Aug 16, 2007

Tres Leches Cake

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In my last post celebrating the joy of the sponge cake, I alluded to a doused dessert that I am pretty thrilled to share with you. And by “pretty thrilled” I mean kind of not wanting to share it with the entire Internet because how can I impress you with it if we happen to meet and then I bring it to one of your parties and you already have the recipe?

The first time I had Tres Leches Cake was with one of my nearest and dearest, Erin. She lives in New York and I live in Los Angeles, and well, we’re like soul-connected sisters, you see. We finish each other’s sentences while just living parallel lives on opposite coasts. And that’s when we’re not talking on the phone. So you can only imagine what last New Year’s Eve was like when I spent the holiday at her house. I mean, our husbands were both there, I’m pretty sure, but it was the most fantastic example of husbands being accessory in the presence of best girlfriends that you’ve ever heard of. And a recipe for this amazing cake that Erin was given by someone who I am sure is not as significant of a friend as I am (but still has good taste in desserts nonetheless) became our joie de vivre over our three-day visit.

Tres Leches Cake is a traditional Latin dessert that starts with a classic sponge cake and then takes it up Uno! Dos! Tres! levels by soaking it in a mixture of three milks–evaporated, sweetened condensed and a bit of heavy cream. Then the whole thing is covered in a sexy mess of freshly whipped cream. No para la lactosa intolerante, indeed:

The final result is absolutely otherworldly–the sturdy sponge cake maintains it’s shape beautifully but becomes almost bread pudding-like in texture after soaking up the creamy sweetened milk, with hints of vanilla and caramel throughout, and performs a brilliant balancing act with it’s fluffy coat of soft, unsweetened whipped cream. You can even play with this recipe a bit by adding different extracts to the milk mixture and whipped cream–lemon, orange, coconut, etc.–but you really must try the traditional recipe first.

Tres Leches Cake

Serves 10-12

You can embellish this cake a bunch of ways, edible flowers, candied fruit or maraschino cherries for the holidays or summer berries would be great. However, I feel that a big bowl, a big spoon and the couch is the best serving suggestion of all.

Classic Sponge Cake, baked and cooled completely
1 14-ounce can evaporated milk
1 12-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 pint whipping cream, well-chilled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine the can of evaporated milk, the sweetened condensed milk and two ounces of the whipping cream in a bowl. Remove one cup of the mixture and put it away in another container, you won’t be needing it for the cake (the original recipe doesn’t suggest what to do with it, but I found it was very nice in my morning coffee). Set aside the remaining milk mixture.

Whip the remaining 14 ounces of cream with the vanilla in a metal bowl, with a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment or with an electric hand mixer. Chilling the bowl and the beaters in the freezer first will make quick work of this task. Do not sweeten the whipped cream!

Place the cooled sponge cake in a deep serving platter or a wide, shallow bowl. Pierce the cake all over the top and sides with a few bamboo skewers.

Slowly pour the sweetened milk mixture over the cake, swirling the bowl as needed and lifting the cake’s edges the ensure the milk is fully absorbed.

Once all the milk has been soaked into the cake, cover it with gorgeous swirls of the whipped cream. Refrigerate until serving, and serve the cake with a big serving spoon.

  • Help! Totally confused. So I just made this cake (I bake often) and checked on it HALF way through the baking time and it was dark brown and pulling away from the sides. I tested the center with a cake tester and it came out clean. I used a 10 inch spring form and the temp was 350 (didn’t use convection since it was my first time making this cake) I think it is actually overcooked but will see. Any idea what might have happened? I know that Shauana just had her baby but perhaps someone else has had this issue?

    • 10 inch pan was called for in cook book version of recipe

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