If you’re looking for the fluffy, perfect vanilla-scented cake your grandma (and mine) used to make, this recipe for Hot Milk Cake is definitely the one. Made with scalded milk, this lovely, old-fashioned cake is soft, sweet, and absolutely foolproof.

Hot Milk Cake makes an ideal birthday cake, too. Dressed up in a million different ways or eaten as-is, one bite will take you back to your childhood. For that reason, this time-tested family recipe is the nearest and dearest to my heart.

Maurice Sendak said it best in his book “In the Night Kitchen:” milk in the batter, milk in the batter, we bake cake and nothing’s the matter! He’s right. When there’s Hot Milk Cake, very little can go wrong.

Hot milk cake on a gray plate.

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What is the history of Hot Milk Cake?

One of the first sightings of Hot Milk Cake was in 1911, but it continued to grow in popularity due to it’s simplicity. It really became a well-known recipe during the Great Depression, where modest food had to stretch to feed hungry families, and every last drop of food was used and saved.

Grandmothers and mothers had to make do with what they had, and often the last of the day’s milk was used to make this simple cake for special occasions.

Hot milk cake batter in a clear bowl.

Can you make Hot Milk Cake less sweet?

Readers have successfully made this cake with as little as half the amount of sugar, in case you’re looking to cut back on your sugar intake, or you’re planning to serve it with my caramel coconut topping, which I share below.

How do you make Hot Milk Cake light and fluffy?

For me, the secret to this recipe, which makes cake lighter, is to make sure you beat the egg mixture for almost 10 minutes. Also, when I have it, I use cake flour and it makes a huge difference in the flavor and the texture!

A cake in a pan that is a ring shape.

Can you make Hot Milk Cake with buttermilk?

Some cooks have reported that their cakes fall when substituting buttermilk for the regular milk, even when adjusting the leavening ingredients. Until I have a chance to test out more versions of this cake, I wouldn’t recommend a substitution with buttermilk.

What are some variations of Hot Milk Cake?

More often than not, I make this original recipe, but there are so many other beautiful ways to make this versatile cake I have to give you my favorites:

  • Hot Milk Cake for breakfast: Try substituting out half of the flour for whole wheat flour, then add dates, dried figs, or walnuts. Bake in a loaf pan for easy to serve, toast-able slices. The texture will be heavier.
  • Apricot Almond Hot Milk Cake: Substitute out half the flour with almond flour and mix in chopped dried apricots, then top with slivered almonds.
  • Hot Milk Cake with cinnamon: A dash of cinnamon in the batter is a great touch!
  • Hot Milk Cake with lemon curd: Add some lemon zest to the batter, then slice the cake horizontally and fill the layers with lemon curd.
  • Hot Milk Cake with pineapple: This cake makes an excellent pineapple, peach, or plum upside down cake. Arrange fruit on the bottom of the cake pan, pour batter over, then bake as directed. Invert before serving.
  • Chocolate Hot Milk Cake: Add ¼ cup of your best cocoa powder, and use scalded chocolate milk to the batter for an ethereal chocolate cake that’s just as easy to make.
  • Almond Hot Milk Cake: Add almond extract in place of the vanilla and top with slivered almonds.

How do you serve Hot Milk Cake?

This is the kind of cake that I could easily chip away at all afternoon until there was nothing left, but if you have patience and intend to serve this for dessert, how about a dollop of whipped cream, some summer berries, or a scoop of ice cream?

Or, better yet, here’s a traditional recipe for a caramel coconut topping that is easy to whip up and pour over the cake before you serve it. I recommend making this early in. The day so that flavors have a chance to really meld!

A Slice of hot milk cake on a gray plate.

Caramel Coconut Topping for Hot Milk Cake


  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 ½ cups butter
  • ½ cup evaporated milk (or half and half)
  • 2 cups shredded coconut
  • ¾ cup chopped nuts


  1. Bring butter, evaporated milk, and sugar to a boil, stirring to melt the sugar.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in coconut and chopped nuts.
  3. Spread mixture on the warm cake and place under the broiler until golden, watching the topping closely.
Hot milk cake dusted with powdered sugar.

