Food & Drink Magazine

A Cake of Three Milks - Tres Leches Cake from Latin America

By Weavethousandflavors

A Cake of Three Milks - Tres Leches Cake from Latin America
Also known as Pastel Tres Leches or Pan Tres Leches in Spanish, this cake consists of a sponge cake which is then soaked in three milks - evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream. Thus the name, the Cake of Three Milks. The texture of the cake is not soggy even though it is soaked overnight in milk.

My years in India, Australia and Singapore, I was completely oblivious of the existence of this cake and pretty much most foods from Latin America. Needless to say, two decades ago, latin foods had not yet reached the far corners of the world on Main street. This is almost impossible to comprehend in today's world, a world shrunk to the size of a peanut sometimes it seems.

So my first introduction to spoonfuls of this heavenly cake took place about five years ago at potluck at my son's martial arts dojo and as I heard the Sensei go into vivid detail about how she spent all this time fixing it and soaking it and what have you, I remember walking away with not only the delicious flavor but a heavy dose of apprehension and overwhelmingness that pretty much translated to "Yah, like I'm ever going to make that!"

Safely, said that was the last time any thought was given to Tres leches for a long long time. And then, Alton Brown happened to the food Network and his recipe changed everything. First of all, in his quirky laid back way, he took all the ouchie away from the whole process and as I heard him talk about it all I heard was - "Make a cake, soak it in milk, whip up the cream, smear the cake and voila - done"

And I thought, now this I can do!

So thank you Alton Brown for this wonderful recipe. I have made two additions (what did you expect?) and quite honestly I won't have it any other way - adding ground cinnamon and nutmeg and reducing the amount of suagr used in the topping. In my book, Tres leches just went from great to fantabulous!

So though I'm not done looking for the next frontier in tres leches, here's step one on that ladder!

Tres Leches - Cake Ingredients

What you need has been broken up into 3 categories : the Cake, the soaking milk bath and the topping

Cake - Cake flour - different from all purpose flour since it already has baking powder etc in it, additional baking powder, salt, unsalted butter,at room temperature, sugar, eggs, ground cinnamon & pure vanilla extract.

Note - Use a measuring scale to weigh the ingredients. This recipe does require the ingredients precisely by weight. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Measure the cake flour, using the measuring scale and remove to a mixing bowl. Add the baking powder, ground cinnamon and salt.

Whisk together and set aside. Employ the use of a electric stand mixer or food processor.

Tres Leches - Cream butter & sugar

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer or electric processor.

Beat on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 1 minute.

Decrease the speed to low and with the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar and beat for about 1 minute till fluffy.

 Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary. 

Tres Leches -Add eggs one at a time

 

 Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix to thoroughly combine. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.

 Add the flour mixture to the batter in 3 batches and mix just until combined. Scrape the bowl as neccesary to incorporate all the flour mixture into the batter.

The batter is the consistency of a loose cake batter.

Trace and cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the inside 13 by 9-inch metal pan and set aside. Spray the sides of the pan with non-stick baking spray and set aside.

Tres Leches - Add flour to eggs

Using a rubber spatula pour all of the cake batter into the prepared, parchment lined cake pan.

There will appear to be a very thin layer of batter in the pan. Spread evenly with the rubber spatula.

Tres Leches - Out of the oven!

Bake in the hot oven for about 25 minutes or until the top is a light golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for a few minutes. Once it is cool enough to touch, remove the cake  from the pan and peel away the parchment paper from the underside.

Once you've done this, allow the cake to cool completely on a baking rack for atleast 30-45 minutes. Return the cake to the baking pan.

Tres leches - Stab the cake!

Using a fork, stab the cake all the way through.

Here are the next set of ingredient for the next step -

Tres leches - Ingredients for Soaking Milk Bath

Soaking milk bath - 1 can evaporated milk, 1 can sweet condensed milk, ground nutmeg, 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream.

Tres leches - Whip together the 'milks' and nutmeg

In a clean mixing bowl empty the contents from the cans and add the other ingredients. Whisk together to thoroughly combine.

