Hot Milk Cake

This old-fashioned recipe for classic vanilla cake makes a velvety smooth, delicious classic vanilla cake. Top it with whipped cream and fruit and it’s the perfect summer dessert!

*Lots of cake science in this post!*

Hot Milk Cake

The one thing that I am a sucker for is cake fresh out of the oven. Especially if it’s a sheet cake. Then you can nibble at the edges and take tiny slices while it’s cooling and nobody will notice. And that’s just what I did. This cake was so fantastic right out of the oven.

It was even more delicious after it cooled and I topped it with a generous portion of homemade whipping cream. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, the science!

Hot Milk Cake

This cake is a science nerd’s dream! Why? Because of mixing methods, of course! What is a mixing method? A mixing method is how you mix your cake, and depending on how do that can really affect that texture and final product of your cake. There are three major mixing methods that I’ve experimented with:

  1. The traditional creaming method. You cream together the butter and the sugar for as long as seven minutes in order to produce lots of air bubbles. Because baking soda and baking powder do not create their own air bubbles but rather expand already existing bubbles, lots of creaming of the butter and sugar can yield a really fluffy cake.
  2. My preferred mixing method is the reverse creaming method. Rather than creaming the butter and sugar together, you add all of the dry ingredients and then mix in the fat. The fat (cubed butter or oil) coats the flour particles and prevent it from forming lots of gluten networks. This results in a more dense, velvety crumb.
  3. The final method is the muffin method. This is rarely used in cakes because it yields a large crumb and lots of open holes. You mix all of the dry ingredients in one bowl and all of the wet ingredients in the other. Then you combine them only until they’re just incorporated. Because you’re directly incorporating all of the wet ingredients into the flour, over mixing will result in formation of gluten networks. The longer you mix flour exposed to a liquid, the more gluten will form and that leads to tough, icky baked goods.

But this cake used an entirely different mixing method. And it is beautiful and science-y. Instead of creaming the butter and sugar, you cream the eggs and sugar. Then you add the dry ingredients and finally, you add the melted butter and hot milk. Normally in a cake recipe, you add the fat early on during the mixing process. Here it is quite the opposite. What makes this cake fluffy if you’re not creaming the butter and sugar? It all begins in step one when you beat the eggs. You must beat the eggs for at least five minutes. At this point, you are incorporating tons of air bubbles into the eggs, which the baking powder will act on while the cake is baking. Once again, baking powder does not create its own air bubbles, but rather expands pre-existing air bubbles. The more air bubbles you beat in, the lighter your cake will be. When you add the sugar, continue beating until light and fluffy. Once again, you’re incorporating more air bubbles.

Hot Milk Cake
What the eggs will look like after you beat them for five minutes.
Hot Milk Cake
What the cake mix will look like after you add the sugar and beat until fluffy.

Why did I use cake flour instead of all-purpose flour? Cake flour has lower protein content, which is ideal in a cake recipe in which you  could over mix. Flour forms gluten networks when water (or any liquid for that matter) is added to it. Because you add the majority of the wet ingredients last to the flour, which has already been mixed with the eggs and sugar, there is a chance that you could over mix and start forming gluten networks, which you don’t want in tender cakes. Because cake flour has lower protein content, it reduces that risk. Thus, when you add the hot milk and melted butter, mix it in slowly and a little at a time and only mix until the melted butter and hot milk are just incorporated. Hot Milk Cake How does melting the butter affect the cake? When you melt butter, you break the bonds in the butter and leads to the loss of the emulsion. Even if you put the butter back in the fridge, you cannot repair the broken bonds. In some situations, that’s really bad. For example, in the traditional creaming method, the lift comes from beating the sugar and butter together. If the butter has been melted, it can form the same type of lift. Thankfully, in this recipe, you use the eggs to create lift. The melted butter efficiently coats all of the flour molecules when it’s added to the mixture and will leads to a soft, velvety, evenly-crumbed cake. Just make sure you don’t over mix! Hot Milk Cake Hot Milk Cake My tips in an abbreviated list:

  • Make sure to beat the eggs for five minutes!
  • When you add the milk and butter to the mixture, only mix until just incorporated.
  • Use cake flour instead of all-purpose flour to prevent gluten formation; however, you certainly can use all-purpose flour!
  • If you’d like to halve the recipe, you’re welcome to do so! Simply halve the recipe and use an 8 by 8 pan rather than a 9 by 13 pan.

Now, go make this cake! And buy some fresh summer fruits and eat this cake with those fruits and some fresh whipped cream. Seriously, you won’t regret it.
Hot Milk Cake

Hot Milk Cake
Recipe Type: Cake
Author: Taste of Home
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 50 mins
Serves: 12-16
This old-fashioned recipe for classic vanilla cake makes a velvety, smooth, and quite delicious classic vanilla cake. Top it with whipped cream and fruit and it’s the perfect summer dessert.
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/4 cups whole milk (or any kind of milk)
  • 10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 by 13 pan and set aside. I also lined the pan with parchment paper for easy removal.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs for five minutes or until they are lemon yellow and very thick.
  3. Gradually add the sugar one cup at a time and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly add to the egg/sugar mixture on low speed and until just smooth. Do not over mix.
  5. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter just until the butter is melted. Gradually add to the batter. Beat until just combined. Do NOT over mix.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared 9 by 13 pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of the cake comes out clean.




  1. I am sure going to try this. Its making me hungry just writing down the recipe. Sounds delish
    will be giving four stars to the recipe and will most probably increase to five once I taste it lol

  2. Hello Brita,
    Your hot milk cake looks wonderful! I would love to try this out. Can you tell me what is the baking science behind using hot milk? Will it make a difference if the milk is cold or room temperature? Thank you very much!

    • Hi Justina! I think the hot milk is important because when you’re baking the cake, it comes to temperature much faster because the milk is already hot. However, cold milk will most likely work!

    • I remember reading that the scalding allows the liquid to get slurped up by the starch first, leaving less to activate the gluten, resulting in a more tender final product. Granted, this was for a bread recipe, but I wonder if that’s the case here?

      (PS. I was actually looking for a sciencey explanation for hot milk cake when I came across your blog, Brita, so from one nerdy baker to another, thank you!!)

  3. Does the altitude make a difference ? I’ve made great hot milk at a low altitude but at higher it turns out heavy and doesn’t rise.

  4. I am from Nairobi and this is the best vanilla cake i have ever tasted. Its supper moist and i made two 8 inch cakes with it.I decided to reduce the butter to 100g then added 40ml of oil.I also used buttermilk instead of whole milk. the cake is so nice and moist. Thank you for the recipe

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