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.

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 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!

A Slice of hot milk cake on a gray plate.

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 56 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. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. Payal Ray

    I love love love this cake. Anywhere I take it, people ask me for the recipe!5 stars

  5. Christee

    This cake is EVERYTHING. 5 stars

  6. Sarah

    Hello :) I’ve read your comments and the other viewers comments and i’m a little confused. Do i use buttermilk or just milk as listed in ingredients list? 

  7. Barb Romanowski

    Mine came out watery can I add more flour

    1. meggan

      Hi Barb, I just sent you an email with a picture of what the cake batter should look like. While you *could* add more flour to the batter, 1). You shouldn’t have to, and 2). I don’t know what will happen if you do. Baking is a science and I don’t have a Ph.D. in it, I prefer to just follow recipes. But if you followed the recipe you shouldn’t have any problems. Let me know what happens! Thanks.

  8. Barb Romanowski

    Do u use unsalted butter or salt

    1. meggan

      Hi Barb, I use salted butter. In a perfect world it would be unsalted butter, but a lot of people don’t keep that on hand. So I tend to bake with salted butter, and I have never run into a problem doing that. However, every once in a while I will call out unsalted butter specifically if I think it actually matters. I just think in general a lot of people don’t buy/won’t buy unsalted butter. But of course in culinary school we are taught to ONLY bake with unsalted butter so… tough call. In my experience the cake tastes good either way. Thanks.

  9. Brenda

    Can u replace milk for heavy cream? 

  10. JanetLee Foley

    Spongy, light, just sweet enough, delicious,  I am not a baker, this was a cheering moment in my kitchen.  Cup of tea, slice of Hot Milk Cake perfect.  Only mistake I made was to not grease and flour my bundt pan enough.  Stuck just a bit.  5 stars

  11. Maria

    Just another pan size FYI – I was in a bit of a hurry and too lazy to dig out a bundt or tube pan, so I put it in a 13 x 9 glass baking dish and baked it for 45 minutes. It came out beautifully. I am dreaming of this cake with whipped cream and fresh picked strawberries when they come in season.5 stars

  12. Shrutika

    Can you pls suggest me Egg replacement if any? 5 stars

  13. Karen

    My sweet mom always made this. My dad liked to shake the kitchen floor in hopes of the cake falling. He loved it that way lol. Making this now in loving memory. Thank you!   I enjoy reading and making recipes from the depression era. 5 stars

  14. Judy harding

    I am from Wisconsin and have been making this cake for over 50 years. Great easy homemade cake. I also wil pour it into a cookie sheet with sides makes a terrific shortcake5 stars

  15. Regine

    No, it will not fit an 8 inch round cake pan, unless you split batter in two, not one, pans. 
    Expect time it takes to bake to be less than the 60 minutes required for this recipe. I would try checking cake for doneness at the 30 minute mark. 

  16. Saima

    Hi. I’m hoping to make this cake for the first time in a couple of days for my sons birthday?  But I only have the standard 8 inch sandwich cake tins. Will the cake bake ok in those?  Do I need to reduce the amount I place into the tins? And baking time? Thanks. Saima

  17. Mil-town mommy

    I just had my first crumbles of this (clearly didn’t grease and flour adequately, so I ate the pieces stuck in my bundt pan ;)). I could imagine so many sauce, glaze combos, with this awesome cake. I’ll be making it again soon. thanks for sharing. 5 stars

  18. Gillian

    I accidentally stumbled upon this recipe when I was researching cat head biscuits. With nothing better to do on a sub-zero, blizzardy day, I whipped up this super easy cake and it did not disappoint. I did a very (very) light dusting of powdered sugar, more for garnish than anything, but otherwise served plain. The cake is amazing – luscious flavor, moist and is definitely one I’ll make again and again. Thanks for sharing the recipe!5 stars

  19. Lori Hickman

    It was delicious! I found this recipe recently and wanted to try it for our Christmas lunch, The family loved it. We just left it plain this time, though I may want to add a topping next time. Or I may just leave it as it is (plain). It’s a recipe to keep and share!

    Thank you for the recipe! It’s one we definitely plan on making again.5 stars

  20. Amber

    So good, just like my grandmother used to make. Except she made it in a 8×13 cake pan. It took approximately 40 minutes to bake in the cake pan. My grandmother topped hers with a simple cinnamon/sugar mix. Made this for my husband’s birthday, he thought it was amazing!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Amber, this is fantastic! I love the idea of a cinnamon/sugar mix, that’s perfect! I appreciate your kind words and I love that you grandma used ot make it. <3 So lovely! Take care.

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