Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tres Leches Cake


This weekend, I made one of my favorite desserts, Tres Leches cake. This is a Latin American specialty that consists of a simple sponge cake soaked in a mixture of milks - three of them, as the Spanish name suggests - with whipped cream on top. I love this cake. Mine is a simple one, made in a glass baking dish, but Tres Leches cake can also be made in a much fancier style, using thin cake layers sandwiched with whipped cream. Tres Leches is comfort food, soft, creamy and sweet, like pudding or custard. It makes you feel like a little kid again.

Tres Leches cake is made in the tradition of European soaked cakes, like English rum cake, or Italian tiramisu, where a sponge cake is doused with a liquid or syrup, becoming dense and moist. Tres Leches cake's origins are disputed; some say it comes from Central America or the Caribbean region, while others insist it has roots in Mexico. Either way, it's popular in parts of the USA with Hispanic cultural influence, like where I live. In bakeries and cafes around Albuquerque, Tres Leches cake can often be found on the menu. I like all the varieties I've tried; I don't think I've ever had a bad Tres Leches cake. It's hard to go wrong with copious quantities of milk, sugar, eggs and butter - the primary ingredients in this sweet, milky concoction.


My recipe is sort of cobbled together from a few places. That's how most of my recipes go; I take a little from here and a little from there, whatever seems like a good idea. I like my Tres Leches cake a little less sweet, and the cake to retain some body and not be totally gooey. I'll say right up front that I don't have alternate ingredient ideas for this recipe - the whole point is milk and sugar, and lots of both.

You'll need:

(for the cake)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
5 eggs
1/4 to 1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
12 oz can of evaporated milk
2 cups whole milk

(for the whipped cream)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-13 baking dish.

Sift the flour and baking powder together, set aside. Cream butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate. Stir in milk, vanilla, flour and baking powder.


The batter will be fairly stiff and golden yellow from all those eggs. Spread the batter in the baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


The cake will be pretty thin, and you'll wonder where all that milk will go. Let the cake cool completely on a rack before you do the next step.


Once the cake is cooled, use a fork to poke holes all over the top surface, taking care not to rip the cake (it's delicate). Mix together the whole milk, condensed milk and evaporated milk with a whisk (I like to do this in a bowl with a pour spout), and pour the milk mixture over the cake a little at a time, letting the milk soak into the cake after each application. It's a lot of liquid (42 ounces total!), but trust me, it gets in there.


Refrigerate the cake for several hours to ensure good absorption and a nice, moist texture (this cake needs to be refrigerated at all times, due to the milk).


Just before serving, whip the heavy cream with powdered sugar and vanilla. Spread the whipped cream over the cake and serve. If you won't be serving the entire cake at once, you might consider whipping only part of the cream now and the rest at another time, since the cream will eventually go back to liquid. But cream soaked into an already rich, moist cake wouldn't be so bad. You'd just have to call it Cuatros Leches instead.

31 comments:

  1. What an interesting cake, I shall give it a try, just as soon as Lent has passed. Amazing how the slice doesn't look damp at all, it must soak up the milk really well. I like to use bits of recipes all joined together as well. It annoys me that I have to get two or three recipes out, I should write out my version! CJ xx

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  2. Amazing. I can't believe that it soaked up all that liquid - definitely one to try, although I am attempting to be good at the moment. Enjoy. xx

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  3. wow, I've never seen just a thing. x yum x

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  4. I'd like to try this cake. It must be so moist and rich, more like a pudding than a cake.

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  5. It looks delicious, Jennifer! :o)

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  6. I've only had this cake once, in a Cuban restaurant, and it was so delicious. Thanks for posting the recipe.

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  7. I've heard of this cake, but never tried it. It looks so good!

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  8. Oooohhhh it sounds delightful, I'd love to give it ago xx

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  9. I was astounded that the cake would soak up all the liquid, I have never come across this cake before looks delicious.

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  10. I've never heard of this cake before. It's amazing where all the milk goes, you'd think it would make it go soggy but it looks delicious.

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  11. This sounds so delicious, I am drooling over my keyboard. Thanks for sharing this recipe, it sounds perfect for Annie, who needs calcium but does not drink milk. She does like a good cake and won't even notice it is there (the milk)

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  12. I've had this before and seen it a few times, but never knew what was in it. Thank you for posting the recipe, I might just be inspired to get the baking tins out x

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  13. Oh my, I just happen to have all the ingredients in my kitchen and nothing to do this afternoon. Can't wait!

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  14. On a dull damp day Jennifer comes to the rescue with a delicious cake recipe. Thanks Jennifer! It looks so good.

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  15. Ooh that sounds delicious, shame I can't drink cows milk :(

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  16. The slice does look delicious sitting on that very pretty plate. It could be straight out of a designer-y cookbook. Great photo :-)

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  17. I have never heard of this cake but it sure looks fabulous. I am bookmarking this, thanks for sharing your recipe. Jo x

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  18. I'm sure this tastes very good !

    All the best Jan

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  19. That looks and sounds heavenly. I want to try your recipe one of these days!

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  20. Looks delicious! I don't eat white sugar anymore, but I'd indulge in a little piece if I were to visit you. :-)

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  21. That looks yummy.. I'm hungry after swimming for an hour and all the getting there and showering and getting home.. I wish I had a slice right now. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  22. Oh what an incredibly delicious sounding cake. My mouth was watering as I read this! :) xo Jen

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  23. So delicious! I know I would love a slice :)
    Helen xox

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  24. Oohhh heavenly. Loves Tres Leches, a childhood neighbour used to make this. I had totally forgotten about it until now. My sweet tooth thanks you (my waistline not so much haha) as I'm going to bake this at the weekend with Iona xx

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  25. ooooh! It sounds so delicious. I love those spongey cakes :-)

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  26. Oh man. That sounds so good! I've never come across this cake before so thank you for introducing us to it. It sounds both indulgent and comforting all at once, which is maybe all anyone wants from a cake. X

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  27. It looks beautiful. I'm the same with recipes I tend to make them up as I go, borrowing from several at once! X

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  28. The structure of this cake reminds me of Lemon Jello cake, which as I remember it was a lemon cake mix which when baked was poked full of holes and then a mixture of sugar water and lemon juice was poured over it...very rich and yummy :) Since I am avoiding dairy and grain products if I want to try your recipe I think I can make it with almond flour and almond/coconut milk, and I bet it will taste great, but I know the rest of my family would enjoy your recipe exactly as you have made it! Thanks for sharing the recipe, Jennifer xx

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  29. This sounds absolutely delicious! I like that it looks like an innocent sponge cake but is really full of moisture and sweetness. Thank you fir this recipe Jennifer, I will be trying it out X

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