True or False: The malted milk powder that dominated American consciousness for decades (from the 1920’s through the 1960s anyway) started out as a health supplement for infants and invalids. Answer: True! Really.
First sold out of Chicago under the unfortunate brand name, “Diastoid,” malted milk powder eventually took off not as a baby booster, but as an ice-cream and beverage mix-in appealing to all ages worldwide. Londoner brothers William & James Horlick who first patented the powder in 1873 made their fortune in malted milk before Ovaltine hit the shelves.
During my childhood, we used to stir malted milk powder into our after-school glasses of milk. But we never baked with it. That before-its-time idea from the ’50s was actually semi-healthful: Barley malt is a natural sweetener. Adding it in powder form (albeit combined with wheat flour, powdered milk, sugar & chocolate) to a recipe means you can add less sugar. This simple 1954 cake from Leona Kroupa of Cedar, Michigan is a great example. It seems like a mistake, including only flour, malted milk powder, sour cream and eggs, but the dark chocolatey result is pleasantly complex and moist.
We love that Leona paired the cake with a honey nougat frosting: the not-too-sweet cake benefits from the honeyed topper. Kroupa’s recipe won her a prize in Pillsbury’s 1954 Grand National baking competition.
Makes 1, 8-inch square cake
- 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups chocolate malted milk powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
Honey Nougat Frosting Ingredients
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg white
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 2 Tbsp water
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350. Sift together flour, malted milk powder, soda and salt. Set aside.
- In bowl of stand mixer, mix 1 cup sour cream with dry ingredients at low speed until blended. Beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes more.
- Add eggs and vanilla and beat for another 1 1/2 minutes
- Turn batter into a well-greased and lightly floured 8-inch square pan. Bake at 350 for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool.
- Make frosting: Combine sugar, egg white, honey, water and salt in top of double boiler. Cook over rapidly boiling water, beating with hand-held electric mixer or whisk until mixture stands in peaks. Remove from heat. add 1/2 tsp vanilla and continue beating until thick enough to spread. Fold in 1/4 cup nuts and spread on cake.