An incredibly moist Mexican cake – tres leches or three milk cake. A light sponge cake soaked with a mixture of evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and cream and topped with more whipped cream, a cake can hardly get any more decadent and delightful.
Well, I do have a few more decadent and delightful cakes full of whipped cream on the blog, if you like, have a look at this Amazing Cake with Lemon Curd, Cream and Raspberry Filling or this Mandarin Orange Cake with Cream and Almond Meringue.
Tres Leches Cake – Mexican Dessert Recipe
Origins of the Tres Leches Cake
Well, I am saying Mexican recipe, but according to many sources, including Wikipedia, although soaked-cake desserts were known in Mexico already in the 19th century, this particular Tres Leches Cake became famous all through Latin America sometimes during the 20th century, mostly due to the fact that a recipe for Tres Leches Cake was printed on the Nestle condensed milk can labels.
So, this three milk cake became popular not only in Mexico, but most everywhere in Central and South America, North America, Caribbean and Canary Islands.
During the past years, the Tres Leches Cake also became famous in several European countries, such as Albania, Macedonia or Turkey and this is believed to be the result of the popularity of South American telenovelas in these countries.
I only wonder, telenovelas are incredibly popular in Romania as well, and they have been so for almost 30 years now, but I have never heard of this cake in Romania.
Actually, the first time I’ve heard of the Tres Leches Cake was while searching for a recipe for the Polish Bezowy Torte, an amazing meringue cake filled with whipped cream and mascarpone. While it proved very difficult to find a recipe in English/German/Romanian for this particular Bezowy cake that would resemble the wonderful cake we had eaten in Poland, I stumbled upon a recipe for a Polish version of the Tres Leches Cake.
I was wondering, as the name is so very much Spanish, so I had a look at the recipe, and knew I had to make that someday… It took me about half an year, but I got there. 🙂
How to make the Tres Leches Cake:
First of all, separate the eggs and beat the egg whites until stiff. Most recipes would instruct you to first beat together the egg yolks with other ingredients and only then beat the egg whites and add them to the mixture.
I used to do that a long time ago, but in the meantime I keep beating the egg whites first and then turn to the egg yolks and so on. The reason is that I find it super annoying to have to wash the mixer beaters just for beating the egg whites. Egg whites would not become stiff if they come in contact with any trace of fat, that is why the mixer beaters have to be squeaky clean before you start with the egg whites.
The recipes instructing you to beat the egg whites only after you have beaten the egg yolks assume that the egg whites will loose air while waiting to be added to the mixture. Well, I have done it a thousand times, but I have never noticed any difference. So, I make my life easier, beat the egg whites first, set them aside for a few minutes and beat the rest of the ingredients without washing the beaters.
And talking about mixers, you can find out about the best hand mixers for the job from this excellent roundup I recently came across at KitchenGuyd.
Fold the flour and the egg whites very gently and carefully into the egg yolk mixture, to make sure that the cake remains light and airy.
To soak the cake, start by poking it evenly with a fork. When adding the three milk mixture make sure that you pour the mixture evenly and that you reach all the edges and corners of the cake.
Top the cake with the freshly whipped heavy cream adding sugar to taste. I only needed one tablespoon sugar, I found it enough because the cake it is very sweet as it is. I found it actually very good that the whipped cream on top was not so sweet. But, of course, that is a matter of taste, do add more sugar if you like.
I topped the cake with freeze dried strawberries. They are a relatively new discovery for me and I buy them with the sole purpose of decorating cakes with them, they are so pretty and they add a bit of tangines or fruitiness that I enjoy a lot. However, they are not mandatory.
You could decorate the cake with fresh strawberry slices or any other berries. Or you could just sprinkle it with a little cinnamon or even a little brown sugar. In this case, do make sure you do not add too much sugar to the whipped heavy cream, the brown sugar will also make things sweeter.
- 120 g/ 4.2 oz/ 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- a pinch of salt
- 5 eggs (medium Germany, large US)
- 200 g/ 7 oz/ 1 cup sugar
- 80 ml/ 2.7 fl.oz/ 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For soaking the cake:
- 350 ml/ 12 oz/1 can evaporated milk
- 400 ml/ 14 oz/ 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 60 ml/ 2 fl.oz/ ¼ cup whole milk
- 500 ml/ 17 fl.oz/ 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar, more to taste
- small handful freeze dried strawberries, optional
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a baking dish of about 20x32 cm/ 8x12 inches (a couple of inches more or less would be OK).
Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add about 50 g/ 1.8 oz/ ¼ cup of the sugar and continue beating until the egg whites are stiff and glossy. Set aside.
Beat the egg yolks and remaining sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the milk and the vanilla extract and incorporate. Pour the mixture over the flour and fold in gently. Fold in the egg whites as well.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and make sure the layer is even. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely without removing it from the baking dish.
When the cake is cool, poke it all over with a fork. Mix together the evaporated milk, condensed milk and whole milk and slowly pour the mixture all over the cake in the baking dish, making sure you reach all the edges and corners.
Cover the baking dish with cling film and refrigerate the cake for several hours or overnight, to make sure the milk is completely absorbed by the cake.
Whip the heavy cream adding sugar to taste. Spread the cream on the cake in an even layer and top with crushed freeze dried strawberries, if desired. Fresh strawberry slices or raspberries would be great as well.
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