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.
4.95 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 granulated 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. 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!!!!5 stars

    1. meggan

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

  2. 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!

  3. 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!!!5 stars

    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. :)

  4. 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 ??

  5. 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! :)

  6. 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!

  7. Maggie

    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!5 stars

    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!

  8. 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. :)

  9. 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 :)5 stars

    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. :)

  10. Mardia

    I just baked this delicious cake! So easy to make! Thanks for sharing your recipe!5 stars

    1. meggan

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

  11. Maggie

    It is ok! AWESOME CAKE! I made it last night, it was amazing!5 stars

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. Lorraine

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

  18. 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

  19. 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. :/

  20. 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.

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