Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake - made March 22, 2011 from America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

I first tried Tres Leches Cake from Savory, a Vietnamese restaurant in Mountain View, and was hooked on the first bite.  They served theirs with the creamy topping just a little bit frozen so it was almost like eating ice cream on top of soft cake.  It's really quite good.  For those who haven't had it yet, Tres Leches Cake is a yellow cake that's soaked in a 3-milk mixture (hence the name) then topped with a whipped cream topping.  Because it's supposed to absorb so much liquid, the cake itself is moist to the point of being almost custard-like.

I don't actually own the America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book so this doesn't count towards my baking challenge.  Instead I got this recipe from a friend who tried the recipe from this cookbook and raved about it.  I love recipes that have been personally recommended by people I know so naturally, I couldn't resist making it myself.

I recently ordered some cans of dulce de leche from amazon which were cheaper than my usual source of Williams Sonoma and I wanted to try it out with this recipe.  One of the 3 "leches" or milks in Tres Leches is sweetened condensed milk and dulce de leche is the cooked, caramelized version of sweetened condensed milk so I wanted to see if this would work just as well, especially since  the directions call for heating the sweetened condensed milk until it turned "slightly darkened and thickened".  Essentially, that's turning sweetened condensed milk into dulce de leche so I just skipped that step and started off with dulce de leche in the first place.

The tres leches mixture made quite a bit of liquid so I was a little nervous about pouring all that liquid over the cake.  I spooned 1/3 of the milk mixture slowly over the cake, giving it time to absorb.  That seemed like plenty already and I still had another 2/3 to go.  I gave it a few more minutes to fully absorb then went back to spooning the 2nd third over the cake.  I really hoped the America's Test Kitchen people knew what they were doing. The cake looked like it had absorbed enough, thank you.  I was afraid if it had too much liquid in it, I'd be eating some soggy milky cake.  But, in for a penny, in for a pound, so I let it sit some more then spooned the last third over the cake.  I wouldn't advise pouring all of the milk mixture at once.  You need to give the cake time to absorb the liquid slowly.  You do refrigerate it and let it sit for hours before you do the topping layer so I assume that's when the liquid gets fully absorbed and the cake gets its tres leches-iness.

I let it chill in the refrigerator overnight and sure enough, all of the liquid looked like it had been fully absorbed.  The pan was not-so-surprisingly heavy considering how much liquid was poured into it. I tried the taste test piece without the whipped cream topping as I not only don't like whipped cream but the last thing this cake needs is more calories (believe me, my taste test piece was tiny and I feel like I should walk another 7 miles just to work it off). The cake is really good and definitely absorbed the 3-milk mixture although not in a consistent pattern.  It's much like the espresso mixture in a tiramisu soaks the ladyfingers or a simple syrup soaks a genoise.  It's still cake but definitely "soaked" cake.  And tasty.  But then again, I love the dulce de leche flavor so I'm probably biased in favor of it.  Mine is probably more of a dulce de leche flavor than the original recipe intended since Savory's Tres Leches cake didn't have that same flavor.  But I think I prefer the dulce de leche version and am glad I made it this way.

Just for comparison, mine is a far cry from the professional Tres Leches Cake they serve at Savory :).  But I still like the homemade version as well.

Tres Leches Cake

Milk Mixture
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. For the milk mixture: Pour condensed milk into large microwave-safe bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave on low power, stirring and replacing plastic every 3 to 5 minutes, until slightly darkened and thickened, 9 to 15 minutes. Remove from microwave and slowly whisk in evaporated milk, cream, and vanilla. Let cool to room temperature.

2. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 13 by 9-inch baking pan. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in bowl. Heat butter and milk in small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted; set aside off heat.

3. With electric mixer on medium speed, beat eggs in large bowl for about 30 seconds, then slowly add sugar until incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until egg mixture is very thick and glossy, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce speed to low and slowly mix in melted butter mixture and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions, scraping down bowl as necessary, then mix on medium speed until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Using rubber spatula, scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer cake to wire rack and let cool 10 minutes.

4. Using skewer, poke holes at 1/2-inch intervals in top of cake. Slowly pour milk mixture over cake until completely absorbed. Let sit at room temperature 15 minutes, then refrigerate uncovered 3 hours or up to 24 hours.

5. For the frosting: Remove cake from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. With electric mixer on medium speed, beat heavy cream, corn syrup, and vanilla to soft peaks, 1 to 2 minutes. Frost cake and slice into 3-inch squares. Serve. (The assembled cake can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

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