When in Doubt…Leave it at 350

baking, cooking, and other adventures

Tres Leches Cake September 18, 2008

Filed under: Baking,Cake — pastrybrush @ 7:00 am

Starting last year I started making my friend, Fro, a Tres Leches Cake for her birthday.  Last year was the first year that I had ever made one.  Fro goes to a local Cuban restaurant and she always talks about the Tres Leches Cake, so I knew that would be the perfect cake.  I researched recipes to find the one that I thought would be perfect.  I even made a test cake and gave it to DrFaulken to taste because I had never had a Tres Leches Cake.  I also asked him questions on what kind of topping the cake Fro usually gets had because he had also been to that Cuba restaurant.  I had all the information that I needed and a recipe that I felt had all the right components except rum, which I added 🙂

I had two problem with the first cake: it fell and it only absorbed half of the milk mixture.

Like a freaking souffle, it fell.  I was so confused.  I thought I cooked it enough.  I did all the usual tests: toothpick inserted in center, cake pulling away from sides, and springs back when you touch it.  I made the cake again and it fell, oh well.  I make the three milk mixture poured all but 1 1/2 cups over the cake in the pan and let it sit overnight.  I unmolded it the next morning and the cake still didn’t absorb all of it and it had a tiny puddle.  I proceeded to freak out inside and think that Fro wasn’t going to like the cake.  I buckled down, made the meringue topping and iced the cake.  The meringue was so dry that the cake looked like crap.  I was frustrated at this point and just decided to take the cake to Fro, apologize for how it looked and hoped it tasted great.

THANK YOU!!! Everyone liked it.  Fro thought it was better than the Cuban restaurant’s.  I was so proud.

When this year rolled around I knew I was going to use the same recipe again, but I wanted to make some more modifications.  Orginally, I was stuck between two recipes:  Joy of Cooking and the Taste of Cuba.  Last year I made the Joy of Cooking recipe and added 1 tbsp of light rum and 1 tsp of vanilla extract to the milk mixture.  I was about to make the cake recipe again this year, and I started reading over both recipes and the Joy of Cooking recipe just isn’t seeming right to me.

It has you beat up the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar to stiff peaks and then add the egg yolks in and the rest of the ingredients.  I couldn’t put my finger on it but I knew that the egg yolks should not be added to the whites by themselves and that they should be beaten with some sugar also.  I go back to the Taste of Cuba recipe and sure enough they use part of the sugar to beat up the whites and the other part to beat up the yolks.  Later my college education came back to me in the form of my food and nutrition class and I realized why the cake fell last year: the egg yolks.

Since this recipe only relies on one chemical means of leavening, all other methods are done by hand by beating air into the ingredients.  This can be done by beating the egg whites up, beating the yolks with sugar until pale yellow and fluffy, sifting flour, etc.  In other words, you need to beat the yolks with sugar or your cake just won’t work.  This made the decision for me and this year I used the Taste of Cuba recipe with a few modifications, and everything was perfect.  I mean EVERYTHING!!

The cake baked up perfectly.  I actually used two 8-inch round cake pans instead of the 13 x 9-inch baking dish, and they baked up in 30-40 minutes.  I diverted from the directions when it came to cooling and the milk mixture.  For the milk mixture, I increase the sweetened condensed milk to use the entire can and increased the rum to 2 tablespoons.  For the cakes, I pulled them out of the oven and let them sit for 10 minutes in the cake pan and then I poked them with a toothpick all over and spooned half of the milk mixture over one cake and half over the other.  I covered both cakes in plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight.  The next morning I unmolded the cakes, made the meringue, and iced the cakes.


The cakes absorbed all of the liquid, no puddle no nothing.  The meringue beat up beautifully and spread on perfectly.  If I wasn’t low on disposable pastry bags I would have piped stars all over the cakes, oh well.  I brought the cakes over to Fro’s the day before her birthday.  We sliced into one of the cakes and sat down and had a piece.  They looked fantastic, and they tasted awesome too (sorry for no pictures).  The cake fully absorbed all of the milk mixture and the meringue was soft and creamy.  The next night, they served the cakes at Fro’s Birthday Party and I was told it was a hit.  I couldn’t make it to the party because I was working late and then was tired when I got out of work at 11:30 pm.  I guess I am getting old, but I am glad that everyone liked the cakes 🙂


7 Responses to “Tres Leches Cake”

  1. Katie Says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! My fiance’s birthday is this Friday and I thought I’d attempt to make him the tres leches cake from Joy of Cooking. I’ve never made one before and was a bit worried about how it would come out. Now with your modifications I feel very confident about making this for him and his family. Thanks for sharing!

  2. pastrybrush Says:

    You are very welcome Katie. Good luck and I hope he likes it 🙂

  3. bini Says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write about your experience. I have not manage to found the recipe for the kind of 3 leches you describe.. where can i find it? Do you have any other suggestions other than the working of the yolks and whites separetely as you described? Thank you so much!

    • pastrybrush Says:

      There is a link to the taste of cuba recipe that is good, but if you want i can email you the recipe that i use with all of my modifications.

      • fojtasek Says:

        I want the recipe, with modifications, my cake came out horribly, I threw it in the trash, it had shrunk & fallen to 1/2″ I hope to make another attempt with yours,

      • pastrybrush Says:

        Which recipe did you use ?
        I will gladly give you the recipe with all the modifications written in, but I would like to know the content of the recipe that you used so I can see what might have went wrong.

      • pastrybrush Says:

        Tres Leches Cake
        Source: Taste of Cuba
        Recipe lightly modified by Pastrybrush

        Cake Ingredients:

        1 cup sugar
        5 large eggs, separated
        1/3 cup milk
        1 tsp vanilla extract
        1 cup all-purpose flour
        1-1/2 tsp baking powder
        1/2 tsp cream of tartar

        Milk Syrup Ingredients:

        1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
        1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
        1 cup heavy (or whipping) cream
        1 tsp vanilla extract
        2 Tbsp light rum

        Meringue Ingredients:

        1 cup sugar
        1/2 tsp cream of tartar
        3 egg whites

        Preheat oven to 350oF. Generously butter a 13 x 9-inch baking dish or two 8-inch cake pans.

        CAKE: Beat 3/4 cup sugar and the egg yolks until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Fold in the milk, vanilla, flour and baking powder.

        Beat the egg whites to soft peaks, adding the cream of tartar after 20 seconds. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until the whites are glossy and firm, but not dry. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture. Pour this batter into the buttered baking dish.

        Bake the cake until it feels firm and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes (30 to 40 minutes, if using 8-inch pans). Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack. Keep cake in pan, piece with toothpick, spoon milk mixture (recipe/directions below) over and refrigerate overnight. Unmold cake and frost with Meringue (recipe below).

        MILK SYRUP: Combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, cream, vanilla and rum in a mixing bowl. Whisk until well blended. Pour the syrup over the cake, spooning the overflow back on top, until it is all absorbed.

        MERINGUE: Place 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a heavy saucepan with 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook over high heat for 2 minutes. Uncover pan and cook the sugar to the soft ball stage, 239oF on a candy thermometer, 6 to 8 minutes.

        Meanwhile beat the egg whites to soft peaks with the cream of tartar. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the sugar and continue beating to stiff peaks. Pour the boiling sugar syrup in a thin stream into the stiff egg whites and continue beating until the mixture is cool to the touch. The hot syrup “cooks” the egg whites.

        Using a wet spatula, spread the top and sides of the cake with a thick layer of the meringue. Refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours before serving.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s