I don’t know where I’d been, until 2-3 years ago when I first heard or read about tres leches (three milks) cake. I became a fan instantly. Shall I say I must have been on a turnip truck? I was served it somewhere and knew eventually I’d make it myself. But I needed a reason to make a big 9×13 pan full of it. There is a boxed mix for this cake, but as with most such mixes, it is a 4th cousin twice removed, to the real thing, this one, made from scratch.
Making this is NOT all that hard – I bake all the time – so don’t know why I’d put off trying it. But if I’d made it for myself – for some small gathering and only used 3-4 pieces of it, then I’d have had a huge pan of it. This isn’t something you’d want to eat every day for a week. Plan on the scales giving you bad news. As it was, my granddaughter Sabrina, the one who just graduated from HS in early June, wanted tres leches cake for the party her mom and dad threw for her a few days after the graduation. I took all the stuff to Sara’s house (my daughter, Sabrina’s mom) and made it the day before. Most recipes say it’s best if allowed to soak in the three milks for 8-24 hours. I’ve found some recipes that say it only needs an hour or so to soak up most of the milk, but I didn’t want to chance it, so I did do it the day before. It does need to be refrigerated throughout the process.
The recipe I used made a pretty large bowl of the milk-combo, and suggested you not add it all to the cake, but to reserve some to spoon onto the plate when it’s served. Well, with this being a buffet kind of thing, we didn’t do that part, but the cake itself was plenty oozy with milk without the addition. Sara has a cup or more of the milk mixture in her refrigerator. Don’t really know what you’d do with it once the cake is gone! Guess you could make a custard? Or a pudding. In the recipe I used it suggested adding rum, which I did, but truthfully, none of us could taste it. Not at all. We also used a few pinches of cinnamon in the whipped cream, and I couldn’t taste that, either. I guess the milk flavor predominated!
First you make a sponge cake (you know, egg yolks and whites whipped up separately so the egg whites folded in give the cake height and tenderness). Once the cake is baked and cooled, you pour the milks on top – evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and some other combination of half and half, regular whole milk or heavy cream. The milks absorb from the bottom. At that stage the cake is covered and refrigerated. If you happen to have a 9×13 pan that has a lid, I recommend it! I made this in a disposable foil pan just because it was easier for storage (they come with lids too).
I recommend you use an instant read thermometer for the cake – we used a toothpick and it came out clean after 18 minutes of baking, but it definitely was not done as the center sunk once out of the oven. We were able to use all the cake around the outer edges and had plenty. Sara doesn’t have an instant read thermometer. Cakes should cook to about 205°. This cake had pulled away from the sides, so we thought it was done, but it wasn’t. I’ve included notes in the recipe about this aspect of the cake baking.
The next day you make whipped cream (with sugar and vanilla) and since we were serving a crowd, I cut the cake into small servings (there were other desserts served) and dolloped the top of each with the cream. The cake did sit out at room temp for several hours then, and the few pieces left over went back into the pan. If you were serving this as the only dessert, I guess you could get at least 15 servings out of the pan, maybe more. The cake is rich, so you don’t really want to serve a lot of it, delicious as it is!
Certainly the cake will keep for a few days, but not much longer than that. Eventually the milk mixture will spoil, especially if it’s allowed to sit out, so do plan to eat it up within 3-4 days at the most. As time goes by, the bottom of each cake piece becomes rather unstable because it’s milk-logged. The top half or third doesn’t absorb any of the milk, so when I tried to move the left over pieces back into the baking pan for storage, they kind of fell apart. I learned to only move one piece at a time, then it stayed mostly together.
What’s GOOD: I love this cake. Period. I like dairy, though, so it would be likely I’d enjoy this. I love the texture of the cake (the sponge part) and it’s altogether lovely. Wish I had a piece right this very minute.
What’s NOT: You do need to plan ahead and then be sure to eat it up within a few days. This cake isn’t a long-term keeper as the milk could spoil.
* Exported from MasterCook *
Tres Leches Cake [Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk’s Cake]
Recipe By: From Smitten Kitchen blog
Serving Size: 18
Butter and flour for cake pan
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch — (30 grams)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
6 large eggs — separated
1 vanilla bean — split and seeds scraped from pods or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
12 ounces evaporated milk
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup half and half
2 tablespoons rum — (optional)
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar — or granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon — or ground nutmeg (optional)
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9×13 baking pan, or coat it with a nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch (together, these make “cake flour” without you having to buy it), salt and baking powder. If using a fresh vanilla bean, rub seeds into 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar to disperse them and help release the most flavor.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form. With the machine still running, gradually add the sugar (vanilla bean-infused or plain) and beat on medium-high until stiff peaks form. If you haven’t used a vanilla bean, now add your vanilla extract and beat to combine.
4. Add yolks one at at time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add milk and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture, one-third at at time, folding in each addition gently by hand.
5. Pour batter in prepared pan and smooth top. Bake for 18 to 24 minutes, or until a tester inserted into cake comes out clean. Optionally, bake until the temperature in the center of the cake reaches 250°F. The sides may have pulled away from the pan, so don’t rely on that to tell you the cake is done. Let completely cool in pan on a rack.
6. THREE MILKS: In a large bowl, preferably one with a pouring spout, whisk together evaporated milk, condensed milk and 1 1/2 cups heavy or light cream. Add rum, if using. Use a wooden skewer to poke holes all over cake. Pour all but 1/2 cup milk mixture over cake and transfer to fridge, giving the cake several hours but ideally overnight to soak it up. (Save last bit of milk mixture for serving.)
7. TOPPING: Before serving, beat 2 cups heavy cream with 2 tablespoons powdered or granulated sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Spread over top of cake.
8. Serve cake in squares, first pouring a little puddle of reserved three-milk mixture at the bottom of plate.
Per Serving: 374 Calories; 20g Fat (47.7% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 138mg Cholesterol; 198mg Sodium.