There was some period when you couldn't shake a stick without hitting a tres leches cake. I'll admit I always thought this was a trendy, over-rated dessert, but I wanted to try Rose's take on it. This version is ultra-moist, but not soggy. It's also pretty.
This cake wasn't on the list of super-easy cakes, but it definitely wasn't hard, although you have to remember to allow enough time for it to be in the refrigerator, soaking, for at least 8 hours, and there are some breathless moments when you invert the milk-soaked cake onto the serving platter, but, all in all, nothing to worry about.
This technique was new to me, although it may well be standard for sponge cakes. Six eggs, along with some sugar, vanilla, and flour, are whisked over simmering water until they're heated.
The warm egg mixture gets beaten for five minutes in the KitchenAid. I assume it would be possible to make this cake without a stand mixer, but you'd have to have muscles and stamina to do it. Since I have neither, I rely on my KitchenAid. After 5 minutes, it turns into a very thick, pale yellow batter, and you feel that you've just performed a bit of kitchen alchemy.
While the cake is baking, you have plenty of time to mix up the tres leches mixture (or tres leches y crema, because Rose also adds whipping cream). Here's where I have to confess that I made a mistake that caused me a lot of consternation. The directions are clear enough--cook the whole milk and skim milk until they're reduced by half, and then add the condensed milk and cream. But I was speed-reading, and so I started cooking all the milks, plus the cream, until I realized what I'd done.
I seriously thought about dumping the whole mess and starting over, but that seemed so incredibly wasteful. I just calculated how many cups of liquid I'd have if I did it right, and cooked the mixture down until I ended up with about 4 1/2 cups of mixed milk. The leche mixture I ended up with was probably thinner than it should have been, but it didn't seem to cause any significant harm. However, when you make this cake yourself, as you should, you can do it right and feel superior.
The cake turned out to be high, light, and goldenly handsome:
It gets a little putzy here, because you have to shave off the top of the cake, put strips of plastic wrap in the cake pan (after you've washed it), and put the cake back in the pan.
Then you keep adding the milk mixture, and adding it, and adding it, until it comes up to the top of the cake pan. Here's where it goes in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 8 hours.
This is kind of nice because by the time it's ready to serve, it's been done for hours, and all that's left to do is whip the cream. First, of course, you have to take this cake that's been soaking in over a quart of liquid and turn it over on a plate. Just close your eyes and hope for the best.
You can see from the dribbles on the counter that it wasn't a flawless undertaking, but it was good enough.
I thought it would look very plain and white, but it was quite attractive.
And unbelievably moist, but not at all wet or soppy. The cake was firm enough to stand up to and absorb all the liquid, and it retained the texture of cake that was light as air. The comments about this cake were uniformly enthusiastic.
Karen: "Very special, very elegant--I've never had a cake like it. Unusually fresh-tasting."
Doug: "Best tres leches cake I've ever had--the ones at restaurants usually aren't worth the money.:
Mary: "Better than similar cakes I had in Costa Rica."