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. Hamdah

    Can weuwe smthng jnstead of butter?

    1. meggan

      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!

  2. Maggie Truex

    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!

    1. meggan

      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!

  3. Sue

    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!5 stars

    1. meggan

      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. :)

  4. laurie burgoyne

    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 :)

    1. eleanor hohman

      How much cocoa powder did you use.

    2. meggan

      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. :)

  5. Mardia Noordien

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

    1. meggan

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

  6. Maggie Truex

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

  7. Maggie Truex

    Hello! Great recipe! How many calories and grams of sugar is in this cake?5 stars

    1. meggan

      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!

    2. Maggie Truex

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

    3. meggan

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

    4. meggan

      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!

  8. Allyson

    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. 

    1. Allyson

      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. 

    2. meggan

      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.

    3. meggan

      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.

  9. john bramham

    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

    john 

    1. meggan

      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.

  10. Robert

    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?

    1. Robert

      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.
      Thanks!

    2. meggan

      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!

    3. 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.

    4. meggan

      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.

    5. meggan

      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.

  11. Sandy H.

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

    1. meggan

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

  12. Lorraine

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

  13. Lorraine

    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!5 stars

  14. Lorraine

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

    1. meggan

      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. :/

  15. Ruby Doty

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

    1. meggan

      Thank you so much Ruby! I’m delighted to hear you enjoyed it. Take care.

  16. 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.5 stars

    1. meggan

      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. 

  17. BarbU

    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.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Thank you so much, Barb! I love that it is not too sweet, too. Glad you enjoyed it. :D Happy New Year!

  18. manilagirl

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

    1. meggan

      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!

  19. Charline

    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 

    1. Emily

      I just looked up baking powder and buttermilk and found a site called drgourmet.com (lol) that said if you sub buttermilk for regular milk, you need to decrease the powder called for by 2 tsp. and add 1/2 tsp. of soda per cup of buttermilk.  I’m a HUGE fan of baking with buttermilk, so I’m going to re-make this cake tomorrow using only baking soda.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.  :)  I just unmolded it from my pan and it’s springy and soft, so I have no doubt it’ll be delicious…just a tad bit flat, haha!  

      My neighbor asked me earlier if I’d ever heard of milk cake, and I hadn’t.  I searched for it and your site was the first one that popped up.  While the cake was baking, I poked around and I LOVE your recipes.  You have a new fan!  :)

    2. Emily

      Mine dropped too. It rose beautifully and I resisted the urge to turn the pan half way through–I left it alone and left the door closed. When the timer beeped, I was sad to see that it was sunken in the middle. I’m thinking it has something to do with the buttermilk sub. I decreased the powder and added some soda (both fresh). The exact same thing happened with some cupcakes I made a couple months ago. Again with the baking powder and buttermilk. I think decreasing the powder to 1 tsp and increasing the soda to 1 tsp would work.  The cupcake recipe that I had fail on me a little while ago seem to have a large amount of baking powder. From what I understand, it doesn’t react well with buttermilk.

    3. meggan

      Hi Emily, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I think I will probably just remove the information about subbing buttermilk. I haven’t taken my baking classes in culinary school yet so I really can’t say either way, I just know that hearing that cakes fall makes me sad! So thank you for that information and sorry again.

    4. meggan

      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.

  20. E I C

    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? 

    1. meggan

      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.

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