can see your niece making a pretend phone call, totally adorable, that is one fun age. She is so precious!

You and AJ have years ahead of fun things you can do with you niece, like taking her to the Discovery Museum, or to fun walks. She is so lucky.


Belinda @zomppa January 16, 2012 at 7:57 am

I was I was two!! She is too adorable. What awesome uncles she has – lucky little one!


Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga January 16, 2012 at 10:36 am

It’s gorgeous and what a lucky little girl. My daughter’s bday is in 2 weeks and she’ll be 5. She’d love this!


Deanna B January 16, 2012 at 11:16 am

Even as an adult I still love funfetti cake. I usually make my favorite white cake and add sprinkles. I think its about to make a nostalgia based comeback…like red velvet cake did a few years ago. Although based on the wedding expo I was at yesterday, red velvet is here to stay. Every single wedding cake vendor had red velvet.


The Flying Quiche January 16, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Love this cake! It is definitely the perfect cake for a child’s birthday. OR for any other reason you can come up with- My reason was New Year’s Eve. Here’s my attempt:



Culinary Collage January 16, 2012 at 1:05 pm

This cake looks like such a fun cake for a little girls birthday! It sounds like you’re a wonderful Uncle and she’s an adorable little girl who looks really happy about her great cake!


Rachel (Hounds in the Kitchen) January 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm

What a sweet story!

My sister, a pastry chef, made my daughter’s birthday cake last year. She painted white chocolate kitty cats and piped hot pink icing all around them. It looked fantastic and the dark chocolate cake tasted great too. Unfortunately, my homemade cakes will never compare to her practiced and creative decorating; I’ll be begging her to make my daughter’s cake from here on out.


Brian @ A Thought For Food January 16, 2012 at 4:09 pm

You made your niece so very happy… look at that happy face! Bravo for tackling this one. I’m looking at all of those directions and I’m not sure I can bring myself to do it. But you can make it for me!


Natatia January 16, 2012 at 8:27 pm

LOVE IT! She is just too too too cute and I LOVE the picture of her blowing out the candles with you two…all three of you look so happy! Man, does she love cake. 🙂 Wish we could have been there!


Shawn January 17, 2012 at 7:55 am

The cake is delightful but the look on that baby’s face is absolutely priceless!


Christina January 17, 2012 at 11:35 am

This post is really precious.


Vijitha Shyam January 17, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Such a sweet story and she is such a doll. The cake looks perfect for toddlers. I am sure she would have raved about you and the cake to all her friends. Aw! Look at her, so cute.


Vahtikoira January 17, 2012 at 1:23 pm

This looks like a fabulous recipe!


Annie January 17, 2012 at 5:10 pm

That’s so awesome. Sprinkles are totally the thing for kids. And adults, it turns out. I had a party a while ago and had sprinkles on the kids’ desserts…all the adults wanted them, too!

What a lucky girl to have such a sweet uncle. You’ll make a great daddy, if that’s ever in the cards.


Elle @ Dove's Roost Farm January 18, 2012 at 9:11 am

Oh, ram! Please consider becoming my Uncle Irvin! Please? You are so dang cool. And hey, consider the benefits in being my Uncle! We breed chickens for eggs and meat and they are awesome, and every baker needs the best eggs. We raise sheep for the coolest of handknit socks you’ve ever worn. We raise lots of food in our gardens. We have 2 acres of blackberries for all your jammin and winemaking needs. A niece on a little sheep ranch near the springs in NoFla isn’t the worst thing! That little ol’ 2 yr old gal has it made in the shade!


Deb January 18, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Your niece is delightful! She is fortunate to have an uncle who baked her
the ultimate birthday cake. What fun indeed!


David January 18, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Fun…..however Sprinkles? And you chided me for my use of sweetened coconut? LOL….xo


Jen Yu January 22, 2012 at 7:20 am

OMG! You are the best uncle EVAR! That look on her face and the picture of the three of you is absolutely precious, Irvin. Sometimes we have to say “the heck with organic, locally sourced, healthy ingredients” and give in to THE SPRINKLES! You are the best, sweetheart. xo


Carlo/Carlo At Your Service Productions February 22, 2012 at 2:05 am

This looks like the cake of all cakes, Irvin. Man! It’s as if I can practically taste it. I wish…
Your little niece is completely adorable. Another thing I was struck by was, how she comes off so well-behaved and “little lady like” – especially for a two year old. Like everyone says, they come out walking and talking, and acting grown! No really, she’s a real cutey.

Thank you so much for posting this awesome recipe. And here’s one of my main rules of thumb, if a kid like it – it’s gotta be good. They can be so picky, y’know?

Thanks again!


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