Get it? Ulti-MALT? Ha. Ha. Ha..?
I’ve had the idea for a malted cake floating around in my head for a while now. I’m not quite sure why. When I was in elementary school my favorite drink to order at Dairy Queen was a chocolate malt. I didn’t know what made a chocolate malt different from a chocolate milkshake, and I didn’t think much about it. (I do think about why they discontinued the Nerds blizzard. It was so rainbow-y and pretty! Though I suppose maybe too crunchy?)
Then last week, on Mountain Day (which I realize makes no sense to anybody who is not an MHC alumna), I got a malted vanilla milkshake at Lake Champlain Chocolates. It tasted sweet like vanilla but had an earthy, deeper complexity. I was hooked. So I knew I had to make this cake a reality ASAP.
It took me a while to think of flavors that might go along with a vanilla malt cake. I briefly considered leaving it simple. But where’s the fun in that?! I considered chocolate, but didn’t want to overwhelm the vanilla. Peanut butter? But I already have an AMAZING peanut butter cake. Strawberry? Yeah, strawberry sounded good. For a while I thought I might just serve it with strawberries, but then I like my cakes to stand on their own.
I used Hungry Rabbit’s recipe for Vanilla Malted Milk Cake (http://hungryrabbitnyc.com/2013/06/vanilla-malted-milk-cake/). I couldn’t tell from the pictures if this was three full sized cakes stacked or not. I was worried I was going to have a monster cake on my hands, like the time I made a six layer cake– so big you couldn’t reasonably eat even the smallest sliver. But it turned out perfectly– they are small layers so it’s only like a cake and a half. And it’s a nice bonus not to have them cut them myself. Plus they baked in my oven in just over 15 minutes!
I didn’t want to order Horlick’s malted milk online, and I couldn’t even find Carnation brand at any of my local stores. I DID find a “plain” Ovaltine, so I bought that and hoped for the best. (Let it be know– they still for some crazy reason add caramel and beet color to plain Ovaltine so it looks chocolatey but it is NOT.) I also upped the malt powder in the cake to a full cup, because I was worried the flavor wouldn’t be strong enough.
This cake follows a reverse creaming method, which means you mix the butter into the dry ingredients, and then add the wet ingredients almost all at once. Mixing the butter in was when the malt powder started to escape the bowl a bit and the kitchen smelled just like a malt shop!
The batter whips up beautifully and quickly. There are not many steps and nothing fussy. It gets so light and fluffy and is a joy to spread into baking pans.
I always love my cake with a crunchy layer, so I made a malted milk crumb inspired by Milk Bar. (Oh my goodness what I would give to visit and try some of Christina Tosi’s creations!) The recipe for the crumb can be found here (http://milkbarstore.com/main/menu/recipes-and-how-tos/). I just made the “milk crumb” and used flour and used Ovaltine instead of the milk powder. I also forgot to toss them in Ovaltine again before coating them in white chocolate, but oh well! Next time I’d make sure I had some larger crumbs, as mine were more like tiny pebbles. Still tasty though!
I also made a malted whipped cream frosting by whipping just over two cups of heavy cream until soft peaks formed. I added about half a cup of malt powder and a teaspoon of vanilla, and continued whipping until I had stiff peaks. I then mixed in about 3/4 cup powdered sugar to help stabilize it.
Once I had the three cakes cooled, it was time to assemble.
I used store-bought (shhh) natural strawberry jam as the first filling between each layers.
Then came some of the malted milk crumb. I apologize, there really is no way to get a good picture of this. It looks like mush, but trust me it tastes good– salty sweet and malty! (It might be just a touch salty for my tastes, so cut down a bit on the salt if you are sensitive.)
Then a generous layer of whipped cream. Repeat again and cover with the final cake layer.
I did a crumb coat in whipped cream and let it chill for about half an hour before slathering on some more malted whipped cream. This whipped cream tastes just like malted milk– I consumed plenty just with a spoon out of the bowl! Fair warning though, the Ovaltine is colored, so the frosting is more like a tan than a white color. Not offputting at all, just don’t expect white.
I think this is the nicest frosting job I’ve ever done, and you could certainly leave it unadorned and it looks great. But I had some leftover chocolate ganache from my Bourbon Pecan Cake, so I drizzled a little over the top. Artsy, right?
The actual cake itself is a nice medium crumb vanilla cake. The malt flavor is there, but if you didn’t know it, you might just think it was a more complex vanilla. The malt flavor is highlight in the whipped cream and crunchy cookies though. When you can get every layer in a bite it’s like a super upscale malted milk ball with the perfect hit of refreshing strawberry. Along with my Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, this cake holds together better than some others I have made. The layer proportions are perfect, and the fillings are small enough they they don’t ooze out or break when you slice it. Try it for yourself and see!