It was son David’s 29th birthday and he requested a Tres Leche Cake as his dessert choice. Well, neither of us had ever made one, but you know how we enjoy a culinary challenge—and boy, were we thrown a curve ball or two…
Since there were going to be only four of us for dinner (and one of us doesn’t eat dessert), the ability to easily halve the ingredients was a game changer—after all, the full recipe feeds up to 16!
So the half-cake batter was made exactly as noted in the directions and put in the preheated oven. After 25 minutes, it was no where near done. At 30 minutes, the center was still jiggly and The Hubs used a toothpick to test for doneness—still too wet. We added another 10 minutes which rendered the cake a light golden color, but also caused the middle to sink 😦
Several other reviewers mentioned that when they made the half version, they also experienced sunken centers. We think perhaps poking it for doneness caused it to deflate, maybe? The Hubs first inclination was to deep-six it and start over but that would have meant a trip to the grocery store for more ingredients. So after some quick rethinking, we decided to move forward.
The milk amounts were cut in half too, and most of the combination was poured over the cooled “forked” cake. Because of the inward slope, the liquid was drizzled around the top edges and the pan was tipped and turned to try and keep as much of the moisture near the top instead of all gathering in the sunken center. We used the majority of the milk mixture to fully saturate the cake, tossing the remainder. Into the fridge it went for a good nights rest.
The whipped topping would not suffice if we made only half of the amount because of that sunken middle, thus the decision to make the entire amount. Fiasco number two. The cream never got stiff, in fact, after switching from a hand held mixer to the mighty Kitchen Aid with whipping attachment, it only got more watery, so down the drain it went, and to the grocery store The Mister went.
Our next topping attempt was going to be an altogether different recipe found in Fine Cooking, which sounded like the perfect antidote. But of course, when The Hubs got to the store (the only one that happened to be open on Easter Sunday), they were completely out of heavy cream! Defeated, he just grabbed a can of ready whip and called it a day…
David commented that “It’s best to preface this blog by mentioning that Tres Leche is not a presentation-worthy cake, but it is a delicious one, with originality and authenticity.” (Maybe if you discount that canned whipped topping.) The Hubs said “I always used to have a glass of milk with cake. This was like pouring the milk on the cake and then eating it.” And girlfriend Vikki noted “It’s like cotton candy melting in your mouth—a little more cakey, but it’s better that way.”
No lying, the cake would not have won any medals in a bake-off, but all those that ate it, loved the taste. I’ve learned in life you can’t always have a win-win, but you can learn from mishaps and move on. The Hubs is determined to make it again—next time around with a few changes.
Notes: This recipe can be halved. If doing so, bake the cake in an ungreased 8- by 8-inch baking dish and reduce baking time to 25 to 30 minutes. (Although in our case, it took 40 minutes!) Be sure to thoroughly chill the cake prior to serving. You could even pop it in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes right beforehand.
Tres Leche Cake
Ingredients (whole cake)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 (12-oz.) cans evaporated milk
- 2 (14-oz.) cans sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
For the topping:
- 2-1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.
- Combine flour and baking powder in small bowl; set aside.
- In bowl of stand mixer, beat egg whites and salt with whisk attachment on medium-low speed until whites begin to froth, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and beat whites until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly add the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. The mixture may look a bit thick.
- Add egg yolks and beat just until combined. Decrease speed to low and add flour in three additions, alternating with the milk, scraping sides and bottom of bowl as necessary. Add vanilla and beat just until combined.
- Scrape batter into an ungreased 13- by 9-inch baking dish (or 8- by 8-inch for a half cake). Bake until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer cake to cooling rack and cool completely in pan, 60 to 90 minutes.
- Once cooled, poke cake all over with fork. Combine evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and 1 1/2 cups heavy cream in large bowl. Pour mixture evenly all over cake. While cake soaks, make whipped cream.
- In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer on medium speed. When it begins to thicken, slowly add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat just until it holds firm peaks, 3 to 4 minutes (be careful not to overbeat).
- Spread whipped cream over cake and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours. Serve.
Recipe is a mash-up between one from María Del Mar Cuadra (cake) and Fany Gerson (whipped topping)