Malted Milk Ball Cake

A vanilla cake with swoopy chocolate frosting.

Kitra: We had about 3% left in our cake batteries for the day today, which means we were looking for something *easy* that did not require a trip to the store.

Jordan: This cake, it turns out, is a perfect 3% energy cake. I would say that it perhaps even charged our cake batteries slightly!

As always, the place to turn for a “no thank you I’d rather nap” cake is Snacking Cakes, which we love.

This is the basic vanilla cake from the book, with a bit of malt powder added (which is one of many variations the author suggests). I don’t know if it’s the malt or just the cake, but this was one of the most beautifully golden cakes I have ever seen.

Also, it’s so moist and fluffy and… spongey? In a good way. It’s really a solid cake, very soft and pretty.

And (in case you’ve forgotten the premise of Snacking Cakes from the last time we referenced it), it’s also a very easy batter that requires just a bowl and a whisk to make.

We both agreed a glaze was the way to go here, since we wouldn’t have to wait for the cake to cool completely, and also no stand mixer or saucepan would be needed. And luckily, we both turned and said “milk chocolate glaze?”

Unfortunately, Kitra was out of milk chocolate… which turned out to be incredibly fortunate.

We were debating the merits of cocoa powder versus walking to CVS for a chocolate bar, when I realized: HOT COCOA MIX.

This cake is good, but the star of this really is the topping. It’s somewhere between a glaze and a frosting—somehow both swoopable and pourable—and it has that perfect amount of artificial flavor that you need when the weather has gone from 70° and sunny to snowing and windy over the course of a weekend.

It’s milky, not overwhelmingly sweet, and I would eat it by the spoonful if we’d made any more than we needed for the cake. I love it. 10/10 will make again. I would eat it in a box. I would eat it with a fox. I would eat it sitting on a pile of rocks. You get the idea.

A vanilla cake with swoopy chocolate frosting. Two slices are on plates next to the cake.

Malted Milk Ball Cake

Adapted from Snacking Cakes by Yossy Arefi


This recipe uses plain malted milk powder (ours was Ovaltine brand), but you could easily use chocolate malt powder if you want. We used the recommended ¼ cup but found that the malt flavor was very mild. In the future, we would probably use ½ cup for a stronger flavor.

The frosting makes enough to just cover a single-layer cake. Double the ingredients if you want a thicker layer, plan to coat the sides, or just want extra to eat with a spoon. Note that you can adjust the amount of cream depending on how thick or thin you want it.

Our hot cocoa mix was the “add hot milk” variety, but the “just add water” kind (which includes milk powder) should be fine too. We used Cadbury, which tastes more like actual chocolate than most mixes, but this will work with anything.


For the cake

  • ¾ cup (150g) sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup (55g) unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ – ½ cup (22 – 44g) malted milk powder (see note)
  • 1¼ cup (160g) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

For the frosting

  • 2 tablespoons (11g) malted milk powder
  • 2 tablespoons (36g) hot cocoa mix
  • 2 tablespoons (15g) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2-6 tablespoons heavy cream


Preheat the oven to 350°. Line an 8-inch square or 9-inch round cake pan with parchment and grease the inside.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar and egg together until pale and thin, about one minute. Add the buttermilk, butter, vegetable oil, vanilla, and salt and whisk to combine. Add the malted milk powder and whisk to dissolve.

Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda and whisk until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for about 30 minutes before turning out and topping. It will still be warm at this point, which is fine for a glaze or thin frosting; if you plan to use a thicker frosting, let it cool completely.

While the cake cools, prepare the frosting. In a small bowl, whisk together the malted milk powder, hot cocoa mix, and powdered sugar. Add heavy cream 1-2 tablespoons at a time until you reach your preferred consistency. 2-3 tablespoons will give you more of a standard frosting; 6 tablespoons will be more like a glaze or icing. If it sets up while it rests, just add a bit more cream to thin it out.

Frost the cake and eat immediately.

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