When I asked my friend Anna what cake she wanted for her birthday last week, I didn’t know what to expect. I think, at least, I had expected a request that I had experience in making, so when she immediately asked for a Tres Leches Cake, I knew two things: a) I had never made a Tres Leches Cake and b) you can’t let the Birthday Girl down on her birthday. So off I went in the name of research. A coworker mentioned she didn’t like Tres Leches Cake because it was too mushy; I made a mental note to make sure my cake was creamy, but not cake mush. Anna had also requested fresh fruit on top, so I tried to do some research into what fruit is traditionally used. The Pioneer Woman said maraschino cherry, but Anna (and Martha Stewart) said any sort of fresh fruit is the way to go, so I found fruit that would not only taste good together but also look nice with lots of vibrant colors–it was her birthday, after all, and she deserved a beautiful cake.
Wouldn’t you know, despite it being my first time making it, everyone loved it! I’m so pleased that my first Tres Leches was a success and now I’m looking forward to trying other recipes for Tres Leches, just to see how they vary. This one, courtesy of Martha Stewart, was an eggy sponge cake. The milks it was soaked in added a creaminess that lingered on your tongue but that didn’t disintegrate the cake (so that you were definitely eating cake and not mush) and the whipped cream and fruit on top gave the cake a deceptively light, fresh feel. One of the keys here was fresh, ripe pineapple, a flavor that went very well with the cake and had a beautiful golden yellow color. I think a dash of cinnamon would be fun to add next time–Churro flavored Tres Leches Cake, anyone?
Tres Leches Cake
Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart
- 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for baking dish
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 5 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
- 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
- 1 cup heavy cream (for cake)
- 2 cups heavy cream (for whipping later to top cake)
- sliced fruit for topping; I used fresh pineapple, strawberries and blueberries
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×13″ glass baking dish and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt.
- In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar for a total of 4 minutes; the mixture should be very light in color and very thick. Add the vanilla and beat until incorporated.
- With the mixer on low so your flour doesn’t fly everywhere, add the flour in a little at a time and continue mixing just until the flour is incorporated.
- With a spatula, gently fold in the melted and cooled butter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake it in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until evenly golden brown on top. (Martha warns that if you are using a metal baking dish, the cake will be done in half the time, so keep an eye on it.)
- Immediately after taking the cake out of the oven, whisk together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, and 1 cup of heavy cream in a medium bowl. Take a fork and stab the warm cake repeatedly all over the surface. Slowly pour the milk mixture over the cake. It will absorb some of it right away, but plenty will pool up around the edges of the baking dish– have patience! It will all get soaked up into the cake.
- Let the cake finish cooling and in the meantime, whip the remaining 2 cups of heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the cooled cake.
- Decorate with the sliced fruit and enjoy! I normally avoid putting baked cakes in the fridge as it dries them out and effects flavor, but this one is in no danger of drying out, plus it’s soaked through with cream and milk, so be sure to keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to eat it.