This is the first time I’ve made a Tres leches cake – the legendary South American confection and it won’t be the last. It is utterly delicious, with a sublime texture and I’m pretty sure it’s the best tres leches cake on the internet. I landed up using six types of milk as opposed to three so it should actually be called a seis leches cake but somehow that doesn’t sound as cool.
Ok, let me dial it back. Nestle invited me to participate in a campaign to make a recipe using their milk range and of course I said yes. They sent me a mystery box full of goodies and then gave me no restrictions whatsoever on what I could do. Basically, in blogger speak this = heaven. So I plotted and planned and decided on the tres leches cake because it was unchartered territory and something I’ve always wanted to make. I also thought it would be a great way to include more than one of their products. I found a can of Nestle dessert and cooking cream in my cupboard, so decided to use that instead of cream in the soaking milk part, and then while I was making my cake, I also decided to somehow include the caramel part. I mean that stuff is to die for.
I wasn’t about to take any old sponge recipe and soak the hell out of it in milk and call it a tres leches cake. A traditional recipe has a very specific and fine crumb akin to a chiffon cake, so after extensive research online I settled on a very popular recipe that also looked the most straightforward. It’s supposed to be made as a one layer cake and served in squares, but I’m a food stylist and I love layer cakes so that is how I rolled.
I tweaked a few of the quantities because the milk soak mix was way too much and even for my reduced quantities I had a little left over to serve on the side. I add the caramel sauce part to add another layer of flavour deliciousness and for aesthetic reasons. You could, of course, leave this out completely and simply decorate your cake with cherries or a light dusting of cinnamon.
I also changed a method, as this is something I see ALL the time and it irritates the hell out of me. When a recipe requires you to whisk the egg white to firm peaks they always seem to insist you do it at the end and when your baking bowl is already dirty thus needing you to wash things mid-bake. This is totally unnecessary. I always whisk the egg whites at the beginning and then set it aside in another bowl. I then make the cake using the same egg white bowl as this will have zero effect on the integrity of the recipe. I simply fold the already whisked egg whites in at the end.
This was probably the first poke cake recipe invented and don’t be afraid to prick your cake a lot. I counted about a hundred stabs into each half as it reminded me of doing the 100 in Pilates. You really want to make it as easy for the milk mixture to soak into your cake.
Also don’t be afraid that your cake will be too soggy, I mean it is ultra moist but it seriously laps it up like a sponge but keeps its soft spongy texture. You can see from this image what I’m talking about here. And I know every second blogger says a recipe is the ‘best ever’ all the time, but I’m not kidding when I say this is one of the best cakes I’ve ever made or eaten. It’s going right up there into the top-tier of my cake artillery. To be pulled out to impress and to give love. This is also why I’m driving over to my nephews to give them this declaration.
I’ve also used a fine mucavado sugar because I adore the flavour of it and demarara. It adds to the caramel profile of the cake. Also, don’t worry if the cake deflates a little after it comes out of the oven, this is totally OK. It’s an egg white / souffle kind of thing.
Recipe – adapted from Pioneer Women
- 5 free-range eggs, separated
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 1 cup fine muscavado sugar or golden caster sugar (divided)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup milk
- Milk soak
- 150ml Nestle condensed milk (or 2 x 1/3 cups)
- 150ml Nestle evapourated milk
- 150ml Nestle dessert and cooking cream (or fresh cream)
- 1/2 a tin of Nestle caramel treat or dule de leche
- 1/4 cup cream (you can use the left over cream from the dessert cream tin or add fresh)
- 250ml / 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 Tbsp icing sugar
- Line two 23 cm cake tins with baking paper.
- Pre heat the oven to 180C / 350 F
- In a stand mixer whisk the egg whites until peaking and then slowly add 1/4 a cup of the sugar and whisk for a further minute or so until firm. Scrape this all out and set aside in a another bowl.
- Using the same bowl and whisk, beat the egg yolks and 3/4 cup (remaining) sugar until its light and fluffy. About 5 minutes.
- Sift the flour, salt and baking powder.
- Add the milk, vanilla and sifted four and mix briefly until well combined.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold the eggs whites through until well incorporated and then divine the mixture between the two cake tins. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until golden and springy to the touch. Your cake is done when a sharp knife is pierced into the middle and comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans
- While the cake is baking, mix all the milk soak ingredients together.
- When the cakes are cooled, and leaving them in their pans, prick them all over with a sharp skewer. Pour the milk soak mixture over slowly and repeatedly until it can't soak up any more and leave for at least two hours. * when using a springform cake tin you might experience some leakage from the tins. To prevent this simply fold a piece of foil under each tin - or allow them to cool on baking tray to catch any spillage.
- When you are ready to serve, whip the cupe of cream with 2 tablespoons of icing sugar until soft peaks (don't over whip), and whisk the caramel with the 1/2 cup of cream until smooth.
- Place one layer down, spread a thin layer of caramel and then a layer of cream. Top with the other cake and repeat. Scrape the sides to expose some cake - or simply cover that with cream too. I mean the more the better right?
*This blog post is proudly sponsored by Nestle
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