Tres Leches Cake
We really do have so much to celebrate!
The sun is above us shining bright. The breeze is warm. The shade is ample and cooling, if not still filled with pesky mosquitos. We sweat. Our drinks sweat. Our neighbors sweat and there’s comfort in knowing that we’re all in it together.
I say we celebrate with cake. And not just any cake, but the perfect summer cake with sweet milk, sweet cream, spongy cake, and sprinkles… because cake is barely cake without sprinkles.
Tres Leches is decadent but mischievously light thanks, somehow, to whipped cream and sponge cake. It’s served chilled and can easily be filed under ‘refreshing’ and ‘holy cow this cake is good’ desserts.
Let’s celebrate these days. The best way? Cake. Most definitely.
First line a 9×13-inch baking pan with Reynolds Wrap Nonstick Foil. We want to make sure that the ultra moist cake moves easily from the cake pan to the plate and from the plate to my mouth.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt to incorporate evenly.
The base of our Tres Leches Cake is a sponge cake which means we’re separating eggs… a lot of them.
We’re going to beat the egg yolks with sugar to add richness to the cake, but not before we whip egg whites to a fluff, creating the lightest, most bouncy sponge. It’s all that bounce that will absorb our milks and sink into the most luscious of cakes.
Egg whites are ready for mixing.
To get the most fluff out of your egg whites:
• Make sure there are no trace bits of egg yolk mixed into your whites.
• Make sure that your mixing bowl and whisk are clean, dry, and free of grease. Don’t be obsessive about it, but kinda be obsessive about it.
• Add a pinch of cream of tartar to the beating eggs. The acid helps the egg whites bind and cooperate.
Use a whisk attachment at medium high speed to show those egg whites what’s what (that’s a technical term).
They’ll begin to froth after just a few minutes. You’ll add the cream of tartar and be well on your way to success!
Beaten to stiff peaks.
This pile of egg white wonder will help leaven the cake, creating a very fluffy sponge. Baking science which is pretty exciting and incredible.
Once the egg whites are whipped we move on to the egg yolks.
Beat the egg yolks with the granulated sugar until thick and pale. We’re adding volume and air to this cake everywhere we can.
Once the egg yolks are whipped to pale and thick, we add our dry ingredients until just combined!
Did you notice that there’s no butter in this cake? Two reasons. Plenty of egg yolks bring fat and create a rich cake. AND we want our cake to be fairly dry so most of the mouth-watering fat and moisture comes from the three milks. We’re starting with a dry cake so it can support being a very wet cake.
Fold in the egg whites in three batches. There’s a balance between mixing the batter thoroughly and keeping the precious aerated egg whites present in the batter. Just make sure all of the white pockets have been mixed in. You can find the balance I know!
Pour the light batter into the prepared pan and bake to golden puffed and golden brown.
And, not a thing to worry about! We won’t stick.
While the cake bakes, stir together the milks: heavy cream, evaporated milk (maybe you want to use coconut milk here if you’re feeling wild), and sweetened condensed milk (the hero of this milk story). Add a dash of vanilla extract and an extra dash of bourbon or rum because life is for living.
Whip of the whipped cream frosting too! It’s just cream and sugar and vanilla extract. Go at it with your hand whisk and consider it a mighty fine work out.
I like to leave this frosting on the lighter side of whipped so it’s soft and super spreadable.
Look at this cake!
It’s golden brown and just beginning to pull away from the sides of the foil-lined pan. It’s a more dense angel food cake.
Allow to cool which is hard but at least smells very very good.
Use a fork or toothpick to prick all sorts of holes in the cooled cake. This will allow the milks to seep in and soak well.
Lots of holes.
Be wary, sometimes the fork can tear the cake. Torn cake is sad.
Here we go.
We’re only getting better with time.
The milks are slowly poured over the cake. Allowing them to seep and soak as you go.
I found that this amount of milk was just perfect for the cake. If you know you like your cake less milk moistened, stop about 1/2 cup short. But really… it’s all so good. You won’t go wrong.
Whipped cream is spread across and to the edges of the cake. Like a cake boss.
I put the excess whipped cream in a disposable pastry bag with a star tip to make a festive border. This is extra credit, but we’ve come so far with this beauty… why not make it the best?
Sprinkles too, because cake is barely cake without it.
Here’s the thing! After frosting the cake needs to be chilled in the refrigerator overnight… and overnight definitely means overnight. The milk and cake need time to get acquainted and settled. The cake is served cold the next day and miraculously, the liquid is absorbed but the cake still holds its shape sliced.
Time to celebrate. It’s summer and oh how sweet and creamy it is!
Photographs with and by Jon Melendez!
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 6 large eggs, separated
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup cold water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
- 1 small can (5 ounces) evaporated milk
- 1 tablespoon rum or brandy (optional)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- sprinkles, for garnish
- maraschino cherries, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with Reynolds Wrap Nonstick Foil, grease lightly with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. I
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip together the egg whites, along with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.
- In the rinsed bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and granulated sugar until thick and pale. Stir in the vanilla extract, almond extract and water, until smooth. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
- Fold in the egg whites, a one third at a time, making sure to not over mix.
- Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on
- Whisk together the tres leches ingredients, in a medium bowl. Using a wooden skewer, poke holes all throughout the cooled cake. This will allow for the milk mixture to seep in. Pour the milk, evenly, over the cake. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the fridge for about 3 hours, or overnight.
- Make the frosting by beating the heavy whipping cream along with the sugar and vanilla extract, until soft peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the chilled cake.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Just before ready to serve, decorate with sprinkles and maraschino cherries! Enjoy chilled!