Saturday is Cinco de Mayo so in celebration of the Holiday I wanted to share with you this cultural treat- Tres Leches Cake. Although most believe it to be of Nicaraguan heritage, it is still commonly found throughout Mexico.
What is so special about this cake exactly? WELL! It’s a beautiful sponge cake that is soaked in evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and/or heavy cream/whole milk (depending on the recipe chosen). Thus, the recipe title Tres Leches, meaning three milks. The whole thing is then topped with sweetened whipped cream and it is divine. If you’ve never had Tres Leches Cake you’ll notice immediately that the texture is nothing like you would immediately expect from a typical cake. Firstly it’s a sponge cake so it’s spongier than a classic cake. THEN there is the whole, being saturated in milks thing, which makes the cake incredibly moist. I like to describe it as a cold bread pudding almost. It has a custard like consistency, although the texture is a tad different since it’s a sponge cake which is much springier than bread. But really, that is the best way to describe it- a cold bread pudding cake. It’s incredible.
And you might think that this cake seems difficult or like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. The biggest pain is separating the yolks and whites, then whipping the eggs. But aside from that, this cake is really a synch. I was surprised at how quickly the whole thing came together myself. And for some reason, my cake cooked especially quickly in the oven. The original recipe reads 35 to 45 minutes in the oven, but mine was done at like 25 minutes I swear. It was kind of crazy. I baked mine in a glass pan and didn’t lower the oven temperature, maybe that had something to do with it- oh well. Just keep an eye on the cake so that it doesn’t overcook. You don’t want it to be dried out or else it won’t be nearly as good.
The recipe also dictates that you should turn the cake out onto a platter or cookie sheet to pour the milks, but my cake was NOT budging from the pan, so I just did it right in the pan and had absolutely no problems. The recipe tells you to pour all but 1 cup of the milk mixture over the cake because more usually proves to be too much, but honestly, I don’t think it would hurt it to go within 1/2 cup or even all of the remaining milk mixture. I noticed that most recipes have you pour the whole amount over the cake. This recipe by Alton Brown, which also looks great, pours way more milk mixture over the cake than the recipe that I have here. I guess it just depends on how you feel about the moistness of your cake. If you like super moist bread puddings, I would recommend going all the way with the milk mixture, but if you like them kind of thick and less wet, than go within 1 cup remaining.
- 1 cup All-purpose Flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
- 5 whole Eggs
- 1 cup Sugar, Divided
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla
- ⅓ cup Milk
- 1 can Evaporated Milk
- 1 can Sweetened, Condensed Milk
- ¼ cup Heavy Cream
- FOR THE ICING:
- 1 pint Heavy Cream, For Whipping
- 3 Tablespoons Sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan liberally until coated.
- Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Separate eggs.
- Beat egg yolks with ¾ cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.
- Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining ¼ cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.
- Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.
- Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter, if desired, and allow to cool.
- Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle all but about 1 cup of the milk mixture—try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.
- Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes. To ice the cake, whip 1 pint heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of sugar until thick and spreadable.
- Spread over the surface of the cake. Decorate cake with whole or chopped maraschino cherries. Cut into squares and serve.
adapted from The Pioneer Woman