A lovely cake to welcome Spring, this moist, tender Vanilla Malt Cake and the speckled Robin's Egg Buttercream come together with just one bowl, no mixer is needed!
Spring can be a fickle time of year with shirtsleeve weather one day and then the necessity for heavy winter jackets the next. But even if the weather isn't cooperating with the calendar in your little corner of the globe, this Vanilla Malt Cake with Robin's Egg Buttercream will make springtime come alive in a crazy delicious way!
With a moist tender crumb and a silky smooth buttercream, this cake tastes like it came from a fine bakeshop but it actually is super simple to make at home with just one bowl (for both the cake and icing) and a whisk.
What is malted milk powder?
This Vanilla Malt Cake recipe calls for malted milk powder which is a combination of malt powder (made from barley) and milk solids. Martha Stewart describes the flavor well saying that malted milk powder is a "mild, aromatic ingredient that's deliciously sweet, earthy, and nutty". It's often used in milkshakes and candies like malted milk balls.
Using malted milk powder in baked goods such as this Vanilla Malt Cake adds a subtle but fabulous depth of flavor. It's not as strong as the malt flavor in malted milk balls or malted milkshakes but the malt seems to enhance the other ingredients, adding a bit of mysterious deliciousness that you can't quite put your finger on.
In an article discussing the use of malted milk powder in baking, Serious Eats says, "The extra lactose helps baked goods brown, while also lending a cooked-milk flavor along the lines of butterscotch or toffee". I like to think of it as a mild taste of caramel.
This Vanilla Malt Cake is actually triple-malted! In addition to a scoop of malted milk powder in the cake itself, there's also a bit in the glaze that's brushed over the exterior after it comes out of the oven (this keeps the cake nice and moist). And lastly, there's one more scoop in the beautiful Robin's Egg Buttercream.
Robin's Egg Buttercream
Don't worry, there are no robin eggs in the easy one-bowl buttercream. Just butter, powdered sugar, malted milk powder, half and half (or milk) and a drizzle of vanilla. I call it Robin's Egg Buttercream because it was inspired by pale blue robins' egg, one of the lovely first signs of spring. The little chocolate speckles are splattered onto the cake with a pastry brush resulting in... Robin's Egg Buttercream!
A lovely gift!
This Vanilla Malt cake seems to shout "SPRING" and is a wonderful way to celebrate Easter and/or any other seasonal celebration. It also makes a lovely gift to take to a friend, neighbor, co-worker... anyone!
We've created a label that we use to dress up this cake for gifting. We're happy to share a free printable PDF for this label so you can adorn your gifts too. To receive the PDF, simply let us know in the comment section at the bottom of this post. We'll email it to you, along with instructions and a link for the cake box and ribbon pictured above.
Ready to celebrate Spring? Put this moist, tender, DELICIOUS Vanilla Malt Cake on your baking list. It will bring smiles of delights and lots of oohs and ahhs of appreciation!
Café Tips for making this Vanilla Malt Cake with Robin's Egg Buttercream
- This recipe calls for an 8-inch round cake pan with sides that are at least 2 inches tall. If your pan has less than 2-inch tall sides, use a 9-inch pan. The finished cake will be a bit lower.
- I love this textured 8-inch cake pan. I've had mine for years and it's held up well.
- Just a note to be aware of - you can use an 8-inch square cake pan but be aware that this also will result in a lower cake the bottom surface area of an 8-inch round pan is 50 square inches whereas the bottom surface area of an 8-inch square pan is 64 square inches,
- Many cakes will mound a bit in the center while baking, this Vanilla Malt Cake included. It's because the outer edges start baking sooner than the rest of the cake causing the edges to set before the cake has fully risen. As the cake finished baking the center will dome. The cake will be flipped over after it's baked with the bottom becoming the top, so it's not a big deal. But, if you prefer a perfectly level cake, these velcro cake strips (which are wrapped around the pan before baking) work really well! They can be used for 8 or 9-inch cake pans and can be reused over and over.
- As mentioned above, this recipe calls for malted milk powder which comes in vanilla and chocolate. Choose the vanilla for this cake. Malted milk powder is available at most larger grocery stores in the same area as chocolate milk powder and dry milk. You can also purchase it online.
