This year, I seemed to have dropped the ball on posting holiday recipes. I had it all planned too! Back in January, I took my nifty calendar and scribbled possible posts and recipe ideas, I pencilled in relevant holidays and even some obscure ones like St David’s Day, who unlike St Patrick, doesn’t get quite the same recognition. For those of you not familiar with him, he’s the patron saint of Wales. However, I did remember Star Wars Day 🙂 A day circled in very bold on all calendars at home.
It’s quite a fitting cake for Mother’s Day even though it was made as a birthday cake for my husband a couple of weekends ago. You might also be thinking that it’s a bit of a froufrou cake for a man, and believe me, what he really wanted was a replica of the Starship Enterprise as his cake. A request I would have fully entertained if it wasn’t for the jam packed status of the weeks leading up to his birthday. Model cakes take a long time to make, ask anyone who has made one! I told him it’s still on my list and it may materialise for Father’s Day; we’ll see.
So, why the Tres Leches? Because it’s only the best cake ever! It’s also known as a three milks cake and it originates from Central America. Of course, it’s thought that it came to them from trade and travel in Europe.
Whatever the origin, this cake is incredibly popular in Texas, which is where we came across it. Typically, you will see this cake baked in a glass dish and the milks are poured over and then frosted. However, it can be layered and made to look like a special occasion cake. Infact, my sister had a three tier Tres Leches for her wedding cake, and a new tradition was born.
We continued the tradition by getting all of the kids’ birthday cakes from a local panaderia, and they did such an excellent job making it to any theme we wanted. Laith’s 2nd birthday, they did a full sheet cake in the Cars theme. It was so adorable.
It had been a year since we last ate a Tres Leches and that was back on our trip to Houston last year. We were all craving it; big time. So, really, Trace had no choice, he was getting a Tres Leches whether he liked it or not! Lucky for me, he loves it as much as I do (as a matter of fact, he hasn’t met a cake he doesn’t like yet)
It’s not like we can’t get it here in Colorado because we have quite a thriving Hispanic and South/Central American community. It’s just that I don’t feel like looking for a panaderia and then driving down to get it. I have adopted the Colorado mentality of “if it’s not down the end of my street, I’m not going” which I think is just a ploy to not have to go on I-25. It’s a mentality I was surprisingly quick to adopt considering that I came from Houston where unless you have travelled on 3 State Highways and 2 Interstates just for lunch, you haven’t travelled!
What is a Tres Leches cake? It’s an airy, dry sponge cake that is soaked in three milks, usually evaporated, condensed and heavy cream. It is then chilled overnight, and then frosted with either a meringue topping or fresh whipped cream. It is not a low calorie food. Unfortunately, it’s an addictive food.
I made mine a little different form the traditional ones you see on the web. Most of them are single layer, in a glass pan covered in cream. You do not see how wonderful this cake is when you serve it like that. It needs to be elevated to the top of the special occasion cake category with a bit of effort. I filled mine with macerated fresh strawberries, and since I couldn’t find an organic evaporated milk can or at least a can with no additives, I chose to forgo it and use half and half. It was perfect. It was moist enough to be recognised that it was soaked in 3 milks and sturdy enough to not collapse under the weight of the 3 milks.
There’s still time to make this for your mum! It only needs a day to chill overnight and an hour to ice. You can always just make it in a baking dish and cover it with cream.
Serving size: 12
- 2 cups/290g all purpose/plain flour
- 3½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 7 large eggs, separated
- 2 cups/400g sugar
- ½ cup/120ml milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup/235ml heavy/double cream
- 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 cups/470g half and half (half cream and half milk mixture)
- 1 pound/455g fresh strawberries, chopped small pieces
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 cups/470g heavy/double cream
- 4oz/125g cream cheese, room temperature
- ¼ cup/50g sugar
- extra strawberries
- mint leaves
- Plan to make the sponge cake a day ahead so it can thoroughly chill.
- Preheat the oven to 350F/180C
- Grease and line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper, 2 9 inch/24 cm cake pans.
- Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
- Using a mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
- On high speed, gradually add the sugar.
- Add the egg yolks, one at a time.
- Add the vanilla.
- Add the flour, ½ cup at a time until well incorporated.
- Use a spatula to scrape down the sides.
- Add the ½ cup of milk until the mixture is smooth and evenly mixed.
- Divide the cake batter between the two prepared pans.
- Place in the oven and bake until golden brown about 25-30 minutes.
- Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the soaking milk.
- Combine the condensed milk, heavy cream and the half and half and mix well.
- Divide the milks over the warm cakes equally.
- Allow to soak into the cake.
- Place in the fridge to chill overnight.
- Mash the strawberries with sugar slightly so they release some of their juices.
- Allow to macerate.
- Beat the soft cream cheese with the sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the heavy cream and whip until thick enough to spread on cake.
- You will need to beat it to quite thick but don't get carried away and make butter!
- Place in the fridge until needed.
- Run a spatula or a butter knife around the edges of the cake.
- This will be a bit tricky and you will need to wiggle the edges of the cake and prise up the edges to loosen.
- The cakes are soaked with milk so they will not just fall out easily.
- A bit of patience and delicate handling is all that's needed.
- The parchment is important so don't forget to line the pan!
- Once you've taken out the first cake, place it on a cake plate.
- Spread the macerated strawberries and the juices over the bottom layer.
- Make it quite flat and even but don't take it too far to the edge.
- Jiggle out the second cake and place on top of the strawberries.
- If a bit of cake gets stuck and remains in the pan, it's not a big deal.
- It's soft enough to paste back onto the cake and spread out.
- You can do a crumb coat with a little frosting or you can take thick globs of it and spread it around.
- The cake is not too crumbly but some parts tend to get stuck to the spatula.
- I suggest taking big globs of the frosting and spreading it on the top first and then working the sides.
- Always use a lot of frosting, the crumbs will stick if you're using too little.
- Smooth out or leave it rustic looking with swirls and peaks.
- Decorate the top with more fresh berries and mint leaves if desired.
- Refrigerate until serving.
- It is normal for some milk to seep out when the cake has been sitting in the fridge for a while.
I will wish all the mums out there a very Happy Mother’s day for Sunday and especially to all the new moms celebrating their first Mother’s Day.
Have a wonderful weekend with your mothers and your loved ones.