When a coworker’s going away dinner became Mexican-themed (all because another coworker said she was bringing tequila and no one could argue with margaritas), I figured I should make a tres leches cake. I had never made one before and a few people mentioned that they had heard they were difficult to make, though they had never tried it themselves. Let me assure you, it wasn’t hard at all and that’s a very good thing because you’re going to want to try this.
Maybe I should back up and explain what a tres leches cake is for those of you that don’t know. It’s basically a sponge cake that is cooked and then drenched in a mixture of heavy cream, evaporated milk, and sweetened, condensed milk (hence the tres leches name) and it’s very popular in many parts of Latin America. I have had it before, but only a couple of times and I had never really had a strong reaction either way. I liked it, but wasn’t in love with it and had never been compelled to make it. I think it was really the challenge and the interest in trying something new that inspired me to make it and I’m really glad I did, because it was delicious.
I’m sure some of you are scratching your heads and thinking, “you’re taking a cooked cake and pouring a bunch of milk product over it? Isn’t it a soggy, soppy mess?” Well, in a word, yes. But give it a chance if you haven’t ever tried it! Some textures really put me off and if someone offered me a piece of soggy cake, I’d probably run the other way. I don’t even like my ice cream to get too close to my cake because I don’t want it getting it wet. But have you ever had sweetened, condensed milk or evaporated milk? Because if you have, you know how sweet and rich and oh so tasty they are!
So even though I know I should have a problem with this cake, I just can’t. It’s so good! And you know what? Someone else brought Mexican chocolate ice cream and it is perfect with this cake, yes, even if it touches. The spicy chocolate plays perfectly off of the rich almost caramely flavor of the cake and I highly recommend it.
Tres Leches Cake
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
Apparently the traditional thing to do is serve this cake with maraschino cherries. Because of that, I went and bought a bottle and then forgot to bring the bottle to the dinner (with all the syrup in there, you don’t want to put them on the cake till you’re ready to serve). I’m actually glad I forgot them because I tried one on a piece of leftover cake the next day and thought it was way too saccharine. Yick. But if you like maraschino cherries, you’ll probably like them on this cake. Want my opinion? Just dust it with cinnamon and serve with Mexican chocolate ice cream.
1 cup flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoons salt
5 egg whites
5 egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
⅓ cups milk
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 14 oz can sweetened, condensed milk
¼ cups heavy cream
1 pint heavy cream
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
maraschino cherries (optional)
cinnamon for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with nonstick spray until coated.
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are creamy and pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour the egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently just until combined.
Beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.
Fold the egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher or something else that you can pour easily from. When the cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly pour the milk mixture over the cake.
Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes. To ice the cake, whip 1 pint heavy cream with 4 tablespoons of powdered sugar until thick and spreadable. Spread over the surface of the cake. Decorate the cake with maraschino cherries if you like (see note), or just sprinkle with cinnamon. Cut into squares and serve.