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 🙂