When you go so far in one direction, you will either get stuck there—or you’ll leap to the polar opposite to regain a sense of balance. I experienced it during my recovery from chocolate coma. I completely avoided that dark, sweet seduction and headed toward the light—milk and vanilla.
They usually take supporting roles, not the lead in desserts, except for a few classics such as panna cotta. Just how often do you order simple vanilla when you step into an ice cream parlor? Vanilla ice cream is the best flavor to test the quality of the actual ice cream.
To make a vanilla milk cake, interestingly, you can’t depend on just what the cow supplies—there’s not enough milkiness in the final baked good. Introducing malted milk to the cake adds greater intensity to the flavor and depth. The malted milk flavor lingers on your palette hints at the traditional shakes at soda fountains and diners.
Another surprise while developing this recipe was replacing whole milk with coconut milk. With coconut milk’s creaminess, the cake is incredibly moist. Don’t fret if you are not a fan of coconut, the flavor dissipates during baking–it will not taste like a coconut cake. (Coconut milk in this cake has a similar effect as nutmeg in spinach–you’ll notice there’s something enhancing the flavor, but can’t quite identify it.)
I used vanilla extract in the recipe for the purpose of easy access, but by all means substitute a vanilla bean to really bring out the flavor. This Vanilla Malted Milk Cake tastes great fresh but give it a day for the flavors to meld and it will taste even more sublime.
Vanilla Malted Milk Cake
yield: One 8-inch cake
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk, from can at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups (7 ounces) cake flour
1-1/2 cups (10-1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (3-3/8 ounces) malted milk powder, preferably Horlicks
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
16 tablespoons (8 ounces/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350℉. Grease three 8-by-1-1/2-inch cake pans with butter and cover pan bottoms with rounds of parchment paper or wax paper. Grease parchment rounds, dust cake pans with flour, and tap out excess.
2. Whisk eggs, milk, and vanilla with fork in small bowl. Combine flour, sugar, malted milk powder, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, one piece at a time; mix until combine, only pea-size pieces remains, about 2 minute.
3. Add half of egg mixture, increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium-low and add remaining egg mixture. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds.
4. Divide batter equally between prepared cake pans; spread to sides of pan and smooth with small off-set spatula. Bake until tops are light golden and skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotate pan half way through to for even baking. Cool on rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around pan perimeter to loosen. Invert cake onto large plate, peel off parchment, and re-invert onto lightly greased rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours.
Vanilla Malted Milk Frosting
1/4 cup coconut milk
1-1/4 cups (5-5/8 ounces) malted milk powder, preferably Horlicks
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
24 tablespoons (12 ounces/3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1-1/4 cups (5 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1. Warm coconut milk in small saucepan, do not boil.Remove from heat, add malted milk powder and vanilla extract, stir to combine, set aside to cool.
2. In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until combined, about one minute.
3. Add malted milk mixture, increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down bowl if necessary. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready.
1. Place one cake layer on the bottom of cake stand or serving platter. Spread about 3/4 cup frosting evenly over cake layer; top with another layer. Repeat with the remaining cake layer.
2. Spread frosting on top and side of cake. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Serve.