Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tres Leches Cake - Three Times The Delicious-ness

Sometimes my sister asks me to hook her up with baked goods for her and her daughter's church. Cupcakes, cookies, cakes: she asks for it, and I try my best to make it happen. Seeing as that I haven't been to church in eons, I figure my goodwill will help me out later down the line, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, my sister remembered a really great Tres Leches cake that she'd had back in the day, and she asked if I could make that. Tres Leches is a Latin sponge cake soaked in 3 different types of milk: heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk. I told her that I would keep my eye out for a good recipe. On my way to work later that day, I bought the August issue of Bon Appetit before I hopped on the train. What did I find in the first few pages? A recipe for Tres Leches! It must have been fate.

I did use a different sized for the recipe though. I used a 12 x 9 pan, which gives you a really puffy cake, with a lot more surface to soak.

I preheated my oven to 350, then used baking spray to grease the pan. Since that stuff's been invented, I haven't buttered and floured a pan in years.

I whisked a 1 1/2 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, and a 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon in a medium bowl. Then, I busted out my lovely red Kitchen Aid, and used my whisk attachment to whip the heck out of 6 egg whites for 8 minutes. I started out on the lowest level, to get some bubbles going. Then, I hiked up the speed. You basically want firm peaks to form. You'll know when you get there because if you stop the machine, take off the whisk, and turn it upside down, the egg foam will stand up and not collapse.

Next, I added a 1 1/2 cup of sugar to the egg foam, with the machine running on medium speed. Then, one at a time, I dropped in 3 egg yolks, leaving some time time between each addition. This way, the eggs could get really mixed in. I added 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (next time, I'm definitely going to experiment with different extracts), and then lowered the mixer speed again so I could throw in the flour mixture without getting it all over my kitchen.

I added in the flour in 3 installments and 1/2 cup of whole milk in 2 (Flour, milk, flour, milk, and ending with flour). With a final blast of high speed, the batter was ready to be baked. I poured the batter into the pan, smoothed it out on the top, and popped it in the oven. I baked the cake for 20 minutes at 350, then dropped the temp to 325 for another 20 minutes. The initial high heat helps the cake to rise nice and tall, and then baking it at a lower temperature cooks it the rest of the way through.

After it revealed itself to be golden brown and delicious, I let it cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. While the cake cooled, I made the milk soak. I used 1 cup each of skim evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and heavy cream, mixing it up in a small bowl. To flavor it, I added 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. The recipe also called for dark rum, but I decided to refrain because after all, this would be served to some God fearing children. for the fun part.

I poked the cake all over; the recipe called for a skewer, but I had a fork. Just do don't use your thumbs or anything. Then, I poured half the milk over the cake, making sure I got the mixture all over. I paused for a second to let the milk soak in, and then I poured the rest of it over the cake.

If you have the time, make this cake the night before you want to serve it. The flavors meld and just infuse the cake with other-worldly milky goodness. And since it's a sponge cake, and not a butter based cake, it won't get soggy! Even with all of the milk in it. I call it, a food miracle.

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