A spongy, vanilla cake drenched in a mix of evaporated milk, condensed milk, heavy cream and a splash (or more) of rum takes the term “triple threat” to a whole new level. Topped with homemade whipped cream and fresh fruit, this cake is something you can whip up, literally, for a get together or holiday that will leave the crowd asking for thirds.
Tres Leches, or three milk cake, is a very popular dessert in Latin America. Where this cake originated is a sticky subject. Since it is so delicious, and has been adapted to include classic flavorings from differing countries in South America, many people take pride in saying their country came up with it first. Though some may squabble about which version is most authentic, there is no argument when it comes to its importance at the table as a sweet indulgence to end any meal.
Although it is not known for being a traditional postre, or dessert, in Venezuela, I make it every year for the holidays. Why is that? Because it is ridiculously delicious, easy to make, and has rum. What more could you ask for?
So when I was in my teens my mom thought we should try making Tres Leches. By “we” she meant “me,” and since it was one of my favorite cakes I took the challenge. At that time, I only had a whisk for the job. Mami told me that the traditional way of making it made it taste better, so during those first few tries the cake took a bit more effort and time than it does now. Today, I can thank Tres Leches (and my mom) for giving me toned arms and a deep appreciation for electric mixers. As the years passed I catered the recipe to my family’s tastes, adding cinnamon, an extra splash or two of rum and a touch of almond extract for an added twist.
The beauty of this recipe is that you can’t go wrong. The steps are easy to follow, the ingredients, for the most part, are already part of your pantry’s arsenal and anything that is saturated with this much milky goodness always gets raves reviews. It is the perfect opportunity for you to take a recipe, add your own secret ingredient and make it your own. It is time to bring a new desert to the table this season, so take out your mixer, put on that apron and count your eggs to make this cake because sugar, milk never tasted so good.
Torta Tres Leches
1 14-ounce can evaporated milk
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup preferred rum (or more)
Remaining heavy cream (from 1 liter carton)
3 tablespoons of sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Fresh berries or assorted fruit.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9 by 13-inch pan and set aside.
Tip: An aluminum pan is easier. Grease the pan and add a few spoonfuls of flour. Lightly tap and shake the pan to lightly coat. Turn pan over sink and lightly tap to remove excess flour.
2. In a bowl, beat egg whites on low speed until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar until stiff peaks form. Incorporate yolks into mixture, one at a time, until completely integrated.
3. Sift, or thoroughly mix, the flour and baking powder.
4. Add dry ingredients to the egg mixture, alternating with milk.
Tip: Do this step quickly to keep your cake batter fluffy and airy. Do not over mix.
5. Add vanilla and cinnamon. Stir batter once or twice to incorporate. Pour cake into prepared pan and bake until golden.
Tip: An aluminum pan will take 25- 35 minutes for the cake to be done. Add 10-15 minutes if baking in stoneware. Cake is cooked through when a toothpick is inserted into the center, removed, and remains dry.
6. In a bowl combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, heavy cream and rum.
Tip: This step can be done in advance, while the cake is baking in the oven. It can also be chilled along with the cake overnight.
7. Remove cake from oven. With a fork, or skewer, poke holes into cake. Pour milk topping over cake while it is still warm from the oven.
Tip: This part is fun for the kids. You can’t have too many holes, just make sure the surface of the cake remains level.
8. Let cake sit and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.
Tip: Cooling should take a few hours, or can be left overnight in the fridge.
9. Combine the remaining heavy cream, vanilla and cinnamon in a bowl. Using a mixer, whip heavy cream until peaks form.
Tip: The peaks should hold their shape enough to use a pastry bag with assorted tips if desired. Do not over whip, or you will end up with sweet butter instead of sweet whipped cream.
10. Once the cake is completely chilled, top with homemade whipped cream and berries.
And finally, admire, eat and enjoy!