Jun 8, 2009

Torta des las Tres Leches

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.:

Ngoc: "Divine!"

Mary: "Better than similar cakes I had in Costa Rica."


Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Oh my goodness... this cake looks like pure torture (in a good way). I cannot wait to try it!!!!!

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

What size pan does this cake require? TCB used mostly 2" pans. Will I have to increase my stock to include 3" pans?

Marie said...

It is an exceptionally good version, but may spoil you so that you won't be able to order it at a restaurant again. You do need a 9" x 3" pan for this one.

Goody said...

I need to get out more as I've never heard of this. What's even more puzzling-why the washing of the plastic wrap?

I'm going through cake anxiety right now as I need to have an impressive cake by Saturday.

OK really, what is up with the cling film? I'm not going to be able to sleep until I find out ;)


Goody said...

Um...nevermind, I get it, you wash the pan.

Going to sleep right now...

Marie said...

Oh that is funny. I read your first comment, and I thought, hmmm, what is this about washing the plastic wrap? Now I get it. I almost re-wrote it to clarify, but then I figured nobody would ever figure out what you were talking about.
Get some sleep!

evil cake lady said...

I've seen Tres Leches cake at restaurants but never tried one; I always just assumed that the cake would be soggy and milky. Now I know better!

Again, your photos are very informative and helpful! Give Jim a high five for me!

Marie said...

I think you'd enjoy making this cake, and people love eating it.
Jim thanks you!

Anonymous said...

Like Goody, I also have never heard of this cake, till now!! Thank you for showing the process of making it, I'm sure I wouldn't have believed it would turn out right. Cheers Jeannette.

Melinda said...

I have heard of it but never tried one or made one. I am curious enough to make it when her book comes out.
Thanks for the cake teaser! It sounds really good.
(Goody, you really made me laugh. I hope you slept well, too!)

Marie said...

I'm surprised to hear that people aren't familiar with this cake--I've seen it on many dessert trays, but it never looked as good as this version, if I do say so.

I hope to see it on your blog in a few months!

jini said...

i've heard of it but never tasted it and never seen a recipe. i suppose there isn't a recipe for making it in a mug?

Melinda said...

Jini, You are a laugh! You are really taken with that mug recipe!

Marie said...

If anyone could come up with a recipe for cake in a mug worthy of being called a cake, it would be Rose, but I suspect she would say it couldn't--and shouldn't--be done.

I'm fixated on the mug recipe too, but not enough to make it, at least so far.

jini said...

that would be a cuppa melinda. you would like it! :)

doughadear said...

What a lovely cake! I always check out the dessert section when I eat out and I have never seen this cake on the menu or heard of it for that matter. I am totally intrigued by it. I love the transformation of eggs when they are beatens over simmering water. I made a tiramisu cake yesterday for hubby's birthday using this method and I love how light and airy the mixture was.

Marie said...

I'm surprised to read the comments from people that they haven't heard of this cake--maybe it was exceptionally popular in Minneapolis. I would wait until Heavenly Cakes comes out before you try out, because it really is an exceptionally good rendition.

Roxanne said...

Living in the Southwest, Tres Leches Cake is a standard! It's also one of my favorite cakes, but honestly, I think I'll stick with Alton Brown's recipe for this. It's MUCH easier to make and is meant to feed a crowd. No cutting off the top and weird plastic wrap circus work. Tres Leches Cake is meant to be a down-homey kind of cake, something that you see at almost every family gathering down here, nothing fancy.

Marie said...

This is the only version I've ever made, and I loved it, but Alton Brown's recipe may be as good or better. I checked out his recipe, and the cake part definitely looks easier, but it's not a sponge cake, is it?

hector said...

omg, what an enlightening cake, and so glad Rose has made a recipe for it! absolutely delicious and so down to earth (to heaven i should say more appropriately).

hector said...

one more thing, i have the impression that many of the new cakes in heavenly cakes use a the syrup component, it is really a great way to keep cakes moist, like this tres leches, the black party cake, and the deep passion for foote-patterson: which i have just done and took me a whopping 8 hours to apply all the syrup, of course i used a higher cocoa % chocolate than indicated and did make the full size recipe for this fantastic wedding cake...

...and shall i stop here? that daniel patterson himself was visiting NY, and Rose happen to show a picture of my/his cake to him!

Marie said...

You are so right about this cake--somehow it manages to be plain and fancy at the same time!
The idea of spending 8 hours applying syrup boggles the mind, but I can only imagine the finished product. Congratulations