Instantly Elevate Your Next Cake With This Simple Addition

If you're a fan of milkshakes — those creamy, dreamy blends of frothed ice cream, milk, and other flavorings — then you've undoubtedly sampled a malted variety in your day. As explained by MasterClass, a malted milkshake (commonly called a malt) is simply a milkshake with malted milk powder added to it, which lends a toasty taste and a thicker texture to milkshakes.

But even if you've sipped a malt before, you may not have stopped to ponder what malted milk powder actually is. According to The Kitchn, malted milk powder, which is available in most supermarkets from brands such as Ovaltine and Carnation, is a straightforward blend of dried milk powder, wheat flour, and malted barley — "malted" meaning sprouted and then dried. A delicious addition to milkshakes, most of us have probably also encountered malted milk powder in the classic movie theater candy Whoppers or other brands of malted milk balls coated in chocolate.

If your experience with the ingredient ends there, you're going to want to revisit malted milk powder. According to Serious Eats — whose former pastry editor Stella Parks has called the ingredient "the umami bomb of dessert" — malted milk powder can bring a rich, roasted flavor to a variety of sweet treats, from cookies to ice cream to chocolate cake.

Malted milk powder brings depth to chocolate sheet cake and other desserts

When you're baking, you typically need flour, sugar, eggs, and ... malted milk powder? According to The Kitchn, this blend of dried milk, wheat flour, and malted barley brings a nutty, caramelized flavor to desserts as diverse as cookies, brownies, and hot cocoa. We couldn't agree more — we love Sunday in Brooklyn's recipe for malted pancakes. And Serious Eats points out that the salt and baking powder typically included in the ingredient bring a welcome savoriness and depth of flavor to butterscotch pudding, ice cream, and even bread dough.

In Stella Parks' recipe for fudgy, chocolate glaze-topped Texas sheet cake from Serious Eats, she includes a quarter cup of malted milk powder, which she says boosts the flavor of the cocoa and adds a toffee-like complexity to the cake. So the next time you're making a homemade dessert of, well, pretty much any type, it seems safe to say that a few spoons of malted milk powder will only improve your sweet treat.