Hot Milk Cake Recipe

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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!

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.

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 1/4 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!

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.

Caramel Coconut Topping for Hot Milk Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk (or half and half)
  • 2 cups shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts

Directions:

  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 Recipe

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.
4.99 from 52 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 306kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  • 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.

Video

Notes

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.

Nutrition

Calories: 306kcal
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  1. Anne

    Hi , Can any fruits be added to this cake? LIke apples to amke it an apple cake? Blue berries to make it blueberry cake? Etc.

    1. meggan

      Hi Anne, I am not really sure without making it. It’s possible, but it’s equally possible that it might just be a disaster. I would love to try it out someday so I can say for sure, but for now, I don’t know! If I were going to try it, though, I would try blueberries first. They are low in moisture (vs. strawberries or raspberries or apples) and so they seem least likely to ruin your day. But again I can’t say for sure. I don’t want your cake to be terrible! Sorry about that! Good luck! -Meggan

  2. Debbie Michael

    My ex made this as a hot milk orange cake. I know he used htated orange peel and used the juice from the orange. Would you know how much juice to use.

    1. meggan

      Hi Debbie, that sounds delicious! I wouldn’t know without testing it. I won’t have time to test it anytime soon, but I can add it to my list for the future. Sorry about that! Thanks. -Meggan

  3. Anita Dawson

    Awesome recipe.!
    I add a 1 teaspoon of cinnamon too.5 stars

  4. Helen Virga

    Made this cake yesterday with cake flour and 1 and 3/4 cups sugar. Took it out after 55 minutes. It’s delicious! This will be a favorite. So glad I found it- thank you!

  5. Tia

    Hello,

    Can this be made with cake flour instead? Would all measurements remain the same?

    1. Tia

      I made this with cake flour. Although the edges were fluffy the center was super hard and had big gaps. Could you suggest if it was under baked or over baked?

    2. meggan

      Hi Tia, I’m guessing it was over-baked. It sounds like the cake flour substitution didn’t work very well. I’m really sorry about that. It’s always risky to change recipes, I wish I had to a chance to test it before you did but I didn’t have time. I’m sorry about that. It’s a project for another day for sure! Thanks. -Meggan

    3. Tia

      Thank you for your response. If I want to add chocolate chips, how much quantity would you suggest?

    4. Meggan

      Hi Tia, I have never done it with chocolate chips either, I’m so sorry about that. I looked back through the comments though, and found this response from a reader: “My mother made this cake. Therefore I make this cake all the time . This is my go to cake Sometime I put in finely chopped walnuts or mini chocolate chips. It makes a great layer cake (8or 9 inch pans (30 min). Cupcakes just adjust time (25-30 min) My aunt Made this cake during the war using water instead of milk.”

      Unfortunately, she didn’t specify what quantity to use. I would try 1/4 to 1/2 cup. Good luck!

    5. Meggan

      Hi Tia, I think you should be able to make it with cake flour, but I have never personally made it that way. It could change the texture a little bit, and may cause it to rise more. If I were testing it this way today, I would keep all measurements the same, and plan to keep the bake time the same, but do make sure to check it 5-10 minutes before the full hour. Good luck! -Meggan

  6. Linda

    I just made this cake. What a wonderful addition to my recipe folder. Can do so many variations, or just have it plain. Love it!5 stars

    1. Meggan

      Thanks so much for letting me know you liked it Linda! Take care! -Meggan

  7. Suzie

    I’m not able to give the recipe 5 stars because I’m wondering why my cake has black dots on it. I just flipped it out of the Bundt pan and the bottom and sides have many of them. Any suggestions? I followed the recipe as written.4 stars

    1. Meggan

      Hi Suzie, I’ve never heard of anyone having this problem. The only thing I can think of is that there was some reside left in the pan before you put in the batter? I’m really not sure, but feel free to send me a picture if you have one. I’m very sorry about that. -Meggan [email protected]

  8. Heidi Lamb

    This was so good! Very easy to make & a big hit. I used a bundt cake pan and had no problems. Made it with no substitutions. Very light and just sweet enough. Family wants it again!5 stars

  9. Ashley

    I made the chocolate version with the caramel coconut topping. It was awesome! I made extra of the topping and I am glad I did only because my cake was slightly dry (I think it needed less time with the cocoa powder added to it or more liquid to compensate for that) and the extra sauce on each slice plus a scoop of vanilla bean homemade ice cream just made it divine. By far my favorite way to make chocolate cake though! Can’t wait to try the original with some lemon curd or some berry compote!5 stars

