Tres Leches Cake
Tres Leches is a popular cake made of an airy, fatless sponge cake soaked in syrup made of three milks - evaporated, sweetened condensed, and whole. The result is a cake that's somehow rich and refreshing, with a sweet milk flavor nicely offset by fresh berries. The beauty of this cake is that it can and should be made ahead! To get the desired texture, the cake needs time to soak in the syrup and allow the topping to set. This recipe makes a smaller quantity than most, yielding 9 neat servings.
- Flour, all-purpose - 3/4 cup
- Baking powder - 3/4 tsp
- Salt, kosher - 1/4 tsp
- Eggs - 4
- Sugar - 6 Tbsp + 6 Tbsp
- Milk, whole - 1 Tbsp
- Evaporated milk, unsweetened (12 oz / 255 mL) - 1 can
- Condensed milk, sweetened (14 oz / 396 g) - 1 can
- Milk, whole - 1/2 cup
- Vanilla extract (opt) - 1/4 tsp
- Heavy cream - 1 1/2 cups
- Sugar, powdered - 2 Tbsp
- Fresh berries (opt) - for garnish
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl and set to the side.
Separate the egg whites from the yolks, making sure not to get any yolk in the egg whites.
Position a rack in the center of oven and preheat to 350F / 180C. While oven heats, lightly grease an 8x8inch baking pan with some butter or cooking spray.
In the bowl of a mixer (or using a large bowl and an electric beater) beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until slightly foamy but still liquid. Begin gradually adding the first half of the sugar to the whites as they whisk, about 1 tablespoon at a time, until the sugar is incorporated and the whites triple in volume and hold a stiff peak.
In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until the yolks gain some volume and become a lighter yellow. Whisk in the milk (portion for cake), followed by the flour mixture.
Whisk about 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk and flour mixture until completely combined. Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites in two batches until you have a homogeneous, airy batter.
Spread the batter into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. The cake will be puffed and golden brown and spring back to the touch.
Remove cake from oven and cool on a rack. The cake will shrink and pull away from the sides of the pan as it cools.
While the cake cools, mix the milk syrup. In a large bowl, combine evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk (portion for syrup) along with vanilla extract (if using). Set to the side until the cake is cooled.
Once the cake is cool, poke it all over with a skewer or toothpick and soak the cake in the milk syrup. Start around the edges with a slow drizzle and move towards the center of the cake, tilting the pan as needed to get the corners of the cake soaked. There will likely be a puddle of milk syrup in the center of the cake; this will soak in as the cake chills.
Chill the cake, covered, for at least 4 hours, to allow the milk syrup to soak into the cake.
Once the syrup has absorbed into the cake, make the cake topping. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer at medium-high speed, whip the heavy cream with the powdered sugar until you reach a soft peak. (A soft peak holds its shape when you lift the beaters out of the bowl, but doesn't have a firm, butter-like texture.)
Spread the whipped cream over the entire cake. Chill the cake again for another 2 hours (or overnight) to let the whipped cream set and meld with the top of the cake. Garnish with fresh berries (if using) and serve chilled. Enjoy!