Tres Leches Cake is kind of a paradox, both in flavor and in texture. One would expect that the cake would be soggy, but it's surprisingly moist and tender. One would expect it to be a cloyingly sweet, however it has more of a delicate "creamy" flavor than anything else. One would expect this soaked cake to be a heavy dessert suitable for wintertime, but on the contrary, it is surprisingly light and refreshing, making it an excellent dessert on the hottest of summer days.
So what exactly is Tres Leches Cake? Direct translation is "Three Milks" cake, for this is what the soaking liquid consists of -- Evaporated Milk, Sweetened Condensed Milk and Heavy Cream (or Half & Half) This liquid is poured over a very "dry" sponge cake, allowing the "sponge" to soak up the lucious milkiness, thus providing a tender and utterly moist, but light cake. On top of this, the whole thing is generously slathered with unsweetened or very lightly sweetened whipped cream. Sinful! My own recipe uses milk in the sponge cake itself, so I guess it's kind of a Quatro Leches cake; but why argue semantics?
Boy was I wrong! This cake is completely addictive. It is SO light and SO creamy and SO delicious. I could sit and eat it ALL day long... And I don't even like cake! I got a second piece to take home, so I could be alone with my new found guilty pleasure.
Needless to say, I don't make this cake very often. I purposefully forget that I know how to make it. It's a matter of waistline preservation that forces me into the self inflicted memory loss. But I have accessed the darkest recesses of my mind, where said cake knowledge is stored, on a couple of occasions; one being my friend Joe's birthday several years ago. Some of my Bakspace peeps know him as "espressojoe". Though I must admit, I was attempting to make a layered version (it's usually a 13x9 single layer sheet cake) and got a little carried away, resulting in a less than stellar rendition of said cake. (4 layers was just too high)
After this, I buried the recipe in my sub-conscious again... Up until a week ago, when I inquired of my little brother what sort of cake he would desire for HIS birthday. I thought he would ask for German's Chocolate cake, since that is the traditional celebratory dessert for both him and my dad. I was slightly taken aback when he burst out with "I really want a Tres Leches cake. Do you know how to make one?"
Oh God, do I EVER!!!
So having learned from previous layering experiences, I decided to reign myself in this time and stick to 2 layers, thus not disturbing the outside crumb of the cake. So armed with 8x8 square pans (round does not work, the cake is too tender to foster cutting a radial pattern from the center of a round cake) I embarked upon Tres Leches Nirvana.
Tres Leches Cake
7 Large Eggs, separated
2 cups (10.3 oz) (290 g) AP Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 cup (7.2 oz) (205 g) Granulated Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract (preferably Mexican Vanilla)
3/4 cup (170 ml) Whole Milk
14 oz net wt (1 can) (396 g) Sweetened Condensed Milk
12 oz (1 can) (355 ml) Evaporated Milk
3 cups (715 ml) Heavy Cream, divided
2 tsp Gelatin
2 TB Water
2 TB Confectioners' Sugar
Begin by separating the Eggs.
Make the Stabilized Whipped Cream --- This is important, if the cake begins to "weep" milk, the gelatin in the whipped cream will help absorb it.
So, bloom the gelatin in a small ramekin for 5 minutes.