Thursday, 4 August 2011

Pastel De Tres Leches

It's a complete mystery to me why Tres Leches cake is not as popular everywhere as it is in Mexico. It's not particularly difficult and requires no unusual techniques or ingredients, and the resulting cake is light and moist and really gorgeous. It is basically a sponge cake soaked in a combination of three different kinds of milk; evaporated milk, condensed milk and either cream or, as here, whole milk.

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail, for one when it comes to baking I have little expertise to offer, I just follow the recipe the same as everybody else and secondly the recipe below is taken from an episode of Good Eats and you can get all the information you require from the episode here rather than second hand from me.

Clearly a recipe that contains a can of condensed milk and a can of evaporated milk is not a very traditional one and no doubt the recipe owes quite a bit to Nestle or whatever company first put the instructions on the side of a can, however the end result is quite elegant, and we are certainly not entering into the realm of cooking where every recipe calls for a can of Campbell's Mushroom Soup. While not traditional, it is popular. Mexican pastry cooking is very very impressive and any cake that can hold it's place here is worth your attention.

The common variations seem to be to add a fruit purée, usually mango, to the cake. Fanny Gerson's recipe from her book, which I mentioned in an earlier post, includes fruit between two layers of sponge. Personally I don't like this, I prefer the cake to come as a single square of sponge, topped with cream. The only amendment I made to Alton's recipe was to to the cake with plain whipped cream rather than sweetened cream as I find the cake a little less cloying that way. There is a restaurant close to may apartment which serves the soaked sponge, which is coated in toasted nuts, on a small cast iron pan, sitting in a pool of the three milk mixture. It is very very classy and delicious.

Good Eats Tres Leches Cake


For the cake:

  • Vegetable oil
  • 6 3/4 ounces cake flour, plus extra for pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces sugar
  • 5 whole eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the glaze:
For the topping:
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 ounces sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil and flour a 13 by 9-inch metal pan and set aside.
Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low and with the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar over 1 minute. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix to thoroughly combine. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture to the batter in 3 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. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 to 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 allow to cool for 30 minutes. Poke the top of the cake all over with a skewer or fork. Allow the cake to cool completely and then prepare the glaze.

For 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 over the cake. Refrigerate the cake overnight.

Place the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk together on low until stiff peaks are formed. 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.

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