Hot Milk Cake

Old Fashioned Hot Milk Cake is a light and fluffy vanilla cake. This Depression-Era treat is made from simple ingredients and perfectly sweet, even when served plain.

I have a special place in my heart for milk.

Born and raised in Wisconsin, being from America’s Dairyland is no joke. My grandfather worked at a dairy for part of his life, and my mom still talks about how he would bring milk home in glass bottles for the family to share.

Old Fashioned Hot Milk Cake is a light and fluffy vanilla cake. This Depression-Era treat is made from simple ingredients and perfectly sweet, even when served plain.

When I was pregnant with my son, Calvin, milk was my one and only pregnancy craving. Being the parent of two small children, milk is my only guarantee to nutrition, day in and day out. The day might end with corn dogs or chicken tenders, but at least milk will be there to help out!

One of my favorite recipes has been passed down from my grandma, a cake from the Depression Era called Hot Milk Cake. Ingredients could be limited in those days, so recipes for traditional Hot Milk Cake took advantage of scarce resources.

Old Fashioned Hot Milk Cake is a light and fluffy vanilla cake. This Depression-Era treat is made from simple ingredients and perfectly sweet, even when served plain.

I have updated her version to include a full stick of butter and yields a moist, delicious cake that is mild yet sweet. Normally served plain, Hot Milk Cake really doesn’t need any trappings.

Even my chocolate-frosting-obsessed husband has remarked that Hot Milk Cake is outstanding “as is.”

If that isn’t a stamp of approval, I don’t know what is!

Save this Hot Milk Cake to your “Desserts” Pinterest board!

And let’s be friends on Pinterest! I’m always pinning tasty recipes!

Hot Milk Cake

Yield: 12 servings

Cook Time: 1 hour 30 min

Total Time: 1 hour 30 min

Old Fashioned Hot Milk Cake is a light and fluffy vanilla cake. This Depression-Era treat is made from simple ingredients and perfectly sweet, even when served plain.


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup milk (see notes)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Grease and flour a 12-cup tube pan or Bundt cake pan.
  2. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in milk and vanilla and continue to heat until small bubbles form around the outside of the pan and the mixture is very hot but not boiling. Reduce heat to low.
  3. Meanwhile, in an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Once the egg and sugar mixture has tripled in volume, slowly add the hot milk mixture, mixing on low speed until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in two batches, mixing after each addition until just incorporated.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, checking 5 minutes prior to baking end time. A toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean, with a few crumbs attached, but do not over-bake.
  6. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack or serving plate to cool completely.
  1. To substitute buttermilk for the regular milk: Use 1 cup of buttermilk in place of the 1 cup of milk. Reduce the baking powder from 2 teaspoons to 1 1/2 teaspoons. Add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Buttermilk substitution info provided by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Old Fashioned Hot Milk Cake is a light and fluffy vanilla cake. This Depression-Era treat is made from simple ingredients and perfectly sweet, even when served plain.

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  1. Yum!!! Does it matter what kind of milk you use in the cake? I’m thinking my beloved fat free milk might not be a good idea…

    Luci’s Morsels – fashion. food. frivolity.

    • THAT is an excellent question. I used 2%. I will make a version with skim and let you know. There is a lot of butter here so I actually think skim milk might be just fine. I will head back to the lab and let you know the results! :)

  2. Milk basically kept me alive for the first 16 years of my life. I was a picky eater, but I would always happily drink HUGE glasses of milk. I’ve never heard of a hot milk cake. I’m intrigued. Looking forward to trying it out!

  3. Really beautiful cake Meggan. We are huge milk drinkers here and I love how simple this is.

  4. That is so cool that your grandfather worked on a dairy farm & would bring home milk in the glass jars! I remember when I was little, we would get milk delivered in glass jars early in the morning. It was one of my favorite things :) The name of this cake sounds very familiar but I don’t think I’ve ever had. I love how simple, no-fuss it is, compared to typical cakes loaded with frosting and toppings. Definitely excited to give it a try!

    • Thanks Alyssa! Things like milk are just pure nostalgia for me. Pretty sure everyone from Wisconsin has a relative somewhere who worked in the dairy industry. :) Not really… but sometimes it seems that way! Of course now I live in California which actually produces way more milk than Wisconsin due to the size of the state, but don’t tell my parents that!

  5. this recipe turned out great!!!! loved it!

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  7. Any idea how much butter in grams/cups to use? 

    • Yes! Sorry Val, I will change the way the recipe is written. It’s 1/2 cup butter. Sorry about that!

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  9. I’m sixty two, thanks for making me remember this cake. This was a Sunday favorite, along with my mother’s lemon sauce

    • Hi Rose, thank you so much for your comment! You are not the first person to mention a lemon sauce or glaze with a Hot Milk Cake. I will definitely have to look into that and try it myself. Sounds delicious! I am so happy you stopped by.

