Tres Leches Cake is not a dessert I grew up with. In fact, I’d never even heard of it until three years ago when it suddenly seemed to be everywhere, including the freezer case at the grocery store and the local vegan restaurant. Yes, you read that right — vegan tres leches cake. This is what spurred me on. I figured if vegans would go to the trouble of making a milk-free version of “three milks cake” then the cake must be pretty darn good.
The first recipe I used was from Recipezaar. It was posted by a cook who got the recipe from her Mexican housekeeper, Chela. That plus the many high ratings was the reason I chose it. It was so good that I never bothered with another recipe……until yesterday.
There are lots of variations on tres leches cake, but basically it is a dry cake soaked in a mixture of different milks, one of which is usually condensed. Sometimes it’s topped with meringue, sometimes whipped cream. The recipe I chose this past weekend was adapted from an old one in the Houston Chronicle (link is dead now).
Is this better than Chela’s? Well, I’d have to try them side by side. It tasted almost the same to me, however, I liked the fact that I wasn’t relying on mix. Would I make it again? Heck yes! Of course now I’m thinking I need to try some restaurant versions.
Update: This is my version of the recipe. The old version called for a full tablespoon of baking powder rather than 2 teaspoons and did not call for vanilla. The topping called for 12 oz evaporated milk, 14 oz condensed milk, 2 cups whole milk and 2 full cups of sour cream. I found that to be a little too much, so I reduced the milk and sour cream. In addition, the original was topped with a meringue that was spooned over the cake before serving. I skipped that and used sweetened whipped cream.
Three-Milk Cake (Pastel de Tres Leches)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup evaporated milk
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup milk
1 cup sour cream (room temp or slightly warm)
Whipped Cream Topping:
1 cup cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using a glass pan, use 325 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan. For a thicker cake, you can use a 9×12 inch pan.
Sift flour with baking powder and set aside. In a large bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until thick and white. Beat in yolks, one at a time.
With a heavy duty scraper, fold in flour mixture and milk; mix well but don’t beat. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until edges are golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool on a rack.
Prepare Three-Milk Topping by combining all 4 ingredients (yes, I know — it should be Four Milks Cake!). Using a skewer, make little holes all over the cake. Pour Topping over cake and let sit until all mixture is absorbed, 20 to 30 minutes. After it has sat for 30 or so minutes at room temperature, go ahead and refrigerate it.
Prepare Whipped Cream Topping Chill cream, bowl and beaters thoroughly. Beat cream with electric mixer until it begins to thicken. Gradually add sugar and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form. Cover cake with whipped cream with a spatula or knife. Chill until ready to eat (tastes best the next day).
Topping, cut cake into squares and serve, or spread Whipped Cream Topping over squares of cake.
Cut cake and serve. Or cut the cake in squares and top with whipped cream when it is served.
About 12 servings
I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this, but my favorite tool for mixing is a heavy duty scraper. The one I liked best is from Pampered Chef. I don’t sell Pampered Chef, but I get invited to lots of PC parties and this is one of the things I purchased and now recommend. The big, strong, spatula really shines in recipes like this where you are folding whipped egg whites into batter. It has a larger surface area and won’t cut into as many of the air bubbles.
This is what the cake looks like before being soaked. It’s very dry and doesn’t have any added fat.
And here’s the cake soaking up some of the liquid. I used cold sour cream and it formed unattractive lumps. To remedy the situation, I warmed the soaking liquid a bit and stirred it up until smooth. The hot cake eventually melted the lumps you see here, but in the future I will use warm sour cream.