- The best way to determine if a cake is done is to use an instant thermometer. The internal temp in the center of the cake should read 200-210˚F. Instant thermometers are super useful in the kitchen and are reasonably priced.
- This Vanilla Malt Cake can be made without the icing. It's delicious on its own which is a great option if you're watching your sugar and simply prefer less sweet desserts.
- I like using a large cake spatula to transfer my cakes from the cooling rack to a platter or cake stand.
- For those of you living outside of the U.S., half and half is a convenience product that's often used here in coffee. It's simply a combination of half milk and half cream.
- To create the "speckled" icing, dip a dry pastry brush in the cocoa mixture and gently shake off any excess. Hold the brush in one hand and pull the bristle back, creating a splatter on the buttercream.
- It's helpful to practice the robin's egg speckling technique on a piece of parchment paper before speckling the cake itself. I also like to have parchment paper under my cake as I speckle it to catch any stray splatter.
Thought for the day:
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
What we're listening to for inspiration:
If you enjoy this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear your results, adaptations, and ideas for variations.
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ¼ cup melted butter
- ¼ cup neutral flavored oil sunflower, safflower, grape seed, avocado, canola…
- 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons malted milk powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon malted milk powder
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 ounces butter 4 tablespoons
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar maybe a bit more
- 1 tablespoon malted milk powder
- 2 tablespoons half and half or milk, maybe a bit more
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extra
Preheat the oven to 325˚F with a rack in the center of the oven.
Spray an 8-inch round cake pan (with sides that are at least 2 inches tall) generously with baking spray and rub to coat the inner surface well. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Set aside. (if your round pam does not have sides that are at least 2 inches tall, use 9-inch pans instead.)
Set a cooling rack over a piece of parchment paper on a work surface and set aside.
In a medium-large bowl, combine the sugar and the eggs. Whisk for 30-45 seconds until well combined and a little frothy. The color should get a little lighter as you whisk.
Add the buttermilk, melted butter, oil and vanilla and whisk until combined. Add the malt powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk again until smooth and lump-free.
Lastly, add the flour and whisk until smooth. The batter will be fairly thin.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, tap the pan gently on the counter to release any air bubbles, and smooth the top of the batter with a knife or offset spatula. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The best way to test doneness is with an instant thermometer. A cake is done when the temperature reads 200-210.
While the cake is baking, make the glaze (directions below).
Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes then turn it out onto a cooling rack and peel off the parchment paper. The bottom of the cake will now become the top. Brush the cake all over with the vanilla malt glaze. Use all of the glaze. some of it will drip onto the parchment paper but most of it will sink in. Cool completely before topping with the buttercream.
Combine all of the glaze ingredients in a microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl and whisk vigorously to combine. If the glaze is still lumpy, place the cup (or bowl) in the microwave and heat on high power for 20-30 seconds. Whisk again until smooth. Set aside.
Combine all icing ingredients in a medium size bowl and whisk until smooth and creamy. You want a nice spreadable consistency - if the icing seems too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar and whisk well. If it’s too thick, add more half and half (or milk), just a little splash at a time and whisk until smooth.
Add a drop or two of liquid food color or a bit of gel food color on the tip of a toothpick and stir well. Add more to achieve the desired color. I used just a bit of Wilton Teal gel food color. If you’re using liquid I would suggest a drop of blue combined with a drop of green.
Transfer the icing onto the center of the cake and spread to the edges, swirling it with a knife or the back of a teaspoon for a pretty presentation.
With your frosted cake still on the cooling rack (on top of parchment paper) add the speckles.
Combine the speckle ingredients and stir with a fork until smooth. Add a bit more water if needed to create a consistency similar to paint.
Using a dry pastry brush or a small craft brush, dip the brush in the cocoa mixture. Holding the paintbrush over the cake, use your finger to gently pull back the bristles (away from the cake) and then release them (towards the cake) to splatter the chocolate speckles onto the frosting.
Transfer the cake to a serving plate or platter with a large spatula. ENJOY!
See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and tips to ensure success.
If you prefer to use Metric measurements there is a button in each of our recipes, right above the word “Instructions”. Just click that button to toggle to grams, milliliters, etc. If you ever come across one of our recipes that doesn't have the Metric conversion (some of the older recipes may not), feel free to leave a comment and I will add it.
Adapted from Snacking Cakes by Yossi Arefi