Friday, September 27, 2013

September Daring Bakers' Challenge - Tres Leches Cake

Inma of la Galletika was our Sept. 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and WOW did she bring us something decadent and delicious! Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk Cake, creamy yet airy, super moist but not soggy.. just plain delish!

Yum! I've actually made tres leches cake before, and it really is a delicious treat.

But I had one problem with this challenge.

When I made this cake last time, it was before little man was born. Before we had a dairy allergy to contend with in the house. In a cake whose title specifically says "three milks," how could I make this dairy free?

Luckily, our awesome hostess had suggestions, and was very open to us doing what we needed to make this challenge suit our dietary needs, so I put on my thinking cap and set out to work.

The first step is to make the cake - a light, airy sponge that is actually relatively simple to put together.

It starts by separating five eggs and whipping the whites and yolks separately.

Then, with the addition of some sugar (to the whites) and vanilla (to the yolks), the two are gently combined.

A little bit of flour is then folded in, then the whole thing is baked to light, airy deliciousness.

And then came the challenge.  The milks. Or... "milks," as the case may be.

The three milks used in the "real" recipe are heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk.  Two of those were easy choices - for the sweetened condensed milk, I whipped up a batch of the dairy free coconut milk version.  For the heavy cream, I used coconut milk beverage. And for the evaporated milk? I couldn't decide. So I went way out of the box. I was inspired by the cooler temperatures, by the changing leaves... and went with pumpkin puree.

I know, it's not a milk. But I wanted to try it. So I did. I also added in a dollop (probably a tablespoon or two... I didn't measure...) of maple syrup as it cooked.

Now... the mixture cooked up deliciously, but it was a bit thick. I had some worries as to how it would work for the actual assembly of the cake, but I'd already made my choice, so I stuck with it.

I cut my cake in half to make two rectangles instead of one big square, and also trimmed the edges to help the cake soak up more of the liquid.

I also used a fork to poke holes in the surface of the cake, too, also trying to help the liquid to soak in.

And then I brushed on the pumpkin/"milk" mixture.

Yeah, it was a bit thick... A bit more like a custard than I'd anticipated... but I went with it.

The cakes were then popped into the fridge to rest, and then it was time for the final step - a coating of whipped cream.  Or... coconut whipped cream in our case.

The final cake looked decent, though I probably should have decorated the top a little bit more...

And the verdict?

Little miss liked it a lot.  Little man loved the whipped cream.  I liked it overall, but I definitely wish that the pumpkin/"milk" mixture had done a better job of soaking in. Daddy liked it, but thought that maybe there were a few too many flavors going on (pumpkin, maple, coconut... it's a bunch of strong flavors...).  All that being said, I was pretty happy with it, and am super glad that I was able to participate.

Inma, thank you so much for being such a sweet, helpful and enthusiastic host this month!! What a delicious challenge!

To see the challenge as presented to us, check it out here.

To see the amazing cakes baked up in the Daring Kitchen this month, check them out here.

Dairy Free Pumpkin Maple Coconut Tres Leches Cake
(inspired by this month's challenge)

For the sponge:
5 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a square 9”x9” pan or 9” round cake pan
Separate the egg whites from the yolks.
In a stand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed, 3 - 5 minutes.
When soft peaks form slowly add the sugar in small batches.
Whip until stiff peaks form about 5 minutes. Set aside.
In a medium bowl (I moved the beaten egg whites to a separate bowl, cleaned out the mixer bowl and then reused the same bowl), beat egg yolks at medium-high speed for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until the egg yolks become pale colored, creamy and puffy. Stir in vanilla.
Pour the egg yolks over the egg whites, gently fold until just combined trying not to lose any volume from the mixture.
Fold in the flour little by little in the form of rain. Mix until just combined (over-beating will result in a denser, flatter cake).
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool completely.

For the pumpkin "milk" mixture":
1 batch (about one cup) dairy free sweetened condensed milk (I used maple syrup to sweeten the sweetened condensed milk, to match the flavors I was working with for this cake)
1 cup coconut milk beverage
1 cup pumpkin puree (you may want to use less... maybe that would make the finished product thinner and help it soak in better...)
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer the mixture for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

To prepare the cake:
prepared and cooled cake
prepared and cooled "milk" mixture
coconut whipped cream (from one can of coconut milk)

I chose to trim the edges of the cake to expose more of the interior sponge, but that is optional. Using a fork, gently poke holes in the surface of the cake. Using a pastry brush, brush the milk mixture over the top and sides of the cake. Be very generous with this step, using as much of the pumpkin mixture as you can.
Set the cake in the refrigerator for at least a few hours or overnight to allow the "milk" to soak into the cake.
Before serving, spread the coconut whipped cream over the cake like frosting.



  1. Shelley you did an amazing job making a three milk cake dairy free!
    Hats off to you on creativity my friend. I actually think the flavors you chose work beautifully together. One of my favorite puddings is a pumpkin coconut one. So I think you were spot on with the combination you chose, maybe just make it thinner next time
    Another challenge wonderfully met

  2. Wow, you were thinking way out of the box on this one Shelley! I love that you used pumpkin... I wonder how you could get it to soak into the cake better? Regardless, I think those flavours sound fantastic together.

  3. I always like to see what you are going to do with the challenge. Pumpkin sounds great since it is getting into fall. Nice job on the challenge!

  4. That is a great variation! Very clever.

  5. Great job trying something out of the box!

  6. Pumpkin sounds amazing. Would love to try it :)

  7. very inventive! It sounds delicious


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