Tres Leche Cake

Since I’ve started being known for producing yummy treats, a few friends of mine have been asking me about my favorite recipes. What recipes do I fall back on when I need to whip up a cake on short notice? What recipes do I use in my blog posts? What’s a great chocolate cake recipe? While some of the cakes I make both here and for events feature secret family recipes, some of them are recipes I’ve found either in books or on the interwebs. So I’ve decided to start featuring a few of my fall-back recipes on the blog! I will likely feature about 1 recipe per month, so it will still primarily be fun things I’ve made with a few recipes thrown in. I hope you all enjoy! 🙂

Today’s post is about Alton Brown’s Tres Leche Cake. The Tres Leches cake is a traditional Latin American dessert, made out of a light sponge or butter cake soaked in three kinds of milkevaporated milkcondensed milk, and heavy cream. Alton’s recipe is super-tasty and pretty easy to put together. It takes a little bit more work than a traditional cake, but the results are totally worth it! Quick note about the recipe tho: Alton tends to measure all his ingredients by weight instead of by volume, so you are going to need a scale for this recipe. (Measuring the ingredients by weight ensures that the recipe will be consistent each time since volumes will vary each time you measure them.) BTW, you want to bake the Tres Leche cake at least a day before you want to serve it! 

For the cake: 

First, assembling your ingredients.

You are going to need:

  • Vegetable oil
  • 6 3/4 ounces cake flour, plus extra for the pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

You are also going to need:

  • 9 x 13 baking pan
  • Food-safe scale
  • Medium bowl (about 4 cups)
  • Thermometer
  • Fork

Begin by pre-heating your oven to 350° F. Lightly oil and flour a 13 x 9-inch metal pan and set aside.

Measure the flour using your food-safe scale. (For anyone who’s curious, I got my scale at Ikea for pretty cheap. It’s a dial instead of digital, so it’s not super-accurate, but it works when I need it to!)

Pour the flour in to a medium-sized bowl. Add the baking powder and salt to the flour. Stir with a fork or wire whisk. Set aside.

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, approximately 1 minute.

Decrease the mixer speed to low and gradually add the sugar to the butter. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary, to ensure the butter and sugar are mixed together.

Add the eggs 1 at a time, and mix to combine. Then add the vanilla extract.

Add approximately one third of the flour mixture to the batter, and mix just until combined.

Add another third of the flour mixture, and mix. Add the final third of the flour mixture. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary, to ensure the ingredients are mixed together.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly along the bottom of the pan and in to the corners. FYI, this will appear to be a very small amount of batter relative to the size of the pan. However, the cake will rise to fit the pan and you need to leave room for all the whipped cream!

Place in your pre-heated oven and bake on the middle rack for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden and reaches an internal temperature of approximately 200° F.

Remove the cake pan to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, poke the top of the cake all over with a skewer or fork. Allow the cake to cool completely. While the cake is cooling, prepare the glaze. (To cool faster, you can put the cake in the refrigerator.)

For the glaze:

First, assemble your ingredients.

You are going to need:

  • 1 can(12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • Large measuring cup (4 cup or larger) or Nalgene bottle

Whisk together the evaporated milk, the sweetened condensed milk, and the half-and-half in a 1-quart measuring cup. Alternatively, pour the three ingredients into a Nalgene bottle. Shake to combine. (I like the shaking part over the stirring part…)

Once combined, pour the glaze over the cake. It will look like a significant amount of liquid, but your cake will absorb it overnight.

Refrigerate the cake overnight or for at least 12 hours. The next day, prepare the whipped cream topping.

For the whipped cream:

First, assemble your ingredients.

You are going to need:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 ounces sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Begin by measuring out your sugar. Place the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.

Whisk the ingredients together on medium until stiff peaks are formed. The whipped cream should be able to stand up on it’s own (the peaks don’t collapse when you pull out the whisk). This will take about 10 minutes.

Increase the speed to high and beat until thick.

Remove your cake from the fridge. It should have absorbed 95%-or so of the glaze and look very wet. (Some reviews of the recipe noted that they had excess liquid, but I’ve never had a problem.)

Spread the topping over the cake. If not serving immediately, return it to the refrigerator and chill until ready to serve.

Enjoy! 😀

I typically cut the cake in to 15 or 16 servings, depending on how the slices lay out. You can choose to cut them smaller if you’d like since the cake is quite heavy… FYI, there will be a small amount of liquid in the bottom of the pan, which is why i said 95% earlier in the post. 😉 Also, this isn’t a cake that can sit out at room temperature for hours, so be sure to keep it cool!

Any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments below. And thanks for reading! 🙂


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