This may look like a cup of boba, but it’s actually a deconstructed birthday cake. 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.
Boba Birthday Cake
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.
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.
Roll each chilled cube into a ball. Return to the lined sheet and freeze again.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Put the lids on the cups, then stick boba straws into the cups. Serve immediately with spoons for eating.
Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter the parchment.
Combine the butter and chocolate chips in a heavy medium saucepan. Melt over low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar and cocoa powder in a large bowl until blended. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. While whisking the eggs continuously, pour in the melted chocolate in a steady stream. Whisk until smooth. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool the cake completely on a wire rack. Release the pan sides and slide the cake off the base. Serve or use in the Boba Birthday Cake.
Salted Butter and Condensed Milk Pound Cake
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the parchment.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until pale yellow and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally. With the machine running, add the condensed milk in a steady stream and beat until smooth. Scrape the bowl and continue beating on medium speed. With the machine running, add the eggs one at a time, waiting for each to be incorporated before adding the next and scraping the bowl between additions. Beat in the vanilla until incorporated.
Scrape the bowl and turn the mixer speed to the lowest setting. With the machine running, add the flour mixture gradually. Mix, scraping occasionally, until no dry bits remain and the batter looks smooth. Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake until a skewer or cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Unmold the cake and peel off the parchment. Serve or use in the boba birthday cake.
Whisk the cornstarch and salt in a large bowl. While whisking continuously, pour in the milk in a steady stream and whisk until smooth. Add the egg yolks and whisk until smooth.
Put the butter in a large saucepan and melt over medium-high heat. Add the piloncillo and cook, whisking continuously, until very smooth and a darker shade of brown, about 5 minutes. The mixture will separate and look grainy before it comes together again and smooths out. Remove from heat.
Carefully whisk the piloncillo mixture continuously while adding the cream in a slow, steady stream. Whisk quickly to help the bubbles dissipate and to prevent the sugar from clumping and seizing. Keep whisking until smooth. Place over medium heat.
Whisk the yolk mixture again and continue whisking while adding about half of the cream mixture in a slow, steady stream. Pour the yolk-cream blend back into the saucepan with the remaining cream mixture while whisking and then bring to a boil, whisking occasionally. Once large bubbles pop on the surface, continue to boil for 2 minutes, whisking occasionally.
Remove from heat and scrape into a large bowl. Set the bowl over another large bowl filled with ice. Stir the pudding occasionally until cool to the touch, about 10 minutes. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the pudding and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours. Use in the Boba Birthday Cake or enjoy on its own.