Home Cooking: Hot Milk Cake

I love, love, love recipes that don’t require me to buy special or extra ingredients, ones that allow me to use only pantry stapes in order to create something delicious.

Although the recipe was created earlier, the modest hot milk cake became a popular recipe during the depression, where people stretched what they had to create meals and treats for special occasions. The recipe contains just eight basic ingredients, all of them things most people kept (and still keep) regularly in their pantries; used up the last of milk that might go bad or milk that was beginning to sour so that nothing was wasted.

There are also loads of ways to vary the cake as well. The recipe is great for baking over pineapple slices or canned apricot halves for an upside down cake. A quarter cup of cocoa power can be added to the scalded milk for a chocolate cake. Almond, orange, or lemon extracts can be substituted for the vanilla to change the flavor, with toasted almonds sprinkled on top with almond extract, and orange or lemon zest added to the batter for additional flavor.

The traditional (and frugal) topping for a hot milk cake is powdered sugar, but it can also be frosted or glazed. The amount of sugar added to the cake can be reduced as much as half if you plan to add frosting so the cake isn’t overly sweet. The batter can be baked in a Bundt, loaf, 9″ x 13″ pan depending on your mood or what you have.

No matter how you choose to make a hot milk cake, it’s practically foolproof. When I baked my cake I had less than the full amount of flour called for (I was missing about three tablespoons), and my milk boiled over as well because I wasn’t paying close enough attention so that was a little short as well. In spite of these errors, the cake still came out perfectly light and fluffy. Also, I’ve seen recipes calling for just one teaspoon of vanilla, but I highly recommend adding two – you won’t regret it!

HOT MILK CAKE

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup milk (whole milk is best)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs on medium speed for at least two minutes, until they are pale yellow and frothy. Gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla.

Mix the flour mixture into the eggs and beat until smooth.

Place the milk in a small saucepan. Cut the butter into large pieces and add to the milk, then warm over medium heat until the milk just boils (watch the milk carefully so it doesn’t boil over).

Blend the hot milk and melted butter into the egg and flour mixture, then pour the batter into a well-buttered pan (it will be thin). Bake for 25-30 minutes in a 9×13 pan, 40 minutes in a Bundt pan.

Let a 9″ x 13″ cake cool in the pan; with a Bundt pan cool for 15 minutes then invert on to a plate. When the cake is completely cooled, dust with powdered sugar (or frost or glaze).

11 thoughts on “Home Cooking: Hot Milk Cake

  1. Yum! This reminds of the cake my little brother loved to bake when we were young…his first cooking attempt. It was called a “Happy Day Cake: and we ate it with frosting, without and topped by strawberries in summer and plain if we could get to it before my mom discovered us. Ha!

    Glad to see you have cooking “mistakes” too. I somehow boiled eggs for an hour last month. They weren’t edible but at least they were in enough water that I didn’t ruin the pot. 😂

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    1. I’d had this cake before, and remembered it tasting like pound cake (with a somewhat similar consistency). It would go well with a myriad of toppings – Brett has been fantasizing about chocolate sauce. No chocolate sauce, but I did put a can of coconut milk in the fridge yesterday evening and will make some whipped cream with that tonight to go with the cake.

      Laurel, if there is a mistake to be made, I am going to make it. I’ve always said that NO ONE can make a mess faster than I can. Seriously. Mop the kitchen floor? I can guarantee I will drop or spill something on it in less than half an hour. Drop something? Guaranteed. Flour everywhere. Always. The pictures make things look good; I’m very organized but still a mess.

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  2. I wonder what purpose boiling the milk serves. It certainly looks versatile.

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    1. Maybe the milk was boiled to make sure it was safe, especially back during the early 20th century or the Depression. Probably these days it’s boiled as a way to melt the butter. I’m just glad I didn’t burn it when it boiled over – it was perfectly scalded.

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      1. In addition to melting the butter, scalded milk makes baked goods lighter and fluffier and better infuses any flavors you add. And you’re correct about the food safety issue before all milk was pasteurized – I grew up on a farm drinking a neighbor’s raw milk through the 1960’s.

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      2. Interesting – I did not know about making baked goods lighter and fluffier. I got lucky the other day because the milk didn’t scorch or burn – I caught it just in time and the cake came out perfectly.

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    1. It’s a very good cake, and easy to make. We’re going to pick up some strawberries this week and use the cake for a strawberry shortcake base (will make some coconut creme whipped cream to go along).

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