Hot Milk Cake

published Aug 27, 2023
Hot Milk Cake Recipe

Meet the foolproof hot milk cake, a fluffy and not-too-sweet sponge cake. that will be the life of the party.

Makes1 (9-inch) cake

Prep15 minutes

Cook30 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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hot milk cake topped with powdered sugar on brown parchment paper
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Even though I’m a professional baker, I tend to shy away from sponge cakes. That’s because they’re rather fussy by nature, relying on whipped eggs and delicate folding for their lift, structure, and texture. It wasn’t until I developed a recipe for Boston cream pie that I became fond of one sponge cake in particular, which leans on baking powder for its rise and nixes folding all together: the hot milk cake. 

What Is Hot Milk Cake?

Hot milk cake, also known as hot milk sponge, has been around since the early 1900s. The rich and tender cake gets its name from the addition of butter and milk, which are heated together until the butter melts, before being added to the rest of the ingredients that form the batter. This fail-proof sponge cake also calls for whipped whole eggs and baking powder, which help the cake rise and contribute to a light and fluffy texture.

How to Make Hot Milk Cake

The beauty of the hot milk cake is that it comes together rather quickly. 

  • Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk all-purpose flour and baking powder together in a bowl. 
  • Combine the wet ingredients. Heat together cubed unsalted butter and whole milk until the butter melts. Once melted, stir in vanilla extract and kosher salt. 
  • Whip the eggs and sugar together. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip whole eggs with granulated sugar until fluffy, pale yellow, and doubled in volume. You’ll know it’s ready when the mixture resembles a “ribbon” as it falls back on itself.  
  • Pour in the warmed milk mixture. With the mixer on low, add the milk in a steady stream. 
  • Add the dry ingredients. Continuing on low speed, add the flour mixture a few spoonfuls at a time to the bowl and mix until just combined. 
  • Bake the cake(s). I’ve included instructions below for how to bake a single 9-inch square cake and two 9-inch round cakes. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake until light golden-brown. 
  • Cool the cake(s). Let the cake cool for 15 minutes, flip out of the pan, then let cool completely. 

How to Serve Hot Milk Cake

I love the versatility of hot milk cake. You can serve it as-is with a dusting of powdered sugar on top or a dollop of whipped cream and fresh berries. But, you can also dress it up as a layer cake with frosting, ganache, pastry cream, and other fillings. 

Hot Milk Cake Recipe

Meet the foolproof hot milk cake, a fluffy and not-too-sweet sponge cake. that will be the life of the party.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes

Makes 1 (9-inch) cake

Nutritional Info


  • 3

    large eggs

  • 1 1/4 cups

    all-purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling

  • 2 teaspoons

    baking powder

  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick)

    unsalted butter, plus more for the pan(s)

  • 3/4 cup

    whole milk

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract, or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 1/4 cups

    granulated sugar


  1. Place 3 large eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Let sit until room temperature. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325ºF.

  2. Coat the sides and bottoms of 1 (9-inch) square cake pan, or 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with butter. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Sprinkle a little all-purpose flour over the sides and bottoms, and tilt and shake to distribute evenly, tapping out the excess.

  3. Place 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Cut 6 tablespoons unsalted butter into small cubes and place in a microwave-safe measuring cup. Add 3/4 cup whole milk and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between each, until the butter is melted, 60 to 90 seconds total. (Alternatively, heat the butter and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat.) Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and stir to combine.

  4. Add 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar to the bowl of eggs. Beat with the whisk attachment on high speed until thick and doubled in volume, about 6 minutes. The mixture should fall back on itself in a ribbon and be pale yellow in color. Reduce the mixer speed to low and pour in the milk mixture in a steady stream. Add the flour mixture, a few spoonfuls at a time, and beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through, until just combined, about 30 seconds total.

To bake 1 (9-inch) square cake:

  1. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake until the cake is a light golden brown and until a tester inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

To bake 2 (9-inch) round cakes:

  1. Evenly divide the batter between the pans (about 14 ounces or 2 3/4 cups each). Bake until the cakes are a light golden brown and until a tester inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes.

  2. Place the pan(s) on a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Run a small offset spatula or thin knife around the edges of each cake to loosen. Flip the cakes out of the pan(s) onto the rack and remove the parchment paper. Gently flip right side up, and let cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The cake can be baked up to 1 day ahead. Once completely cool, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

Storage: Leftover cake can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.