  10. Linda

    My mother made this cake. Therefore I make this cake all the time . This is my go to cake Sometime I put in finely chopped walnuts or mini chocolate chips. It makes a great layer cake (8or 9 inch pans (30 min). Cupcakes just adjust time (25-30 min) My aunt Made this cake during the war using water instead of milk. She still did after the war.It tasted good only difference it was a bit heavier. My daughter when she was 6 made her uncle a feared cake each layer a different color red yellow green blue (very bold and bright) using wedding cake pans it tasted great …..if you wore sunglasses or closed your eyes,5 stars

  11. Reshma

    Hi Meggan
    This came out perfectly, just reduced the sugar to 1.75 cups instead of 2 cups – which was the perfect level of sweetness for us. Quick question – how long can it be stored at room temp in an airtight tin?
    Thank you

    1. meggan

      Hi Reshma, I’m really glad you could change the recipe to suit your taste! That’s awesome. I would say the cake will be good for about 4 days at room temperature. In theory it could be longer, but I just suggest and go by the CDC regulations. You can always freeze part of it if you don’t think you’ll eat it all. That’s what I do with pretty much every cake I make – freeze half. Thank you! Take care. -Meggan

  12. Robert Z

    This cake was delicious! And easy. Im not a baker, wanted to use up some milk. It came out perfect. I served it after dinner to guests. They loved it, even my mother loved it, and she isn’t a huge cake fan. I’ll use this recipe again for sure.5 stars

    1. Meggan

      Hi Robert, I’m glad you and your guests loved it. Take care, Meggan

  13. Mary

    My grandmother made this cake in a 9”X13” pan and put a fluffy soft icing on it and then covered it with coconut. I make it too, but leave off the coconut.

  14. Pat

    Just took this out of the oven. It smells delicious. I added coconut flakes. Can’t wait to try it right now thank you for the recipe.5 stars

  15. Alexis

    Decided to make this to utilize some milk that I had in the fridge before it went bad, and it was delicious! I creamed the egg and sugar mixture for 10 minutes as mentioned in the post, and for a little fun I added some spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and the likes). The major difference that I had was the cook time was only 30 minutes for me; had I left it any longer, it would’ve burned, so I am happy that I kept an eye on it. Thanks for a great recipe!5 stars

  16. Barbara

    I have wanted to make this cake for awhile now, I can’t wait to try it

  17. Erik de Vreeze

    Made this with the following additions: ¼ cup cocoa powder sifted with the flour, zest of two blood oranges added to the sugar, juice of 1 blood orange added to the milk/butter. It came out perfect.5 stars

  18. Barbara

    I have a question re: this recipe which states
    Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
    Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
    Servings 12 servings
    This doesn’t make sense. It shows bake for the same time it takes to prep and bake?
    Does this cake bake for 60 min and 30 min for prep.?
    I am making this cake right now and will check it in 60 min. to decide if I bake it for another 30 min.
    Thanks for your reply

    1. meggan

      Hi Barbara, sorry for the confusion here. On my site, “cook time” is defined as the entire amount of time it takes to execute the instructions of a recipe. The “prep time” is how long it takes to prepare the ingredients before you start to execute the recipe (such as chopping vegetables or frying bacon if the recipe called for “bacon, fried and crumbled.” So here the 1 hour and 30 minutes is all the time it takes to heat the milk, mix the ingredients, bake the cake, whatever. It might not fit your personal definition but that is how I do it to keep things consistent across all recipes of all types. You should check your cake around 55 minutes, it should be finished baking around an hour. I hope this helps! Sorry again! Thanks – Meggan

  19. Sol

    Hello. Been looking for a recipe for small cakes I want to make as gifts. I plan on using little rectangular disposable foil pans with clear lids. The dimensions of the pans are:
    Outer Dimensions:
    ► Upper part: 5 3/4″ x 4 3/4″
    Inner Dimensions:
    ► Upper part: 5” x 4”
    ► Height – 1 3/4″
    How long should I bake them for? Thank you.

  20. Corinne

    Love this rescipe. The directions were terrific. I have made this before ; but it never rose so much. It looks beautiful. Everyone read and reread directions. You will be pleasantly surprised.5 stars

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