  10. The cake turned out AMAZING! So fluffy, and moist. I loved it! I’ve gotta make it more often.

    • Thank you so much! I’m glad you liked it. I think it is so good too, it looks plain but is anything but!

  11. I am in my late sixties and this cake was a family favorite served with choc. sauce. It was always my birthday cake made in 2 heart shaped pans with lemon filling between the layers and covered with boiled icing.I am making this for my nieces 47th tomorrow as it is one of her favorites.( I am planning to wrap coins and insert them in the cake before I ice it just as my mother used to do)

    • Ahhh Liz, this story warms my heart. I love food memories! It’s so lovely that you shared your tradition with your niece over the years. I love that story about the coins. That is just so amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  12. Can you use a springform tin instead of Bundt tin? Would it still be the same quantities? 
    Thanks :)

    • Elsie, I don’t know exactly how that would work if you used a springform pan instead. I think it might be too short. The thing about a bundt pan is it’s about twice as tall as a springform pan. Do you have any kind of tube cake pan? Such as for angel food cake? That would definitely work. If you would like to try the springform pan, I think you should just make half the recipe to start and see how tall it gets. I’d hate for everything to overflow all over your oven! Thanks for your comment. :)

  13. I made this yesterday and we loved it! As someone who enjoys simple flavors, this recipe was certainly a winner and I will be making it a LOT in the future!

    • Ahhhh, so wonderful to hear Sarah! Thank you for making my heart sing. :) I’m glad you enjoyed it. Have a lovely week!

  14. My husband is in his late 70’s and his mother made this cake for his birthday.   He said he always wanted it with no icing.   

    • Honestly, it really doesn’t need any icing! I love that this was his choice for a birthday cake. Thank you so much for telling me.

  15. Great cake especially with chocolate covered fried salamanders and worms. Sorry, just kidding. I remember this cake in surrounded by a mildly sweet sauce not sure if it was carmel or butter scotts or maple syrup. Have you come across this? What recipe? 

    • Ha ha ha!!! You were just trying to see if I was paying attention, right? ;) I haven’t come across a sauce as you have described (or any sauce) but I’ll do some digging and let you know if I come up with anything. I’ll start by asking my grandma.

  16. Good Day Megan thank you for the awesome receipe. I love the cake but each time I make it, the cake drops while baking. I’m not to sure why, I don’t change temperatures nor open the door. Please can you advise me accordingly. Thank you 

    • Hi Charline, I apologize for the delay in replying to your comment. This week sort of just got away from me! I am sorry to hear your cake is dropping. Here are some ideas I have about why that is happening. But these are just guesses, I really don’t know for sure but I hope this information helps. 1). Old baking powder. Try mixing your baking powder with some hot water and see if it bubbles. If not, it’s old. 2). Oven temperature. Do you have a way to check that your oven is running at the right temperature? I don’t mean to suggest your oven is wrong but sometimes that is why cakes don’t bake properly. Here are some other ideas: Try not to overbeat the batter, just mix it until everything is combined and leave it at that. Be sure to bake your cake right away (again, you probably aren’t leaving the batter sitting out on your counter but sometimes that causes cakes to fall). You could also make sure your oven rack is in the center of your oven and make sure your oven is preheated. Also, what kind of cake pan did you use? This can have a big impact on whether the cake drops or not. I hope some of these ideas are helpful, I’m so sorry again your cake is dropping.

  17. can i use buttermilk instead of 2% milk? thanks.

    • Yes, you can. I’m going to give you some information I found in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (the newspaper from the area I grew up). It’s fine to substitute buttermilk as long as there is 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda for every cup of buttermilk in the recipe. Since my recipe has ONLY baking powder (2 teaspoons), you should change that to 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and then 1 cup of buttermilk. And you should be good to go. Thank you so much for your question!

  18. I just made the Hot Milk Cake. It was very good! It was a very simple but delicious cake. My husband said that it was the perfect dessert for him. .not overly sweet. .perfect with cup of coffee. I will make this again. Thanks for the recipe.

  19. We made this cake every Sunday evening….it was our dessert and lunch box treat. I was out of town and was make this cake for a friend…always remembered 4 eggs, 2c sugar & flour, 1 milk and 1/4 lb of butter…but always forget how much baking powder, salt and vanilla. Like how it says to do the eggs and sugar. Will be trying this.
    Thanks again for being able to find this recipe on line. This was the only yellow we ever made as children.

    • Thanks for such a lovely story, Nancy! This recipe more than any other one on my blog seems to bring back memories for people. It always warms my heart to be a part of that! I hope you enjoy it. 

