Makes:1 8-inch double-layer cake (10 to 12 servings)
Truly the sum of its parts, this recipe comprises elements that are each delicate in their malt flavor—the cake, Vanilla Malt Frosting, and malted milk balls—but that together form a treat even the best soda jerk couldn’t top.
What to buy:Malted milk powder is a natural sweetener made from barley malt, wheat, and milk, and is the key ingredient in malted milk shakes. Look for it next to the powdered chocolate milk and other drink mixes at your local grocery store.
Heat the oven to 325°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat 2 (8-inch) cake pans with oil and flour, and tap out any excess flour. Set aside.
Combine the malted milk powder, measured flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and whisk to aerate and break up any lumps. Set aside.
Combine the eggs, sugar, measured oil, and vanilla in a separate large bowl and whisk until combined and smooth. Add a third of the flour mixture and whisk until just incorporated. Add half of the milk and whisk until smooth. Continue with the remaining flour mixture and milk, alternating between each and whisking until all of the ingredients are just incorporated and smooth.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the cakes start pulling away from the sides of the pans, about 45 to 50 minutes.
Remove the cakes from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of each and turn the cakes out onto the rack to cool completely.
To frost, place a cake layer on an 8-inch cardboard round, a tart-pan bottom, or a cake plate. Evenly spread about a third of the frosting over the top of the layer. Stack the second layer and evenly spread another third of the frosting over the top and sides of the whole cake. (Don’t worry about looks at this point—this is just a base coat, or crumb layer, and it will be covered up later.) Place in the refrigerator until the frosting is set up and slightly hard, about 15 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake, ensuring it’s as even as possible. Press the malt balls into the frosting around the sides of the cake and serve.