When Christina Tosi started making desserts in Momofuku in the mid-2000s, it was a playful and inventive take on mainstream sweets. In 2008, when she opened the first Milk Bar, things like cereal milk flavored soft serve, truffles that tasted like “birthday cake” and cookies stuffed with cornflakes and potato chips were deliciously weird riffs on beloved mass-produced flavors, with enough twist to push them beyond their origins. It was the coolest, most inventive bakery when it debuted, zapping trends, unapologetically sweet, ready to do what tasted good, not just what was considered tasteful.
But now Milk Bar is no longer in the elevation game. The brand is collaborating with lowbrow favorite Taco Bell on a new Truffle Cake, available for $2.99 through August 16 at select locations. “A collaboration with our brilliant friends at Taco Bell has been on my bucket list for quite some time,” Tosi says in a press release.
The Strawberry Bell truffle is said to be inspired by Taco Bell’s crispy taco shell. It consists of a vanilla cake sprinkled with strawberry chunks and soaked in strawberry milk, filled with sweet corn fudge, and is currently offered at both Milk Bar flagship locations, as well as Taco Bell in Tustin. , in California. But presumably, it could go further.
“The Strawberry Bell Truffle is the first mashup of its kind to be served to consumers at scale by our brands,” said Taco Bell Executive Chef Rene Pisciotti. “This one-of-a-kind truffle is the friendship-fueled realization of a concept made possible by a mutual dedication to innovation.” Between that and Milk Bar push in grocery stores, the brand is no longer a tribute to junk food. It’s just.
Tosi and the wider world players in Momofuku (Momofuku is not involved in Milk Bar operations, but remains a big investor), have never been shy about championing lowbrow. David Chang waxed on Domino’s pizza in Ugly Delicious, and has often positioned himself as a rebel against hypothetical “food snobs” who would judge him for his tastes. Tosi’s brand has thrived on nods to Dairy Queen, Pillsbury’s Funfetti and Nesquik. But even though Milk Bar has grown – and corporate – he has kept a certain distance from the things he is riffed on. Desserts are like boxed cakes and mass cereals that you remember from childhood, but they’re not really them.
But by publicly partnering with Taco Bell, Milk Bar lifted the largely aesthetic veil that separated it from traditional junk food. Which was actually always the goal. In 2018, Tosi told Eater it would be “cool” to sell it to “a big food company like Mondelez, or Mars, or Hershey’s.” In 2019, Milk Bar secured funding to expand into grocery stores and sells its own cookie mix. In 2020, it partnered with Cinnamon Toast Crunch at its Manhattan flagship store, offering a cereal-based cookie. Of course, he was going to partner up with Taco Bell, the ultimate lowbrow-cool, fuck you it’s delicious fast food chain. Tosi always wanted Milk Bar to be accessible to everyone. Now that it’s fast food, it is.
Disclosure: David Chang produces shows for Hulu in partnership with Vox Media Studios, part of Eater’s parent company, Vox Media. No Eater staff are involved in the production of these shows, and this does not impact Eater’s coverage.