Growing up in Virginia, where her father worked as an agricultural economist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, acclaimed pastry chef Christini Tosi admits to starting out life as a picky eater; she wanted dessert for every meal of the day. Later while at college, Tosi studied math, but could not give up on her love for cookies and cake. So, after graduation, she moved to New York City to attend culinary school to begin what would turn into a highly successful career in pastry.
Now, the creative skills that elevated her game to where it is today have transformed into something even greater. She has emerged a true genius at business. “Life was once simple,” she admits today. “Just me and some butter, sugar, a mixer and an oven. I have to be a helicopter nowadays, able to zoom in on the details, but also able to zoom out, and hover above, seeing all the working, moving parts of Milk Bar.”
Milk Bar is the iconic, trend-setting bakery that she owns in New York City, and her empire has grown to multiple locations in New York, one in Toronto and one in Washington, DC. The bakery’s top-selling item is the sprinkle-laden Birthday Cake, which “is everyone’s favorite childhood cake, reimagined Milk Bar style: vanilla rainbow cake layered with rainbow cake crumbs, topped with vanilla frosting!” It took Tosi and the Milk Bar team more than three years of recipe testing to get the perfect birthday cake vanilla flavor.
One 6-inch Birthday Cake costs $60 (for starters) and serves 8 to 12 people.
The beauty of Milk Bar’s business model is develop a strong brand and loyal following for key signature items (Birthday Cake, Crack Pie, Compost Cookies) and then open the floodgates to allow customers to order them anywhere.
Online ordering has catapulted Milk Bar into national notoriety, as customers from across the country now order cakes, cookies and pies from the New York bakery and have them delivered into their homes in Texas, California and even Alaska or Hawaii (for an extra $35 charge for overnight shipping). For most orders, shipping costs between $25 and $45.
Milk Bar also encourages customers to get creative with custom fillings and crumbs. There are five frosting options (birthday, pie dough, chocolate fudge, chocolate malt or strawberry), another 10 filling options (fudge sauce, lemon cheesecake, brown butter cheesecake, passionfruit curd or strawberry jam, in addition to the five frostings), and four choices of crumbs (birthday, chocolate, malted milk or milk).
That means one Birthday Cake from Milk Bar can be turned into thousands of possible flavor combinations.
As Milk Bar explains on its website: “Take over our wild world of crumbs, frostings, curds, cheesecake, fillings and other killer cake components and design your very own custom cake layer-by-layer! Whether it’s your next birthday party, special celebration, or surprising someone you love on a random ol’ friday afternoon, we’ll bake it up and send it on its way!”