Hot Milk Sponge Cake

The is the easiest and best-tasting sponge layer you can imagine, and since it’s baked in two pans, you won’t need to slice through it to make a layer cake. Thanks to my friend Kyra Effren, one of the world’s great bakers, for sharing this recipe. Kyra often serves this as a tea cake with a thin layer of raspberry preserves between the layers and a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar over the top—it is elegant simplicity at its best.

Makes two 9-inch round layers, each about 1 1/2 inches tall

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup whole milk

1 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

2 teaspoons baking powder

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Two 9-inch round cake pans, 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep, buttered and the bottoms lined with disks of parchment paper or buttered wax paper

  1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350˚F.
  2. Combine the butter and milk in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the butter is completely melted. Set aside in the pan.
  3. Stir the flour and baking powder together and sift onto a piece of wax paper.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the eggs by hand to break them up, then whisk in the salt. Whisk in the sugar in a stream, then whisk in the vanilla. Place on the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip on medium-high speed until very light, about 3 minutes.
  5. Gently whisk in the warm milk mixture by hand. Use the whisk to fold the flour mixture into the liquid in 4 additions, again gently whisking to incorporate between additions. Using the whisk helps to prevent lumps from forming. Handle the whisk exactly as though you were using a rubber spatula for the folding.
  6. Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans and smooth the tops.
  7. Bake the layers until they are well risen and golden and feel firm when touched in the center with a fingertip, about 20 minutes.
  8. Use a sharp paring knife to loosen the layers from the sides of the pans, then invert to racks. Immediately re-invert the layers so that they cool with the paper on the bottom. Cool completely.