towards the light – vanilla malted milk cake

by hungryrabbit on June 7, 2013

Vanilla Malted Milk Cake

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.


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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one } June 7, 2013 at 7:59 am

I LOVE malt milk so this is on my list of must try! I would just perhaps top it with maltese 😉

Gail June 7, 2013 at 8:01 am

BEAUTIFUL! And your frosting job is superb!

hungryrabbit June 7, 2013 at 8:36 am

Coming from THE pro, I’m honored. xoxo

Bunkycooks June 7, 2013 at 10:14 am

Your cakes are always so lovely, Ken. I have some malted milk powder that was purchased for another recipe. Now it will find a home for the rest of it. :-)

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar June 7, 2013 at 12:18 pm

This cake is straight up PERFECT! Loving those layers :)

Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious June 8, 2013 at 2:11 am

I’m not much of a chocolate person so this cake here is just screaming my name!

Angie@Angie's Recipes June 8, 2013 at 8:31 am

A feather light and beautiful vanilla cake. The frosting with malt powder sounds really interesting.

Yii-Huei June 8, 2013 at 9:13 am

This is the fluffiest vanilla cake I have ever seen!I also love the way you frosted it :)

Pattie @ Olla-Podrida June 9, 2013 at 9:54 am

I found you on Tastespotting. Oh my, this cake looks wonderful! I am a big fan of anything malted so I’m going to give this a try. I also have to say that I truly admire your slicing skills. I have never been able to get one piece of cake to come out even much less an entire cake. Bravo!

Laura Dembowski June 9, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I have some malted milk in the pantry that’s been calling my name and now I know what to do with it. Vanilla cake is my favorite and this is gorgeous!

Domowe Wypieki June 9, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Wow… amazing cake !! :)

Kat June 10, 2013 at 3:36 am

Does it matter if the coconut milk is from a can (light coconut or original) or if it was in a carton like Blue Diamond, So Delicious, Silk, etc. To me, the flavor from the can is more coconut-y. So not sure if it matters?!

hungryrabbit June 10, 2013 at 7:37 am

Hi Kat, it’s best to use unsweetened coconut milk from a can. It’s the richness of coconut milk that gives you a moist cake. Happy Baking! -Ken

Debbie June 15, 2013 at 12:55 am

Recipe sounded and looked wonderful, however upon making it the frosting was more like a thin buttery icing. I felt the frosting needed more than the 1 1/4c confectioners sugar the recipe stated.

hungryrabbit June 15, 2013 at 8:32 am

Hi Debbie, perhaps your butter was too soft to start or you didn’t beat the butter enough? -Ken

Martha June 28, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Love your cake!!! I want to make iT, but I live in Argentina and we don’t have Malted milk, any sustitude? please!! Thanks!

Jane July 16, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Hi there – this cake looks wonderful!

What do you mean by ‘cake flour’? self raising or plain?

Many thanks!

hungryrabbit July 16, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Cake flour has less protein than all-purpose flour, thus yield a more tender cake. happy Baking! -Ken

Jane August 6, 2013 at 6:56 am

Many thanks! I’m not sure where I can find this in the UK but I heard possibly there is a ‘supreme sponge flour’ that is self raising that has the right protein content- would I then just leave out the baking powder?

hungryrabbit August 6, 2013 at 10:28 am

Hi Jane, if you can’t find cake flour, here’s how you can make a substitute. Take one cup of all-purpose flour, remove two tablespoons, and then add two tablespoons of cornstarch back in. Happy Baking! -Ken

Llufetsat August 16, 2013 at 12:52 am

The flavor of this cake is amazing, but I had sever issues with my cupcakes falling. May have been the altitude, but I’m not positive. May have to experiment some.

hungryrabbit August 16, 2013 at 9:23 am

Hello, it could be the altitude, but you should also check the expiration date on your baking powder. -Ken

Linda Pfeiffer August 29, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Can’t wait to try this recipe I love anything with malt in it so this cake is a must I will let you know what I think when I make it.

Najia September 27, 2013 at 5:50 pm

I tried this cake yesterday. Awesome flavor, but the color of the cake wasnt white as shown here ,it’s caramel in color. What’s the reason behind this.

hungryrabbit September 27, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Hi Najia, I cant think of any of the ingredients that will turn the cake caramel color. Perhaps it’s the malt milk powder. What brand is it? or perhaps it’s the brand of vanilla extract that you use? (scratching head) -Ken

Najia September 28, 2013 at 6:06 am

Hello,I used horlicks which is giving it this color. What did u use for malted milk powder. It’s the first time I have ever made a butter frosted cake. Another question is did u used white butter for the cake . The butter I used was pale yellow in color. Thanks.

hungryrabbit September 28, 2013 at 8:18 am

I used Horlick as well. Where do you live? Horlick can varied in different countries, perhaps that answers why your cake get a caramel color. I used Whole Foods organic butter for this recipe. -Ken

Najia September 28, 2013 at 9:14 am

I live in Pakistan so the powder available here is beige in color and turn light brown on addition of milk. Any ways thanks a lot for helping me. Will look for other variety too.

hungryrabbit September 28, 2013 at 9:49 am

In my humble opinion, Horlick has the best malted flavor. Carnation makes a malted milk powder but not as flavorful, but I suppose you can add more to boost the flavor. Happy Baking! -Ken

Tiffany November 14, 2013 at 12:22 pm

If I wanted to make this into a 10 inch cake could I just double the quantities for this recipe? It sounds fab and I really want to try it for a large birthday cake

hungryrabbit November 14, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Hi Tiffany, if you double the recipe you’ll yield about 12 cups of batter. A 10-inch cake pan takes 11 cups of batter, so you’ll have a bit of extra. I’ve never made it as a 10-inch cake so I can’t advice you on the exact time and temp adjustments. -Ken

Beka March 4, 2014 at 12:56 am

Hi Ken, I have never seen cake ingredients combined in this way- sugar with flour instead of with eggs. Can you please explain the science for your method? I wasn’t sure of this method, so I made this recipe the more traditional way. I had to use Ovaltine Malted Milk mix, as Horlicks is not available here. The first cake was rich and buttery but not malt enough.
I increased the malt to 4-ish ounces (1 C.). This gave me an amazing flavor, however I am still not satisfied with the texture.

Beka March 4, 2014 at 1:03 am

continued… So I am going to make this cake again – and this time I will follow your method exactly and let you know of my results. I am new to your blog but love your passion and your understanding of the science in baking. I am anxious to try more of your recipes. Thank You!

hungryrabbit March 4, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Hi Beka, the recipe is call the reverse creaming method. The butter coats the dry ingredients, to produce moist crumb, before the liquid is added. Keep me posted on your baking progress. -Ken

MYDOGS March 26, 2014 at 9:17 pm


Madison June 21, 2014 at 3:25 pm

I am looking to use this recipe for a party I was assigned, but the host wants a colorful cake on the inside. Would adding dye throw off the composition of the cake?

hungryrabbit June 21, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Hi Madison, you can use food coloring on this cake. Depends on the color you want to achieve, any large amount of food coloring will ruin flavors of cake, so be judicious. I do have other cakes recipes on the blog that use natural fruit color. Happy Baking. -Ken

Lindsay D July 27, 2014 at 7:29 pm

This was really delicious! Thank you for sharing! I had a really hard time not eating the entire bowl of batter :)

EE Lin July 12, 2015 at 11:47 pm

Truly an impressive looking cake! Can I use whole milk instead of coconut milk?

hungryrabbit July 15, 2015 at 10:23 pm

Hi there, you may definitely substitute coconut milk with whole milk. Happy Baking! -Ken

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