Diana's Desserts - www.dianasdesserts.com

Tres Leches Cake

Servings: 12
Tres Leches Cake, a perfect dessert for Cinco de Mayo.

Pastel Tres Leches ("three-milk cake") appeared in Mexico perhaps a generation ago. It swept through the social set and soon became the thing to serve at fancy parties. A butter cake soaked in three kinds of milk and most often topped with billows of meringue or a whipped cream frosting, it is sweet and insanely rich.

Nobody knows where this confection came from. Mexican cooking authority Maria Dolores Torres Yzabal (the co-author of The Mexican Gourmet cookbook) thinks it might have originated in a Mexico City bakery whose name is now lost. In her cookbook The Taste of Mexico, Patricia Quintana says that it first appeared in the state of Sinaloa. To complicate matters further, Mexico-born chef Roberto SantibaƱez has friends in Guatemala and Nicaragua who swear the cake is native to their countries. His pet theory is that it came from a promotional recipe once distributed in Latin America, perhaps on cans of evaporated milk or with a brand of electric mixer.

Wherever it started, Tres Leches Cake has now established itself all over the world. Its tres leches ("three milks") are evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and heavy cream. This cake's definitely "Got Milk".

For the Cake:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
9 large egg yolks
9 large egg whites
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Glaze:
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk or use Fat-Free for a lighter version
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk or use Fat-Free for a lighter version
2 cups heavy whipping cream or use Half and Half (Single Cream) or Whole Milk for a lighter version

For the Topping:
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Lightly grease and flour a 13x9-inch rectangular cake pan. Set aside.

To Make Cake:
Combine the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks and beat well. Add the flour mixture and milk; beat well. Set batter aside.

In a metal bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into the cake batter. Stir in the vanilla. Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees F (180 C) for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of cake comes out clean and when cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Remove from oven and cool on rack for about 20 minutes.

To Make Glaze:
In a large bowl combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream. Mix well.

Pierce the entire top of cake with a fork or wooden skewer, then pour the glaze over the cake. If cake stops absorbing the glaze, it has had enough. If desired, save remaining glaze to drizzle over the top of cake as garnish. Refrigerate cake for at least 2 hours before frosting and serving*. Serve chilled. Refrigerate any leftover cake.

To Make Topping:
When ready to serve, combine the whipping cream, the vanilla and the sugar, whipping until thick. Spread over top of chilled cake.

*Note: Because of the milk in the cake, it is very important that you keep the cake refrigerated until ready to serve. Serve cake chilled.

Makes 12 servings.

Serving Suggestions:
Serve cake topped with chopped nuts, fresh berries or other sliced fruits.
Place 1 maraschino cherry on top of each slice and drizzle with chocolate or caramel syrup.

Topping Variation:
Tres Leches cake can be made with either a Whipped Cream Topping (as in above recipe) or made with a Meringue Topping.

Here is the Meringue Topping Recipe:

Meringue Topping
1 cup granuated sugar
1/3 cup water
3 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Once the cake is completely chilled, in a saucepan combine the 1/3 cup water and the 1 cup sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Cook until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, 235-240 degrees F (112-115 degrees C). Remove from the heat. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks, add the vanilla extract. While beating, add the hot syrup in a thin stream. Beat until all the syrup has been added, the mixture cools, and a glossy icing forms.

To Assemble:
Remove the cake from the refrigerator and spread the meringue topping evenly across the top.

TIP: The meringue will keep, covered, 2 days in the refrigerator.

Date: March 7, 2003