Hot milk layer cake

layered hot milk cake


Process notes

  • used freshly-milled 100% soft white wheat flour instead of the all-purpose flour
  • proportionally cut the original chocolate buttercream recipe down to use just one egg white (1/5 of original recipe)
  • filled the layer cake with crème chantilly
  • spread the chocolate buttercream on the top layer only
  • coated the top with chocolate ganache, which dribbled down the sides


Apparently hot milk cake is a tricky endeavor, which I only learned after both of my cakes baked with extremely sunken middles. I've never experienced this before, so was curious if others had the same results. It's true that I didn't use the type of flour the recipe is written for, but other bakers had similar issues with their cakes so I don't think it's purely a flour issue. In any case, it led to a flurry of research on cake troubleshooting and my best guess is that I didn't use enough flour or there was too much baking powder. Of course it's entirely possible that whole wheat flour requires other changes to the recipe. At this point I'm not so sold on the hot milk recipe that I'm willing to invest a bunch of time experimenting. I found some other yellow layer cake recipes that I'll try instead, using the freshly-milled flour.

The hot milk cakes with high sides and sunken middles
The hot milk cakes with high sides and sunken middles

Slicing each cake in half, removing the highest parts of the sides, gave me two fairly decent layers. I wanted to avoid big empty pockets in the middle once the layers were assembled, so the purpose of the crème chantilly was to fill in the hollowed areas. It did a nice job of this, but was tricky to eat because the cake was so dense that putting the fork through the layers for a bite squished the creme out the edges.

This was my first time making a Swiss meringue style of buttercream, and I love how it turned out. Since I cut the recipe down so much from the way it was originally written, it was tricky to get the egg whites to mix up in the stand mixer. I was super happy that it actually worked out, and the buttercream is silky smooth. I'd definitely make this style of icing again.

It was hard to decide whether to top the cake with the buttercream or ganache because I really wanted to experience making both of them. In the end I added both to the top, but after pouring the ganache over the top I wished I had just stopped with the buttercream. The cake was so much cuter without the ganache dripping down the sides. It also made the cake too rich -- the buttercream and crème chantilly would have been plenty.

Slice of layered hot milk cake with creme chantilly filling
Slice of layered hot milk cake with creme chantilly filling

While the fallen cakes were a disappointment, things came together pretty well and the finished cake is quite tasty. And the experience inspired me to refocus on the fundamentals, especially with the whole wheat flour factor. I revisited Michael Ruhlman's Ratio and am looking forward to trying his classic layer cake recipe.


Vanilla bean crème chantilly

Makes enough for filling one 6-inch layer cake
  • Seeds scraped from ½ vanilla pod
  • 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
Whip the heavy cream at high speed until soft peaks form, around 1 minute.

Add powdered sugar and vanilla seeds and continue whipping at high speed until stiff peaks form and the frosting is smooth (about 1 - 1½ minutes), but not buttery.

Chocolate ganache

Makes enough to pour over outside of one 6-inch layer cake
  • 1 1/2 ounces extra dark chocolate chips
  • 3 ounces heavy whipping cream
Heat the cream in a saucepan, until hot but not boiling. Pour over chocolate and let sit until it melts, then stir to smooth.