 

Tres leches - Pour the soaking milks into the cake

Pour the milk mixture onto the cake. Press down with clean hands so the cake is immersed in the milk bath.

Cover with a aluminum foil or cling wrap and refrigerate overnight (Do not omit this step)

This is what the immersed cake looks like the next day. As you can see the cake has soaked up all the milk.

We are now ready for the final step and that is the topping.

For the topping
 

Topping - Heavy whipping cream,  ground nutmeg, powdered sugar and pure vanilla extract.

Nothing beats fresh whipped cream on a cake, don't you think?

In a food processor, beat the cream and other ingredients on low until stiff peaks are formed. Change to medium speed and continue to whisk for a minute or so until the cream is thick.

Pile on some cream

Using a rubber spatula, spread all the cream topping over the cake.

Spread out evenly.

Yummy creamy topping

Refrigerate the cake until it is ready to serve.

Voila!

Cut into squares and serve with strong cups of tea or coffee or as a after dinner dessert.

A Cake of Three Milks - Tres Leches Cake from Latin America

Magical!

The flavors are rich and intense. I was concerned that it may be too sweet but not at all. the aromas and flavors from cinnamon and nutmeg are perfect with the simple flavors in the cake. Delicate and yet full of eprsonality, this one's a keeper.

In fact, I guarantee this is not going to be my last tres leches. Experimentation, here I come!

Recipe for

A Cake of Three Milks - Tres Leches Cake from Latin America

Preparation time - 25 minutes

Baking time - 25 minutes

Resting time - Overnight

Serves 6-8, makes a 9"x11" cake

Shopping list:

Cake-

6 3/4 ounces cake flour,

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

8 ounces sugar

5 whole eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Soaking Milk bath -

1 can evaporated milk

1 can sweet condensed milk

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Topping -

1-1/2 cups Heavy whipping cream

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

4 oz powdered sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract.

Method -

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Measure the cake flour, using the measuring scale and remove to a mixing bowl. Add the baking powder, ground cinnamon and salt.

Whisk together and set aside.

Employ the use of a electric stand mixer or food processor.

 

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer or electric processor.

Beat on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 1 minute.

Decrease the speed to low and with the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar and beat for about 1 minute till fluffy.

Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary. 

Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix to thoroughly combine. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.

Add the flour mixture to the batter in 3 batches and mix just until combined. Scrape the bowl as neccesary to incorporate all the flour mixture into the batter. The batter is the consistency of a loose cake batter.

Trace and cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the inside 13 by 9-inch metal pan and set aside. Spray the sides of the pan with non-stick baking spray and set aside.

 Using a rubber spatula pour all of the cake batter into the prepared, parchment lined cake pan. There will appear to be a very thin layer of batter in the pan.

Spread evenly with the rubber spatula.

Bake in the hot oven for about 25 minutes or until the top is a light golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for a few minutes. Once it is cool enough to touch, remove the cake  from the pan and peel away the parchment paper from the underside.

Allow the cake to cool completely on a baking rack for atleast 30-45 minutes. Return the cake to the baking pan.  Using a fork, stab the cake all the way through.

Soaking milk bath - In a clean mixing bowl empty the contents from the cans and add the other ingredients.

Whisk together to thoroughly combine.

Pour the milk mixture onto the cake. Press down with clean hands so the cake is immersed in the milk bath.

Cover with a aluminum foil or cling wrap and refrigerate overnight (Do not omit this step)

We are now ready for the final step and that is the topping.

Topping - Heavy whipping cream,  ground nutmeg, powdered sugar and pure vanilla extract.

Nothing beats fresh whipped cream on a cake, don't you think?

In a food processor, beat the cream and other ingredients on low until stiff peaks are formed.

Change to medium speed and continue to whisk for a minute or so until the cream is thick.  Using a rubber spatula, spread all the cream topping over the cake.

Spread out evenly.  Refrigerate the cake until it is ready to serve.

Enjoy!

 


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