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Food

Is this the best cup of boba ever?

Bubble tea birthday cake
Looks can be deceiving.
(Evan Sung / For The Times)

This may look like a cup of boba, but it’s actually a deconstructed birthday cake. (Read about how it came to be here.) A cross between a parfait and a layer cake, it combines balls of dark chocolate cake “boba” with piloncillo pudding “milk tea” and pound cake “ice cubes.” You can prepare all three components ahead of time and assemble them just before serving. I used boba cups that I saved and washed; you can do the same. Cups with boba shop logos and labels heighten the visual deception.

Kids are easy to please with homemade birthday cakes. This surprising boba birthday cake for teenagers can have the same effect.

All together, this dessert is decadent, so each cup is meant for friends to share. You’ll end up with cake scraps in the process, which you can snack on as you put together this fun dessert.

Boba Birthday Cake

30 minutes. Makes 4 cups; serves 8 to 12.

Ingredients

Instructions

Bubble tea birthday cake
Trim the cake edges, then cut into slices.
(Evan Sung / For The Times)

1. Trim the crusty edges of the chocolate cake and reserve for another use. Cut the cake into 3/4-inch-wide slices, then turn each slice on its side and cut each slice in half lengthwise.

Bubble Tea Birthday Cake Recipe
You can cut two rows at a time.
(Evan Sung/Evan Sung / For The Times)
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2. Cut each strip into 3/4-inch cubes. Put them on a parchment or wax paper-lined baking sheet and freeze until firm, about 10 minutes.

Bubble Tea Birthday Cake Recipe
Dampen your hands while rolling to prevent the cake from sticking to your fingers.
(Evan Sung / For The Times)

3. Roll each chilled cube into a ball. Return to the lined sheet and freeze again.

Bubble Tea Birthday Cake Recipe
A sharp chef's knife will give you clean cuts.
(Evan Sung / For The Times)

4. Meanwhile, cut the pound cake into 1-inch-thick slices. Trim the edges off each slice to form rectangular slabs of cake, then cut each slice into 1-inch cubes. Freeze on the same lined sheet pan until firm, about 10 minutes.

5. If the pudding is stiff, whisk until smooth and creamy. It should be the consistency of pudding. If it’s too stiff, whisk in a spoonful of cream. Scrape the pudding into a piping bag or large resealable plastic zip-top bag and seal.

Bubble Tea Birthday Cake Recipe
You can use a glass cup too if you prefer.
(Evan Sung / For The Times)

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6. Press the chocolate cake balls against the bottom and sides of one cup, coming one-third of the way up the sides. Fill in the center with more cake balls. Repeat with the other cups.

Bubble Tea Birthday Cake Recipe
Piping pudding is faster and neater than spooning it into the cup.
(Evan Sung / For The Times)

7. Snip a large hole in one corner of the bag with the pudding. Pipe into the cups, dividing evenly. Gently tap and shake the cups to help the pudding run down to the bottom. (Don’t worry if it doesn’t fill in all the gaps now; it will with gravity and a little time.)

Bubble Tea Birthday Cake Recipe
Save your prettiest cake cubes for the top.
(Evan Sung / For The Times)

8. Press enough pound cake cubes into the pudding so that the pudding level rises almost to the rims of the cups. Press in the remaining cake cubes to resemble ice cubes floating on top.

Bubble Tea Birthday Cake Recipe
Reusable boba straws are great for boba lovers.
(Evan Sung / For The Times)

9. Put the lids on the cups, then stick boba straws into the cups. Serve immediately with spoons for eating.

Make ahead
The cakes can be assembled and refrigerated for up to 4 hours before serving.


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