Q: My mother has been looking for a recipe that her mom used to make. It's called Hot Milk Cake. She said that her mom probably started making it around the 1940s when she lived in Virginia. None of my grandmother's siblings know what cookbook this recipe may have originated from and can't locate a copy within the family itself. If you have heard of any recipes for this cake, could you please let me know? My mother would be delighted and so would I as I have heard it is delicious and would love to try it!
—Mary O'Heron, Oswego
A: I found hot milk cake recipes in the Chicago Tribune archive from Ruth Ellen Church, the longtime food editor who sometimes wrote under the pen name of Mary Meade. She saw it as an easier, surer alternative to the standard sponge cake.
"The old fashioned hot milk cake isn't a true sponge cake in that it has baking powder to supplement the leavening power of its eggs, but baking powder or not, it is a sponge textured beauty, and many cooks have better success with it than with the true all-egg sponge cake,'' Church wrote in a 1955 Mary Meade column that called for making the cake with hot chocolate milk. (You could, of course, use regular milk to make a plain cake.)
Eleven years later, in 1967, Church was back with a cake recipe featuring evaporated milk, a recipe developed by the Evaporated Milk Association, an industry group that later merged with the American Dairy Products Institute.
"Older cooks will remember the popular hot milk sponge cake of the years before cake mixes,'' the Mary Meade column began. "Might it not be fun to make one again, from a recipe updated and improved? A high-rise cake with the moist, spongy texture expected of a sponge cake?"
I'll give you both of those recipes below. I haven't had time to test either in the kitchen, so proceed carefully. You might want to try out the recipe first before presenting the cake to your mother.
The earliest reference I could find to "hot milk cake" in the Tribune's archives dated from Jan. 15, 1911, and the "Page for Practical Housekeepers." Favorite recipes from readers was one of the page's features. This super-short recipe for hot milk cake offers a template of sorts to the basic cake. Credited with the recipe is a person listed only as "L.L.M."; not sure if a 1911 "cupful" equals today's 8-ounce cup measure but give it a try.
"Hot Milk Cake. One cupful of sugar, two eggs, one cupful of flour, pinch of salt, one teaspoonful of baking powder and one-half cupful of hot milk. Beat well and bake. A little grated chocolate may be added for a dark cake or a few nuts or cocoanut."
Hot chocolate milk cake
A Mary Meade recipe from the Chicago Tribune of Dec. 28, 1955, complete with the idiosyncratic spelling ("thoroly,") used by the newspaper then.
2 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons lemon juice
3/4 cup hot chocolate milk
1.Sift flour, baking powder and salt three times. Beat eggs until thick and lemon colored. Gradually add sugar, beating constantly; add lemon juice. Fold in sifted ingredients, a small amount at a time. Add hot milk and stir quickly until thoroly blended. Turn into ungreased 10-inch tube pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, or until cake tests done. Invert and cool 1 hour. Remove from pan and sprinkle with sifted confectioners' sugar. Garnish with pecan halves if you wish. Serve with a sauce made of the chocolate milk.
Editor's note: Chocolate milk sauce: Heat 1 1/2 cups chocolate milk to the boiling point. Combine 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and a dash of salt. Gradually add chocolate milk, mixing well. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened and smooth. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; mix well. Serve warm or cold.
Golden sponge cake
A recipe from the Evaporated Milk Association served as the basis for a Mary Meade column that ran Aug. 14, 1967.
1 3/4 cups sifted regular flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon lemon extract or vanilla
1 cup evaporated milk
1.Sift flour with 1 cup of the sugar, the salt and baking powder. Set aside. In small bowl of electric mixer beat egg whites until they hold peaks but are not dry. Add 1/2 cup of the remaining sugar and beat well; set aside.
2.In large bowl of mixer add remaining 1/2 cup sugar to egg yolks, together with flavoring (lemon extract or vanilla). Beat until very thick and pale yellow.
3.In small saucepan heat evaporated milk to simmering. Beating constantly to blend, gradually pour the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture. Add flour mixture, beating to blend well. Fold egg whites into batter. Turn into greased 9-inch tube pan. Bake in a preheated slow oven, 325 degrees, until done, about 1 hour.
4.Invert cake in pan on cooling rack and allow to cool. When cold, loosen with spatula and turn onto rack. Dust with confectioners' sugar.
Do you have a question about food or drink? E-mail Bill Daley at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail mail inquiries should be sent to: Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago 60611. Twitter @billdaley