Tres Leches Cake is probably husband's favorite dessert. (I served it at our dinner party back in March.) He put me on to it a few years ago, and I must admit that it's well worth the calories. Since today is Cinco de Mayo, I'd like to celebrate by sharing one of our favorite Latin American recipes.
Yes, it kinda looks like a mushy mess, but this cake is excellent. It's a sponge cake (light and airy, made without butter) soaked in three types of milk ("tres leches"): half and half, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk. Despite the generous amount of sweet milk poured onto this sheet cake, the cake maintains its integrity becomes the perfect moist and sweet vehicle for fresh whipped cream and fresh fruit. It's light... it's soft... it's sweet... it's just right.
We literally visited restaurants up and down the East Coast looking for a version of this cake that could rival the one my husband devoured at the Brooklyn Mariott back in 2002. We never found that perfect cake until I found this recipe by Emeril Lagasse. I think this made my husband love me even more than he already did.
If you try this cake, please be sure to make it at least 24 hours prior to serving so it has time to cool completely and soak up all that milk...
Just cover it with plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge overnight. I know it's not pretty, but once you hit it with some fresh whipped cream (I don't use the icing from Emeril's recipe, the cake is sweet enough) and some fresh berries or mangoes... oh... my... goodness. You need to bake this cake.
(P.S. Speaking of Latin American food, this carne adovada wasn't half bad.)
Tres Leches Cake
from Emeril Lagasse
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
6 large eggs, separated
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
3 cups heavy cream, divided
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
Position rack in bottom 1/3 of oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly grease a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with the shortening. Add 1 tablespoon of the flour to the greased pan and shake it around to coat the entire pan with the flour. Shake out excess flour. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the sugar with the mixer running, beating until stiff peaks form.
Add the egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each egg is added. In a small mixing bowl, sift together the 2 cups flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture to the batter in stages, alternating with the whole milk, beginning and ending with the flour. (Do this quickly so that the batter does not lose its volume.) Add 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place in the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.
In a blender, combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and 2 cups of the heavy cream. Cover and blend on high for 45 seconds.
Remove 1 1/2 cups of the milk mixture, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve the cake.
Pour 1/2 of the remaining milk mixture over the warm cake.
When the cake has soaked up most of the liquid, pour the remaining half of the milk mixture over the cake, and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.
(I just use freshly whipped cream or whipped cream from the can instead of this last step.) When ready to serve, beat the remaining cup of heavy cream in the electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add the confectioners' sugar and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla, and beat until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the chilled cake.
Serve the cake with the reserved chilled milk sauce.