  20. I made this for the first time and it was delicious! Thank you for this recipe.

  21. Hi Meggan, would it work if I used coconut milk? And replace one cup of sugar with coconut sugar?

    • Hi Lorraine, I am not sure. I do think it’s worth a try, but I’m not experienced with alternative baking methods so I have no idea! Wish I could help you more. :/

  22. Ok, I solved that one: made the cake over the weekend and replaced the milk with coconut milk and half the sugar with coconut blossom sugar. I turned out beautiful, with a subtle nutty, coconut flavour. Really worth a try!

  23. Of course I meant IT turned out beautiful… not I! :-)

  24. I tried this recipe last weekend. It’s soooo yummy and easy to make.
    Thank you for sharing!

    • You made it?! Hooray! Yes, it’s such a good cake. I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed it. :D Take care!

  25. Thanks for the recipe!
    But what’s up with this in your notes? : “Reduce the baking powder from 2 teaspoons to 1 1/2 teaspoons. Add 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.”

    When using buttermilk, I have to remove 1/2 spoon of baking powder, and then add it back in?

    • That’s the worst written recipe note, ever. I’m so sorry. The second mention of 1/2 teaspoon baking powder should actually be baking SODA. I’m just an idiot who can’t proofread. Thanks for finding it and pointing it out so I can correct it. It should be 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Sorry Robert.

    • Ah, OK! So that’s resolved. I’ll be making this on Saturday, with buttermilk. Looking forward to it.

      And you’re not an idiot. Your website is a very good and enjoyable read.

    • Thanks for being kind and understanding. I hope you love the cake! It’s a favorite in my house and I’ve had several emails from other readers who say it reminds them of what they had growing up. Here’s hoping it meets all your expectations! Thanks again for everything.

    • I baked the cake today. And it is delicious.
      My son (22) visited and he always dumps whipped cream on cake. I told him that it was a new recipe and to try without. He ate all 4 slices without whipped cream. You are right, it does taste excellent.

    • What a great story! If you can get your son to eat it without whipped cream, then that really says something. Thanks for sharing. I haven’t made this cake in a while, so I think it’s time. You’ve convinced me. Thanks again for your comments!

  26. Hi the cake sounds great but i’m a bit of a novice can you tell what kind of flour it is you are using


    • Hi John, no problem! We all start out as novices. I just used basic all-purpose flour, nothing fancy. Probably generic brand knowing me! Good luck.

  27. Help! I have made this cake twice now following the recipe step by step. Both times it has overflowed in the oven and also takes twice as long to bake. What am I doing wrong?! After it is baked through, it’s a mess, but it tastes amazing so I’d really like to bake it successfully at least once. 

    • Hi Allyson! OH NO! What a disaster. I am so sorry, especially since it sounds like my cake = messy oven. :-/ So the first thing is, it sounds like the cake pan might be (must be?) too small. So, I asked my Grandma and she said it should be at least a 12-cup pan. I never specified that (my mistake), I just said tube pan or bundt pan. I must have one that fits the batter and you might not. I’m so sorry! If the walls are not tall enough, that might be contributing to it needing more baking time. Why don’t you look into the capacity of your pan and we can go from there. Do you happen to live in at a high altitude or in a super humid environment or anything like that? I doubt it, but that’s all I can think of to crack this case. :-/ Let me know about your pan size!!! Sorry again.

    • Okay I feel so stupid now because of course that’s the problem! lol I never even thought of that. I compared my bundt pan to my mom’s and her’s is much larger than mine, so next time I’ll borrow hers or make cupcakes with the rest of the batter that doesn’t fit. 

    • Yes well I’M the idiot that never specified the size of the pan… and do they even MAKE different bundt pan sizes??? I mean, obviously they do, but I never even considered that. So I’m sorry for all the wasted effort on your part. :) Lesson learned! Glad you sorted it out in the end.

  28. Hello! Great recipe! How many calories and grams of sugar is in this cake?

    • Hi Maggie, I’m actually not sure! I don’t normally compute nutrition information for my recipes although it’s something I’d love to add going forward. Sorry about that!

    • It’s ok! ?? AWESOME CAKE! I made it last night.. SO GOOD!!

    • Well that’s what matters! I’m glad you liked it. :) Take care!

    • Hi Maggie, I have finally started adding nutrition info to my recipes and this Hot Milk Cake was top of my list because of your question! Assuming you cut your cake into 12 slices, each slice would be 311 calories with 34.5 grams of sugar. The full nutrition label is on the blog post now, right under the recipe. Thanks for your question!

  29. It is ok! AWESOME CAKE! I made it last night, it was amazing!

  30. I just baked this delicious cake! So easy to make! Thanks for sharing your recipe!

    • Thank you Mardia, I’m so glad that worked out for you and that you enjoyed it. :) Take care!