Hot Milk Cake

If you’re looking for the fluffy, perfect vanilla-scented cake your grandma (and mine) used to make, this recipe for Hot Milk Cake is definitely the one. Made with scalded milk, this lovely, old-fashioned cake is soft, sweet, and absolutely foolproof.
4.94 from 92 votes
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Servings 12 servings
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Calories 308


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup milk (see notes)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • Powdered sugar for dusting, optional


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack or serving plate to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Recipe Video


Some users have reported that their cakes fall when substituting buttermilk for the regular milk (and adjusting the leavening ingredients). Therefore, until I have a chance to do more recipe testing, I am no longer recommending a substitution with buttermilk.


Calories: 308kcalCarbohydrates: 51gProtein: 5gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 77mgSodium: 362mgPotassium: 73mgFiber: 1gSugar: 34gVitamin A: 349IUCalcium: 76mgIron: 1mg
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Meggan Hill

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  1. Loved this cake!! It was gone in minutes. Is it possible to use gluten free flour? I want to make it for a friends bday


    1. Hi Erica, I haven’t tested this with gluten-free flour but a few other readers have! One used half coconut flour and half gluten-free flour and the other subbed with gluten-free flour entirely and both were successful! Hope this helps. – Meggan

  2. Excellent, easy, really foolproof recipe! I make cakes all the time, but never a hot milk version. It produces a denser, very moist cake. I’ve made this many times since and my family loves it every time. Thank you for this easy recipe!5 stars

  3. Worst result I’ve ever had baking…did everything to a t… watched the video… went over the ingredients and directions several times…made sure my Bundt pan was greased and floured….not only did it not rise or but it seemed like it fell.. it didn’t even come out of the Bundt pan…. waste of time and money to buy ingredients… I’m at high altitude so I don’t know if I should added something to the mix… either way it’s inedible I hope the chickens will at least eat it ….

    1. Hi Gabriel, I’m so sorry that this was such a bad experience. I’ve not gotten the opportunity to test this for high altitude baking, but keeping the altitude in mind, I would suggest baking the cake at a higher temperature by 15 to 25 degrees, and the baking time reduced. Again, I’m so sorry your cake was ruined! Hopefully these adjustments could help in the future. -Meggan

  4. Made this cake for the first time with a few changes which may explain why it overflowed in the bundt pan and then sank in the middle?! Fortunately, all was fine once the cake was inverted because it looked and tasted great! I made the Apricot Almond Hot Milk Cake version per the recipe except I also substituted one egg with 4 Tb egg whites. Per recipe options, I used 1 cup almond flour and 1 cup all purpose flour. I also added 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots and 1/4 cup slivered almonds. Could any of these changes have caused my cake to fall? Next time, I will make the original recipe!4 stars

    1. Hi Diane! Wow, sorry about your cake! It may have been all the substitutions, or sometimes cakes can fall if they are over mixed or they are not all the way done when pulled out of the oven. I’m so sorry about your cake! – Meggan

  5. I make this cake all the time and add a cinnamon sugar topping to it at the end of baking.Once the cake is baked, I poke holes with a fork then drizzle melted butter on the top and then sprinkle cinnamon sugar over. It is delicious!5 stars

  6. I just made this and it was SO DELICIOUS! I am 70 years old and have cooked and baked for about 50 years. I never have seen a recipe called hot milk cake until today. Maybe because my mom was from Paris, France and she taught me different types of baking. I switched out a few ingredients: 1 cup flour 1 cup coconut flour, 1 cup coconut milk, 1 1/2 cups vanilla sugar, 3 teaspoons vanilla. I used a flute pan.
    DELICIOUS, DELICIOUS, DELICIOUS! Thank you! We have a new delious coconut “pound” cake! YUM, YUM, YUM!5 stars

  7. honestly just a baked dude who makes baked stuff when baked sometimes and this is really good and easy to make lol

  8. Can you clarify the chocolate version? Are you using BOTH cocoa powder AND chocolate milk? Or just adding the cocoa power to the milk and that’s what makes it chocolate-y enough? Also, ever tried with whole milk?
    Thank you!

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