What Does Milk Do in Baking?

Does your recipe call for milk? Not surprised. In baking, milk serves multiple purposes. It not only moistens dry ingredients for better mixing abilities, but it also helps to activate gluten for improved texture, flavor, and color. It works as a softener while also offering structure to treats.

Hi! My name is Michelle, and I love to bake! I have been baking for what seems like forever, and I love every second of it. From muffins to cakes, brownies to cookies, I bake it all, and I almost always use milk to get things done. I had to figure out why it was so important!

Whether you’re new or an experienced baker, you should never stop learning. And if you have been curious about the importance of milk in baking, you’re not alone. I was curious, too. Today, I’m here to share my finding with you on what milk does in baking.

Let’s get into it, bakers!

What Does Milk Do in Baking?

I always knew that milk was important for moistening the dry ingredients. Whenever one of my batters is a bit too thick or clunky, I can always rely on a dash of milk to make everything moist and easy to mix. But milk is so much more than just a helping hand for mixing.

Creates Perfect Texture

One interesting thing about milk is that it dissolves sugar, activates gluten, and moistens the protein, starches, and leavening agents. By doing so, the chemical reaction necessary for baked goods takes place.

What does all of this mean? Basically, milk is going to be a key factor in the final texture of your baked good. For cakes, this means a light and airy texture. It may mean a bit more structure for muffins but still, a fluffy interior to sink your teeth into. 

Adds Sweetness and Browns

Another reason why you might add milk to your recipe is to give it a little boost of sweetness. Since milk is naturally on the sweet side, thanks to the fat and sugar content, applying it to your batter will give it some more tasty goodness.

At the same time, milk can also help your baked goods to brown ever-so-slightly. Think about your favorite muffin. The inside might be nice and fluffy, but the exterior has a touch of browning and structure to keep all of the goodness inside. Milk plays a major role in that.

Softens Bread

By now, we know that milk acts as a tenderizer while also providing structure to baked goods. Think of milk as a 2-in-1 powerhouse you won’t want to skip on your recipe.

But did you know that milk can go beyond cakes, cookies, and muffins? Milk is also essential for bread too. Milk weakens the gluten proteins resulting in a softer, melt-in-your-mouth bread. So, whether you’re crafting savory or sweet bread, don’t forget to use milk for a perfect slice.


When it comes to baking, milk does it all. From tenderizing and adding flavor to improving stability and texture, there’s nothing this handy ingredient can’t do. If you still want to know more about what milk does in baking, check out these frequently asked questions below.

What happens when you add milk to the cake?

When you use milk in your cake batter, you will achieve a supremely soft texture that literally melts in your mouth. The cake will also have a sweeter and richer flavor with just the right amount of structure and browning on the exterior. Yum!

Is milk necessary in a cake?

While I always suggest you use milk in your cake batter, it is not necessary. You can still make a good cake without it. Instead of milk, use another dairy option like yogurt, heavy cream, or half-n-half. You can use non-dairy options like water, almond milk, or oat milk, too.

Does the type of milk affect baking?

Yes. If you can, always use full-fat milk. This will provide you with the best texture and flavor. Other types of milk may work, but you won’t get the same richness and fluffiness as full-fat milk. The batter will be noticeably thinner, too.

Does milk make a cake moist?

It certainly helps, but it isn’t the only way to a moist cake. You should also make sure you measure the ingredients correctly, not over or under mixing, and not over baking, either. 

Final Thoughts

Milk is an incredible ingredient that should be used in your baking recipes. It creates moist, rich, and delectable treats, whether you’re making a batch of muffins or making a two-tier cake. It helps with the interior and exterior for a gorgeous, delicious final product.

Do you use milk when you bake? If not, what do you use as a substitute? Share with us below so we can try, too!

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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  • Grace james

    Which are the best products to preserve my muffins for atleast three weeks?

    • Michelle

      Hi Grace,
      Have you considered freezing your muffins so they’ll last that long?

  • ann pucci

    please help how can i get cookies soft like a cake? thank you Ann

    • Michelle

      Hi Ann,
      Here are a couple tips:
      -Melt the butter
      -Slightly underbake
      -Use cake flour
      -Use egg yolks
      -Turn up oven temp to 375F

      Hope this helps.

  • Robyn Beall

    I make my own yoghurt with full fat milk and I use that in all of my baking. I do however use just a little milk as well, mixed with the Yoghurt to make it up to the amount specified in the recipe. It gives a nice light result.

    • Michelle

      Hi Robyn,
      Thanks for sharing! Sounds delicious.

  • Tara

    Great post. I love baking with milk because it gives such a richness to cakes as you described. Unfortunately, I can no longer tolerate milk products and was wondering what is your best alternative to milk for cakes?

    • Michelle

      Hi Tara,
      Soy and oat milk can be used as a replacement. If you can tolerate butter, I recommend adding another tablespoon to enhance the richness.
      Happy baking,