Tres Leches Cake, is aptly named for the three types of milk – evaporated, condensed, and whole milk or cream (or in this recipe, half-and-half) - that are poured over a cake to create this very indulgent dessert. There is some debate to its origins. Recipes for this cake can be found in Mexican, Cuban, Nicaraguan, Costa Rican, and Puerto Rican cuisines. Nowadays, this dessert is not only popular in Latin and Central America, but is gaining popularity in the United States as well.
One legend states that this cake was created by the Nestlé Company who printed the recipe on the back of cans of evaporated and condensed milks as a way to promote the use of these milks that did not need refrigeration. Do you know the difference between condensed and evaporated milk? While both canned milks have had 60 % of their water content removed, only condensed milk is sweetened. Evaporated milk is made from homogenized milk and is available in whole, low-fat, and fat-free versions. It is commonly used in custards and dishes in which a creamy texture is desired. Sweetened condensed milk is combination of 60% whole milk and 40% sugar. It is cooked until most of the water has evaporated and only sweet milk syrup is left. Condensed milk has a thick consistency and is often used in candies, puddings, and pies.
Tres Leches Cake has been a part of my husband’s birthday celebration for the last few years. He absolutely loves this cake and who could blame him? This cake is rich, moist, and full of flavor. It is dense and creamy due to the combination of milks being absorbed by the sponge cake, yet, light with the right amount of sweetness. The strawberries not only cut the richness of the cake, but add beautiful color.
Maybe this cake should be renamed Quatro Leches Cake since it contains evaporated and sweetened condensed milks, half-and-half, and heavy cream.
Got milk? Yes, this cake does!!
Tres Leches Cake
Yields a 9″ x 13″ pan
For the Cake
6 3/4 ounces cake flour, plus extra for dusting the pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces sugar
5 whole eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Kahlúa, or other coffee liqueur
For the Glaze
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup half-and-half or whole milk
For the Topping
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 to 3 ounces sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
pinch of salt
Sliced strawberries, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9″ x 13″ metal pan and then dust with flour. Set aside.
Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until light and fluffly, about one minute. Decrease the speed to low, and with the mixer running, gradually add the sugar. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary.
Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined. Add the Kahlúa and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Add the flour mixture to the batter in three batches and mix just until combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. This will appear to be a very small amount of batter for the size of the pan.
Bake on the middle rack of oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden and reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees F. Remove the cake pan to a cooling rack and cool for 30 minutes. Poke the cake all over with a skewer or fork. Allow the cake to cool completely and then prepare the glaze.
To make the glaze, whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and the half-and-half in a 1-quart measuring cup. Once combined, pour the glaze evenly over the entire cake. Refrigerate overnight.
For the topping, place the heavy cream, 2 ounces of sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat together on low speed until stiff peaks are formed. Taste and add more sugar, if desired. Change to medium speed and whisk until thick. Spread the topping over the cake and allow to chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Garnish with fresh strawberries.
Adapted from a recipe from Alton Brown.
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