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. Peggi

    My husband is in his late 70’s and his mother made this cake for his birthday.   He said he always wanted it with no icing.   

    1. meggan

      Honestly, it really doesn’t need any icing! I love that this was his choice for a birthday cake. Thank you so much for telling me.

  2. Sarah

    I made this yesterday and we loved it! As someone who enjoys simple flavors, this recipe was certainly a winner and I will be making it a LOT in the future!

    1. meggan

      Ahhhh, so wonderful to hear Sarah! Thank you for making my heart sing. :) I’m glad you enjoyed it. Have a lovely week!

  3. Elsie

    Can you use a springform tin instead of Bundt tin? Would it still be the same quantities? 
    Thanks :)

    1. meggan

      Elsie, I don’t know exactly how that would work if you used a springform pan instead. I think it might be too short. The thing about a bundt pan is it’s about twice as tall as a springform pan. Do you have any kind of tube cake pan? Such as for angel food cake? That would definitely work. If you would like to try the springform pan, I think you should just make half the recipe to start and see how tall it gets. I’d hate for everything to overflow all over your oven! Thanks for your comment. :)

  4. Liz

    I am in my late sixties and this cake was a family favorite served with choc. sauce. It was always my birthday cake made in 2 heart shaped pans with lemon filling between the layers and covered with boiled icing.I am making this for my nieces 47th tomorrow as it is one of her favorites.( I am planning to wrap coins and insert them in the cake before I ice it just as my mother used to do)

    1. meggan

      Ahhh Liz, this story warms my heart. I love food memories! It’s so lovely that you shared your tradition with your niece over the years. I love that story about the coins. That is just so amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  5. Danika

    The cake turned out AMAZING! So fluffy, and moist. I loved it! I’ve gotta make it more often.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you liked it. I think it is so good too, it looks plain but is anything but!

  6. Rose

    I’m sixty two, thanks for making me remember this cake. This was a Sunday favorite, along with my mother’s lemon sauce5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Rose, thank you so much for your comment! You are not the first person to mention a lemon sauce or glaze with a Hot Milk Cake. I will definitely have to look into that and try it myself. Sounds delicious! I am so happy you stopped by.

  7. Val

    Any idea how much butter in grams/cups to use? 

    1. meggan

      Yes! Sorry Val, I will change the way the recipe is written. It’s 1/2 cup butter. Sorry about that!

  8. this recipe turned out great!!!! loved it!5 stars

  9. That is so cool that your grandfather worked on a dairy farm & would bring home milk in the glass jars! I remember when I was little, we would get milk delivered in glass jars early in the morning. It was one of my favorite things :) The name of this cake sounds very familiar but I don’t think I’ve ever had. I love how simple, no-fuss it is, compared to typical cakes loaded with frosting and toppings. Definitely excited to give it a try!

    1. Thanks Alyssa! Things like milk are just pure nostalgia for me. Pretty sure everyone from Wisconsin has a relative somewhere who worked in the dairy industry. :) Not really… but sometimes it seems that way! Of course now I live in California which actually produces way more milk than Wisconsin due to the size of the state, but don’t tell my parents that!

  10. Really beautiful cake Meggan. We are huge milk drinkers here and I love how simple this is.

  11. Liz @ FloatingKitchen

    Milk basically kept me alive for the first 16 years of my life. I was a picky eater, but I would always happily drink HUGE glasses of milk. I’ve never heard of a hot milk cake. I’m intrigued. Looking forward to trying it out!

  12. Yum!!! Does it matter what kind of milk you use in the cake? I’m thinking my beloved fat free milk might not be a good idea…

    Luci’s Morsels – fashion. food. frivolity.

    1. THAT is an excellent question. I used 2%. I will make a version with skim and let you know. There is a lot of butter here so I actually think skim milk might be just fine. I will head back to the lab and let you know the results! :)

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