In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I decided to make a festive dessert for tonight's dinner with the family - tres leches cake. I have never made tres leches cake before, but that has never stopped me from making something before. To take it a step further, though, I have never even tasted tres leches cake before. But I didn't let that stop me. It always looked so good, and I found a recipe that I knew that I could, without a doubt, trust, so I bit the bullet and went for it today.
There are a lot of steps to this (so, consequently, expect lots of pictures!), but it is really straightforward and SO worth the effort.
The first step is to separate five eggs. So you know this is going to be good. The egg yolks are mixed with sugar. They start out like this:
and after a few minutes on high, turn into this:
The yolk/sugar mixture is then folded into the mixed dry ingredients and set aside. Once the bowl to the mixer is washed out, it is time to work with the egg whites, which start out like this:
and are soon whipped into this:
The mixer worked hard for this cake.
The egg whites are then carefully folded into the egg yolk mixture. The resulting batter is so light and fluffy and airy, I was pretty confident about the decision to go for this one.
Halfway through the baking time, I did what you aren't supposed to do and peeked into the oven to check out how the cake was cooking. What can I tell you? I was curious. What I saw was awesome:
How cool is that? It rose so well, I was pretty impressed with myself.
I then closed the oven and didn't cheat again. Once the cake came out of the oven, I turned it out onto a rimmed cookie sheet (I didn't have a nice rimmed tray, so I used what I had) and let it cool. That's when it was time to work on those tres leches.
The tres leches in the cake's name refer to the three milk products that are mixed together and poured over the cooled cake - sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream. I was hoping to use my measuring cup to combine everything, then to pour the mixture onto the cake, but this was only two of the three milks, so I know I would need a separate mixing bowl to get the job done. No problem, and little miss was on hand to help with the mixing, so it all went pretty smoothly.
The next part was probably little miss's favorite - we used a fork to carefully puncture the cake all over so it could better absorb the milks. I think she is going to want to do this to all of our cakes from now on... oops. Hey, she had fun, so no worries.
The next step was the hardest to photograph - pouring the milks onto the cake. So this is the best picture I have of it, because then I tried to concentrate on actually getting an even layer of the milks all the way from end to end on the cake. I am glad the recipe stated not to use all of the milk mixture - there was a LOT of it. Once I had the cake good and soaked, I let it sit to fully absorb.
While waiting, I prepared the final component of the cake - the whipped cream frosting. Because, you know, what this cake needed was even more dairy. Cream whipped, milks absorbed into the cake, the whole thing was frosted. It looked like a fluffy cloud when I was done, and I was pretty excited to take a taste.
After a delicious taco dinner with the family, it was time to cut the cake. Wow. So worth the effort. Somehow, despite its custardy goodness and rich creaminess, this cake felt light and satisfying. Everyone loved it. Little miss asked for seconds. I can't believe I had never had this before. I will definitely make this again.
Tres Leches Cake
(from The Pioneer Woman)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
For the icing:
1 pint heavy cream, for whipping
3 tablespoons sugar
Preaheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9" x 13" cake pan until well coated.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Separate the eggs.
Beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until the yolks are pale yellow. Stir in the milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir gently until combined.
Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer still on, pour in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat the whites until they are stiff but not dry.
Fold the egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it carefully to even out the surface.
Bake for 35 - 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn the cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow it to cool.
Combine the condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When the cake is cool. pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle all but about 1 cup of the milk mixture over the entire cake. Try to get as much around the edges as you can.
Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes.
To frost the cake, whip one pint of heavy cream with three tablespoons of sugar until thick and spreadable. Spread the whipped cream over the surface of the cake.
Decorate the cake with whole of chopped maraschino cherries (if desired - I used strawberries instead). Cut into squares and serve.