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.
4.94 from 30 votes

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.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword cake, milk
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Calories 311kcal
  • 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
  • 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 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: 311kcal

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  1. Danai

    Hi, any chance you could please give me the ingredients in metric form??? I’m from the UK and we don’t work in cups…
    Thank you

    1. meggan

      Hi Danai! Sorry it took me so long to respond – I had to add the recipe list for printing. It’s added now! So what you should do is go to the recipe card near the bottom of the post (but before the comments) and you’ll find a “print” button. And then you can print the list of the breakfast ideas. I hope this works for you! If not please let me know. Thanks!

    2. meggan

      Hello Danai! Yes! Thanks for reminding me to add that. If you go back to the recipe and look immediately above the word “instructions” you will see that it now says “US Customary” and “metric.” If you hit “metric” it will show you the ingredients in metric. I hope this helps you and works for you! Please let me know. Thank you!

  2. Dawn

    Hi Meghan,

    I’m a beginner baker, and have tried many recipes. But most of them didn’t come out right. Your recipe was easy to follow and the cake came out perfect.
    I must say your recipe is my favorite. I’ve made it 3 times in the past week. Once for work,one for my church and today at work I got another request for it again.
    The cake came out wonderful, fluffy and delicious. I made a batch a fresh strawberry topping with whipped cream. My husband who doesn’t eat cake, LOVES this cake and asked me to make it every Sunday.
    Thank you for a simple and lovely dessert.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Dawn! Thank you SO MUCH for this lovely, thoughtful comment! The strawberry topping sounds delicious and I should definitely add a post of that to my blog so I can share it with others. I am so grateful for your kindness and support. The world needs more people like you! And more cakes. :) Thanks again!

  3. Regine

    Wonderful cake. Tastes buttery, yet it has a light and spongy texture. Loooove it. Thanks for this delicious cake. 5 stars

  4. We love this cake! I just got one out of the oven for our family’s annual fourth of July celebration. We top ours with homemade strawberry freezer jam and whipped cream! I’m so glad I found this recipe!5 stars

  5. Melissa

    I’m making right now, and am hoping it doesn’t spill over. I don’t know the size of my bunt pan but it seems like a lot of batter for it and I don’t know how much this cake rises…I put a baking tray underneath just in case

    1. meggan

      Please report back, Melissa! I feel like bundt pans are pretty much all once sized (I once tried to find a “bigger” one and could all find ones that were all the same no matter where I looked. But I’m glad you put a baking tray underneath just in case. Good insurance! I hope it works for you. I feel like you’ll have no problems. Crossing fingers!

  6. louisa

    Dear Meggan thanks for your prompt response

  7. louisa

    Dear, Meggan if I use electric oven for this recipe, will it affect the texture of the cake ?
    also,if I separate the eggs and whip in the egg white will the result be good ?

    1. meggan

      Hello Louisa! I am sure an electric oven would be fine. I can’t see why not. You mean electric as opposed to gas, right? I am not sure about separating the eggs and whipping the whites. Sounds like more work to me! You could try it, I’d love to hear how it goes! Thanks.

  8. Carla

    My 13 year old and I have just made this. I have coeliac disease so substituted my favourite gluten free flour. And we made cheese recently from our raw milk, so had heaps of whey. So used that instead of milk. It was YUM! And for my daughter to comment that she couldn’t tell it was gluten free means it really was good :-) We have a new favourite cake. Thanks!5 stars

  9. Ruth Yarbrough

    I have made Hot Milk Sponge cakes for years, as I grew up eating it. I am 75 years young,! Sometimes I bake it in a 9×13, with parchment paper, when cooked, remove from pan, let cool. I slice it in half horizontally then fill it with Cornstarch Pudding (another oldie recipe) put sliced bananas on top of the pudding, add top layer of cake, dust with Confectioners sugar. Refrigerate. Yummy. Now to go make one😋5 stars

  10. Yazmin

    Hi Meggan  can I add maple extract instead of vanilla extract?

    1. meggan

      Hey Yazmin, yes of course! Whatever you want, maple sounds delicious. :)

  11. Carol. Jean Hertorn

    It is unbelievable that I found this post today. I was talking to a friend yesterday about looking for my Hot Milk Sponge cake recipe as i “needed” to make one! Now I can stop looking and stzrt baking. I always add a. Chocolate fudge frosting
    Thanks for the recipe.5 stars

  12. Javaria

    This recipe is a winner. Thank you so much for this absolutely simple and delicious cake.I made it 2 days ago. We had a Hi Tea party at home and I wanted to bake something that perfectly goes with tea/coffee. all I heard there was cake , cake and cake !!! Lol :D and my Scottish bakery fan Father in law is very choosy about cakes but he loved it. I’m definitely going to make it again. Two thumbs up !!! 5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Javaria, thank you so much for the wonderful comment! I’m so happy it worked out and everybody liked it. Makes my day. :) Have a great weekend and thanks again, I appreciate you!

  13. Salma

    Hi Meggan this delicious cake recipe
    Is there hot milk chocolate cake recipe????

    1. meggan

      Hi Salma, I don’t have a recipe for Hot Milk Chocolate Cake, but the world needs it! I’ll add it to my list. Thank you for your comment! Take care. :)

  14. Nia

    Hi Meggan, should i add the hot milk into the sugar-egg mixture when it still hot / slightly warm?

    1. meggan

      Hi Nia, yes. The milk was hot but then you turn the heat to low. It’s still pretty hot though when you add it in to the batter. I think that’s where the name Hot Milk Cake comes from, it’s weird but it works! Thanks for your question, I’ll fix up the post so it is clear. Thanks.

  15. Diana

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

    1. meggan

      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.

  16. Leanne

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

    1. meggan

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

  17. Vanessa Johnson

    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.5 stars

    1. meggan

      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!

  18. Judy

    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!!!

    1. meggan

      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. :)

  19. Maria

    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 ??

  20. Edmund

    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.5 stars

    1. 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! :)

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