Tres Leches Cake

A luscious cloud of sweet milk cake drizzled with rich, golden dulce de leche. # 211: Tres Leches Cake

If you’ve been following along for awhile, you’ll know that I’m a chocolate fiend. I love a good citrus or stone fruit bake, but 90% of my dessert recipe bookmarks revolve around chocolate. Because of my chocolate blinders, I sometimes miss out on delightful non-chocolate desserts like the classic Tres Leches cake.

I made this one as a birthday cake for a friend and it was a pleasant surprise! The base is a chiffon cake, light and airy thanks to a large amount of whipped egg whites. Like a savarin, it’s then soaked in a sweet syrup of sorts – a mixture of whole milk, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk. Ta-daa, three milks! It’s like when you’re watching a show and you hear a character say the name of the episode outloud.

Tres Leches cake has a disputed history, (it turns out many different countries have a similarly structured dessert they can claim is an ancestor of the modern treat) but it makes sense that the recipe’s rise in popularity coincided with the widespread availability of canned milk products around World War II. It’s the perfect way to use up those old nestle carnation and eagle brand cans you have sitting in the back of your pantry.

If you haven’t heard of Binging with Babish, you are missing out! Go forth to Youtube and get ready to sink a couple hours getting very hungry watching him cook dishes from your favorite shows. Before finding his Tres Leches video, I associated him with savory cooking – mostly super meat-heavy dishes like Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s brisket and the Meat Tornado burrito from Parks & Rec. I’m so glad he branches out into the sweet side of things! There’s truly nothing like a soothing, monotone voice narrating a baking video.

I halved the recipe that Babish lists out, simply because 10 eggs is INSANE. And a half recipe makes four mini cakes, perfect for sharing social-distance style. Since that left me with half of a can each of evaporated and sweetened condensed milk, I winged it a bit on the dulce de leche recipe, simple simmering the two together for 30-40 minutes until it had caramelized to a lovely golden color.

Always remember to bring your eggs to room temp before baking with them! Mostly because it helps the batter blend better when all the ingredients are the same temperature, but also because separating cold eggs will freeze your fingers off. Literally, so cold. I was too impatient with these beauties and had to run my fingers under hot water to bring them back to life!

It’s amazing what a little time and air will do! You blinked and now those deep yellow yolks are a spring-y pastel color.

Never ones to be shown up, the egg whites dance around until they’ve transformed in to snowy peaks.

Folding time. I love the magic of bringing these two completely different textures into one harmonious mess.

Look at all ze tiny bubbles!

Somebody call Mario and tell him we found his mushrooms!


Experiment time: I poked holes in all the cakes for optimal soaking, but I trimmed the mushroom top off of one, the edges off another and left the other two as is. Spoiler alert: they all had the same texture after soaking overnight, and I ended up trimming off the uneven tops before frosting them anyway.

Put the soaked cakes to bed in the fridge and get your stirring arm ready for some dulce de leche. The milk sugars don’t like to be rushed into caramelizing – but just make sure not to walk away and forget about them!

Last step is to get it perfectly silky smooth.

With a wave of my blog magic wand, it’s now the next day and these are happily soaked and ready for their whipped cream coats!

Having four mini cakes meant that I got to play around with the decorations (yay!) but they all started with a layer of chantilly cream.

Mini piping tips and mini cakes. I think a normal-sized cake would shock me at this point.

Happy munching!

Recipe from: Basics with Babish

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