Tres Leches. Three Milks. See, 3rd through 8th grade (and two college semesters) of Spanish did pay off. That glaring four-year gap? Latin in high school. What can I say? I like to mix things up a bit. Like cakes. Specifically this cake, which made me want to do a little dance around the kitchen to celebrate its existence. I’m undoubtedly way late to the Tres Leches party, as this was my first experience tasting the famed cake. I first saw Alton Brown make one years ago and remember thinking that it looked fabulous and I had to try it. Needless to say, I procrastinated a bit on the “Make Tres Leches Cake” Project. But as Heinz (shameless Pittsburgh plug) always reminds us, good things come to those who wait. And wow, this is better than good!
The cake itself is a basic sponge cake that is baked in a 9×13-inch pan. The real magic happens after the cake comes out of the oven and cools. Using a fork, you poke holes all over the cake and then combine sweetened condensed milk (milk#1), evaporated milk (milk #2) and heavy cream (milk #3) and slowly drizzle the mixture over the cake, allowing it to seep into all of the holes. The result? A spongy, moist cake drenched in the most fabulous, creamy flavor. Top it with freshly whipped cream, throw on a maraschino cherry or two, and you have a simple-looking dessert that is anything but.
What you see above is a little piece of heaven sitting in a lovely pool of deliciousness. All of that milky, creamy goodness soaking through the cake and leaving a little extra love on the bottom.
If you’re looking for a dessert to celebrate Cinco de Mayo next week, this is perfect. And if you need a dessert to celebrate just about anything you can think of (including it being a random weekday and you have a sweet tooth), definitely make this cake. In fact, you could make it to celebrate the Washington Capitals being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Just sayin’ ;-)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x13-inch baking pan and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolk and ¾ cup granulated sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Add the whole milk and vanilla extract and mix to combine. Pour the egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold together until thoroughly combined.
4. Clean out the bowl and the whisk. Add the egg whites to the bowl and whisk at high speed until soft peaks begin to form. With the mixer still running, pour in the remaining ¼ cup of granulated sugar and beat until the egg whites are stiff but not dry.
5. Working in three batches, gently fold the egg whites into the batter until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a spatula.
6. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn the cake onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
7. Transfer the cake to a rimmed serving plate. Mix together the evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When the cake is cool, pierce the surface of the cake all over with a fork. Slowly drizzle all but 1 cup of the milk mixture over the top of the cake, making sure to get around the edges of the cake. (You can discard the remaining 1 cup of milk mixture.) Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for about 30 minutes.
8. To frost the cake, whip 2 cups of the heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar until thick and stiff peaks form. Spread over the surface of the cake. Garnish with maraschino cherries, if desired.