I just got back from Uruguay so all things Latin are still on my mind. I have been wanting to try this cake for forever. With the sun and beach of South America still fresh in my memory I decided to take the plunge and I am so glad I did. You will be too if you try this. I warn you though, the taste and texture are addictive.
Tres Leches means three milks, due to the fact that the wonderful syrup that gives this cake its delightful texture is made of a combination of evaporated milk, sweetened and condensed milk, and heavy cream. The dessert is not as rich as you might fear since the cake itself has no butter; just a sponge of flour, eggs and sugar.
I remember first tasting this spongy, delectable cake, oozing its sweet milk in Costa Rica. However, it is popular throughout many parts of the Latin world with many countries claiming ownership for the original recipe. It is without a doubt and for good reason one of Ramani’s favorite cakes. I have added a hint of nutmeg to the cake which harmonizes so well with the milk syrup. -Weezie
1 cup raw sugar
5 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Assemble the cake. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Generously grease a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with ghee (or butter). Separate the eggs, putting the yolks in the bowl of your mixer and the whites in another bowl with steep sides. Beat 3/4 cup sugar and the egg yolks until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the milk and vanilla. Measure out the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg into a small bowl. Stir to combine. Fold this into the yolk and milk mixture.
Beat the eggs whites with a hand held mixer, adding cream of tartar after 20 seconds until the whites hold soft peaks. Gradually add in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar as you continue to beat, until the whites are glossy and firm but not dry. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture.
Bake the cake. Pour the batter into your greased baking dish. Bake the cake until it feels firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool completely on a wire rack in its baking dish. Gently pierce the cake all over its surface with a fork.
Make the syrup.* Pour all the ingredients into a bowl and whisk to combine.
Dress the cake. Pour the syrup over the cake, one cup at a time to let it absorb gradually. When you have added all the syrup, continue to spoon the overflow on the sides of the pan onto the top of the cake until it is all absorbed.
Whip the Cream. Pour the whipping cream into a steep sided cold bowl. Using the highest setting of your hand held mixer, beat the cream until it holds soft peaks. Add the vanilla and sugar and continue beating until the cream holds stiff peaks. Don’t over beat or it will turn to butter.
Serve the Cake. As you plate your Tres Leches, garnish each piece with a dollop of whipped cream.
*Note: If you would prefer not to use canned milk as is traditionally done in this recipe, then do the following as a substitute for the combination of evaporated milk and sweetened and condensed milk. Place the ingredients listed below in a medium sized, heavy bottomed stainless steel saucepan.
2 cups of raw sugar
1/2 gallon of whole milk
2 fresh vanilla beans, their insides scraped and pods reserved (optional)
Turn the heat to medium and slowly bring the milk and sugar to a boil, stirring often with a wooden spoon. Once the milk comes to a boil, after about 20 minutes, turn down to medium-low and simmer until the thickness of heavy cream, just about 60 minutes. Stir often, about every five minutes, so it doesn’t stick. Let this cool, then add to it the 1 cup of heavy cream. Continue with the recipe above.