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Tres Leches

Patricia Reitz

Torta de las Tres Leches Rose Beranbaum ButterYum
Torta de las Tres Leches Rose Beranbaum ButterYum
Torta de las Tres Leches Rose Beranbaum ButterYum
Torta de las Tres Leches Rose Beranbaum ButterYum

This week's Heavenly Cake Baker's selection was the Torta de las Tres Leches cake from Rose's Heavenly Cakes. Loosely translated, the cake of 3 milks. I heard about this specialty cake from Mexico several years ago and have wanted to try it ever since. The cake can best be described as sweet, cold, and very, very wet.

Tres Leches Cake is comprised of three components - a sponge cake layer, the leche soaking mixture, and a whipped cream topping. The cake layer was easy to make, as was the whipped cream, however, I was not at all pleased with the length of time it took to reduce the milk for the leche mixture - reducing 5 cups of whole and skim milk down to a total of 2.5 cups took over 30 minutes of constant stirring - what an aggravation. More about that later.

Let's make the cake. Start by heating whole eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a stand mixer bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water.

Whisk constantly until the egg mixture is very warm to the touch. This step only took about 5 minutes.

The egg mixture is then whipped with the stand mixer, on high, for 5 minutes - until it the eggs lighten in color considerably and the quadruple in volume.

Here we are after 5 minutes - complete transformation.

Sifted cake flour is then folded in to the whipped egg mixture. The batter is poured into a 9x3 cake pan that has been prepared with baking spray and parchment.

The cake bakes in the lower third of a 350F oven for 30-35 minutes.

The hot cake is removed from the hot pan immediately. The cake should be domed. The parchment paper is kept in place and the cake is turned right side up to cool while we make the leche mixture.

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, one with plenty of extra room to allow for bubbling, combine sugar, whole milk, and skim milk. Bring the mixture to a boil; continue to boil until reduced by half. I stirred constantly because milk burns very easily - this process took over 30 minutes - very frustrating and much too time consuming for this impatient baker. I might very well just substitute 2 1/2 cups of 2% milk in the future and completely forgo this awful step. By the way, several bakers complained of the horrible stench produced by the milk reducing process - I discovered this to be an accurate complaint. I'm so thankful to have a high output fume hood that kept my house from filling with that awful odor.

When the milk mixture is FINALLY reduced sufficiently, remove it from the heat and combine it with sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream; chill.

Now we prepare the cake layer for its leche bath. The recipe specifically states, "remove the upper crust, but do not remove any of the cake beneath it - leave it slightly domed". This advice goes against every ounce of my cake making soul, but I followed the instructions despite my incredibly strong desire to make the cake perfectly level.

Can you say Baking OCD?

The cake pan is used as a container for soaking the cake. After washing and drying the pan, Rose suggests lining the pan with two pieces of "crisscrossed plastic wrap". This sounded too messy to me (certain leakage), so I opted to line my pan with a large vegetable bag from the grocery store - you know, the ones you put your produce in. They're large, they're leak proof, and I assume they're food safe since they're made to hold food.

The trimmed cake goes back into the cake pan and all 4 2/3 cups of the leche mixture is poured over the cake.

The wrapping is then closed and the cake is refrigerated for at least 8 hours.

Turn the cake onto a serving tray, remove the plastic, and decorate with whipped cream.

The produce bag worked perfectly - didn't leak one single drop of the leche mixture.

I smoothed a layer of whipped cream just on the top of the cake, then piped the remaining whipped cream in a decorative pattern.

Torta de las Tres Leches Rose Beranbaum ButterYum
Torta de las Tres Leches Rose Beranbaum ButterYum

Be sure to serve this cake on a cake plate that will contain the puddle of leche which slowly grows into a pool of leche. See what happened after sitting for an hour.

Update - 48 hours later, I'm still sopping up leaking milk. If you're not planning on serving this entire cake right away, definitely put it in a container of some sort. I've been doing some recipe research and I see this cake is stored and served straight from the baking pan most of the time.

I had 4 taste testers for this cake tonight. My daughters loved it. I thought it was "okay". Hubby didn't like it at all - in all fairness to him, I didn't tell him anything about the cake ahead of time so he fully expecting the usual cake, but he was was taken aback by the cool, wet texture of this one. Personally, I had really high hopes for this cake, but I found the flavor to be lacking greatly. Just an eggy tasting sponge cake soaked in sweetened milk with an almost buttery topping of barely sweetened whipped cream.

The whole recipe contains only 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract (in the cake layer). I would have liked this cake much more if the recipe called for more vanilla, not only in the cake, but in the leche and whipped cream as well. That surely would have made all the difference to my taste buds. Unless someone in the family requests this cake specifically, I doubt I'll be making it again.

Update - a friend emailed me her favorite recipe for this cake. It contains 2 teaspoons of vanilla in the cake layer, 1 teaspoon in the leche mixture, and 1 teaspoon in the whipped cream - there's a touch of cinnamon too. Much more to my liking. I think I'll give it a try.

Caloric Info

: I bought an new kitchen toy this week - a food scale that calculates calories (The Biggest Loser Nutritional Scale - from QVC). Now I know this isn't exactly scientific, but I thought it would be interesting to weigh each of the ingredients and calculate the total calorie count for each slice.

If you cut this cake into 12 slices, each slice is approximately 488 calories.

If you cut this cake into 16 slices, each slice is approximately 366 calories.

Wow, lots of nice comments on my piping - thanks so much. It was very simple, I just piped a continuous swirl in concentric circles.

Here's the tip I used, a Wilton 2D, but a Wilton 1M or any other jumbo star tip would work.

Here's another great trick, use a zip-top food




bag instead of a piping bag. They're dirt cheap, the top zips closed to prevent spills, and they're disposable. Don't be tempted to use a sandwich bag, they are not strong enough and will split at the seam. I use professional piping bags for really large decorating projects, but for a small project like this, the zip-top bags are perfect.