  31. This is my new cake recipes. Today I added Hersey’s cocoa to make a strawberry short cake. I don’t think there will be any leftovers :)

    • Chocolate strawberry shortcake?! Yeah, there wouldn’t be any leftovers in my house either. :) Great idea, I can’t wait to try adding cocoa powder myself! Thanks for the comment. :)

    • How much cocoa powder did you use.

  32. Hi Meggan, I made this last night and my son gave it the thumbs up. Never known him to do that before so it’s a real winner. Looks like I need to make another because it’s just about all gone and it’s only 9am the next morning! I used buttermilk in it since I had some that needed using. It was my first bundt cake ever and it came out looking amazing. Thanks!

    • Hi Sue, hooray! That’s so great to hear! Thanks for sharing your story, I love hearing that your son gave the cake the thumb’s up. That’s always the true test! Take care and thanks again. :)

  33. Thank you for putting up the Nutrition Facts.
    Thanks for the great recipe!!! I have made this two times now. Perfect to go with any drizzle or icing. Love it!

    • So glad you love it! And happy I could help out (finally) with the nutrition facts. I am slowly working my way through all the recipes. You are not the only one who has asked for such information, so I’m happy to finally start sharing it. Take care! Thanks again for your kind words!

  34. Can weuwe smthng jnstead of butter?

    • Hey Hamdah! You could try, but I’m not sure what it would be off the top of my head. I would have to retest the recipe. Do you mean something like a vegan butter substitute (i.e., earth balance). I am not sure if those are a 1-to-1 swap. Sorry about that!

  35. Another excellent recipe Meggan. This really is a wonderful and almost forgotten vintage 1920’s-30’s cake recipe. This went right into my homemade cookbook for keeps. It’s that good. So thanks for bringing it back. One point i need to stress, and that is this recipe does need either whole or 2% milk. Some people seem to get so “worked up” about swapping out the regular ingredients for low or nonfat versions. That they don’t understand that anything less in fat content affects the flavor and texture {crumb} of the cake. Not to mention the keeping quality too. Any professional baker will tell you this. And if they do swap out to low/nonfat, you can tell immediately as the taste isn’t right. So i say, if using real butter and whole milk once in awhile gets a person upset. Then don’t bother making it! Keep up the good work Meggan.

    • Thank you so much for your comment Edmund! I am in culinary school now but I haven’t taken Principles of Baking yet. Once I do, all my recipes will need to be rewritten to reflect information such as what you have just provided. One thing I really believe is that fat doesn’t make you fat anyway, sugar more likely does. But anyway, I’m all about real butter and whole milk and I always have heavy cream on hand. In my cooking classes the instructors stress that restaurant food is good because they always use so much butter. And like you said, if you’re going to make a cake, make a cake! Thanks again for your comment and I will definitely put in the recipe that lean and fat-free dairy should not be used. Take care and I hope you have a lovely weekend. PS Glad you liked the cake! :)

  36. After reading all the comments I will definitely give it a try!!!! Any idea of the butter measure in grams? I was thinking of replacing the sugar with condensed milk, what do you think ??

  37. I had never heard of hot milk cake til I met my former mother-in-law. It was her favorite so I HAD to find a recipe and in one of my River Roads books there it was, and it was so easy with nothing but basic ingredients!! This is a fantastic cake that’s even better with a thick chocolate buttercream frosting!!!

    • THICK chocolate buttercream frosting. Judy, I think you have just answered the question “What is the meaning of life?” The answer is, thick chocolate buttercream frosting. :) Sounds wonderful and I can’t wait to try it! Thanks for visiting. :)

  38. I usually don’t bake, I just make puddings Bread & banana. I had a taste for something sweet so I started looking for a simple cake recipe. I made the hot milk cake the day after Thanksgiving. Well it came out perfect & was very good. My son & husband really enjoyed it to. So this is my go to simple cake.

    • Hi Vanessa, thank you so much for the kind words! I am so glad you found it, made it, and liked it. And if it passes the husband/children test, all the better. :) Thanks again and take care, I appreciate your support!

  39. This cake is SOOOOOOO DELICIOUS!!!! I just made 8 of these for Christmas gifts and I have heard from everyone that they love them!!!!

    • EIGHT! You’re amazing, Leanne! So happy that everyone loved them, it’s one of my favorite recipes. :) Happy New Year!

  40. You mentioned that you updated the recipe and added butter? What did it use before?

    • Hi Diana, sorry for the confusion! Her recipe used less butter, not a full stick. I will go clarify that in my post (once I dig out her recipe and see exactly what amount she used; I cannot remember). Thanks.

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