It is widely eaten as a celebration cake all throughout Central and South America, parts of the Carribean, and the United States…
Tres Leches Cake has many names: Pastel de Tres Leches; Three Milks Cake; Torta de Tres Leches; Bizcocho de Tres Leches. Despite Mexico having the strongest claim to the cake, it is widely eaten as a celebration cake all throughout Central and South America, parts of the Carribean, and the United States.
Its origins aren’t crystal clear, but a definite name for the cake appeared after World War II when Nestle opened several manufacturing plants in Mexico and added a Tres Leches Cake recipe on the backs of their sweetened condensed milk cans. It was probably a tactic to sell more canned milk after the food industry had to find a new consumer outlet for their products. Many food manufacturers who used to market their products to the military were now marketing them to civilian households.
… a milk cake in which the cake batter is baked in a pan of hot, sweetened milk…
The inspiration for the recipe was most likely locally derived from families and cooks who baked various versions of soaked cakes. Some of these included Torta de Leche, a milk cake in which the cake batter is baked in a pan of hot, sweetened milk. Other recipes are Sopa Borracha―hilariously translated as Drunk Soup―a sponge cake heavily soaked in wine, sherry, and rum infused syrup; and Ante de Almendra, a sweet almond cake soaked in almond cream and syrup and garnished with raisins, cinnamon, and almonds.
Even though this is a celebration cake, it’s very common to see this cake pre-packed in markets in parts of the United States. However, I prefer it homemade because you can… spike the syrup if you catch my drift!
This recipe is easy to prepare and forgiving for those who have never made a sponge cake before. The key is beating the egg yolks and egg whites to oblivion before folding them into your flour mixture. Although there is baking powder in the batter, the air does most of the leavening.
I prefer it homemade because you can… spike the syrup, if you catch my drift!
There is butter in this recipe to add some richness to the texture, but the cake stays light and airy otherwise. The filling is simply sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. Rum or brandy can be added to taste for the adults in the room, but they aren’t necessary.
I piped whipped cream rosettes on top of the cake to add some interest and dimension to the final look. But, if you want a fuss-free finish, you can simply spread the whipped cream on top of the cake and garnish with as little or as much cinnamon and nutmeg as you like.
Tres Leches Cake
For The Cake
- 1 Cup (130g) Sifted Cake Flour
- 2 TSP (8g) Baking Powder
- 1/4 TSP (2g) Sea Salt
- 6 Extra Large Eggs separated
- 1 Cup (200g) Cane Sugar
- 2 TSP (10g) Vanilla Extract
- 6 TBSP (90g) Unsalted Butter melted plus extra for greasing
- 1/2 TSP (4g) Cream of Tartar
For The Leches Filling
- 1/2 Cup (120ml) Heavy Cream
- 14 oz (397ml) Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 12 oz (354ml) Evaporated Milk
- Optional 1 tsp (5ml) Rum or Brandy to taste
For The Whipped Cream
- 1 Pint (473ml) Heavy Cream
- 2 TBSP (30g) Cane Sugar
- Ground Cinnamon for dusting
- Ground Nutmeg for dusting
Bake The Cake
Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C). Generously grease the bottoms and sides of a 9×9 ceramic or glass baking dish.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a separate large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks on high for 3 minutes. While the mixer is still running, carefully pour in 1/4 cup (60of the sugar and beat the mixture until it becomes pale yellow and ribbons; this will take another 4 to 5 minutes. Then, beat in the extracts for 1 more minute.
Sift the flour mixture over the yolk mixture and stir the battle by hand until all of the flour has disappeared. Next, stir in the melted butter. The batter will deflate a little bit and thicken in consistency.
In another clean, separate mixing bowl and with clean, dry beaters, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy and bubbly. Add the remaining sugar and beat the mixture until a meringue forms at stiff peaks. The meringue should shine.
A third at a time, fold the meringue into the batter until well incorporated, but be careful not to lose any air bubbles. If some meringue still shows, this is okay; they will go away when the cake is baked.
Carefully pour and spread the batter over the ceramic or glass pan and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes.
The cake is done when golden brown at the top, a toothpick comes out clean when probed at the center of the cake and the sponge bounces back when gently pushed poked at the top.
Allow the cake to cool completely.
While the cake cools, prepare the leches filling. Mix together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and heavy cream. Mix in the rum or brandy if desired.
Fill The Cake
When the cake has completely cooled down, probe it several times all over with a fork and pour all of the milk mixture on top. It may seem like a lot of liquid, but the cake is supposed to be wet and the spongy consistency will soak most of it up.
Make The Whipped Cream
Whip together the heavy cream and sugar until it reaches stiff peaks. Spread or pipe it all over the cake. Dust the cake with ground cinnamon and grated nutmeg.
Top the cake with cherries if desired.
For the best results, allow the cake to sit in the refrigerator overnight to soak up some of the milk.
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Jacqueline Higuera McMahon Published 4:00 am PDT, Wednesday, August 8, 2007 https://www.sfgate.com/food/southtonorth/article/Tres-Leches-cake-goes-one-better-2511335.php
Got Milk?™ On the trail of pastel de tres leches BY MM PACK, FRI., FEB. 13, 2004 https://www.austinchronicle.com/food/2004-02-13/196888/
© 2019 Parker Artistry Brands LLC, All Rights Reserved.
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