Having swooned over the Tres Leches cake at several Cuban restaurants, I was determined to see if I could produce a reasonable facsimile at home. Tres leches translates as "three milks," presumably since the cake is soaked in a delectable mixture of 3 kinds of milk, usually including evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and cream in one guise or another.
I searched the web for recipes and found that the process of creating the cake involved a technique (which I call "poke-n-pour") I've used to make coconut cakes in the past. I found promising recipes from both Alton Brown and Emeril on FoodNetwork
After looking at both recipes, I decided I would go with my own cake recipe, the one I normally use for coconut cake. Both Alton and Emeril use either vegetable oil or shortening in their cake recipes, and I prefer the taste of butter. I am sure both their cakes are very tasty, but I've always had good results with my recipe.
For the "glaze," I would go with Alton Brown's ingredients. The cake recipe is a little unusual. Before stumbling across it, I'd heard my friend Ann talk about a "hot milk" cake and wondered what she was talking about. Well, I think this is it!
Here is my recipe for Tres Leches Cake:
Hot Milk Cake (for the Tres Leches base) Makes 1 9x13" cake.
1 c. whole milk
2T unsalted butter
4 extra-large eggs
2 c. sugar
2 c. flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t. salt
2 t. vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9X13 pan (glass is best) with nonstick spray and then flour the pan.
2. Combine the milk and butter in a 2 c. glass measuring cup. Heat to scalding in the microwave. (In my microwave, this takes about 3 minutes.) Add vanilla.
3. While the milk is heating, beat the eggs and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until thick and lemon-colored, about 5 minutes.
4. With the mixer on low speed, add the hot milk mixture.
5. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together onto a piece of waxed paper.
6. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture. Beat until well combined.
7. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes, or until center is set and a cake tester comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, prepare the "glaze."
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk (Eagle Brand)
1 c. half-and-half
Mix these together in a 4 c. glass measure. (Makes for easy pouring.)
2 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 c. powdered sugar
Beat the cream and sugar together until stiff.
Finishing the Tres Leches Cake:
1. When the cake is done, remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes.
2. Pierce holes all over the surface of the cake with a skewer or fork.
3. Slowly pour the glaze over the warm cake, in several passes, allowing the mixture to soak in before pouring more on.
4. Cover the cake with plastic wrap (I find Saran Wrap works best). Chill for at least 6 hrs.
5. Prepare the topping and spread over the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
I don't know if this version of Tres Leches is even remotely authentic, but it was enjoyed by all at my house! This is one of those things that is even better the next day.
I would love to know how to produce a layer cake version of this cake! It's served that way at Carmen's, with whipped cream filling between the 2 layers. How to assemble this as a layer cake without having it fall apart is a mystery to me!
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