Monday, August 13, 2012
Tres Leches Cake
I am, by nature, a procrastinator. My parents had nicknamed me 'the Queen of all things last minute'. It is not hard to see why. When in school, the homework would be done early in the morning between large gulps of milk, in college, projects would be finished by burning the proverbial midnight oil. Even today, I tend to fill out forms minutes before they need to be actually submitted. If you need any further proof of just how I tend to procrastinate, check out my entries to various food blog events...most of them are after the submission date.
When it comes to making desserts, however, I am the exact opposite. I will usually start making desserts soon after I have read the recipes - before I have even ascertained that I have all the ingredients that a recipe calls for.
So, why it took me almost 5 years to make the Tres Leches Cake is beyond me.
I first heard of, or rather read about, the Tres Leches Cake when I was looking up recipes for the Dulce de Leche flan. 'Pastel de Tres Leches' appeared as a related recipe on one of the many sites I visited.
I was intrigued by the Tres Leches Cake. The entire concept of mixing together and pouring a combination of 3 types of milk, and hence the name which translated means 3 milks cake, (condensed milk, evaporated milk and fresh cream) over a sponge cake fascinated me. Ever since I read about the cake, I made it many times....in my head. Sometimes, I would top the cake with mangoes. Other times, it would be peaches or lychees.
But I always stopped short of actually making the cake. I think it was fear that the milk mixture, devoid of any flavouring, would make the cake taste and smell very milky.
A couple of weeks ago, I came across a recipe that recommended using buttermilk. I loved the idea of using buttermilk, the tang from the buttermilk would be perfect to counter the 'milkiness' of condensed milk and evaporated milk.
I wasted no more time in making the Tres Leches Cake.
Tres Leches Cake
for the cake (recipe from the Pioneer Woman)
Eggs: 5, separated (mine weighed 51 gms)
Sugar: 1 cup
Milk: 1/3 cup
Vanilla essence: 1 1/2 tsp
All purpose flour: 1 cup
Cornflour: 1 tbsp
Baking powder : 1 1/2 tsp
Salt: 1/4 tsp
Oil: 1 tbsp
Sift together the flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt.
Whip the egg whites till you get soft peaks. Add 1/4 cup of sugar and whip till you get stiff peaks and set aside.
Beat together the egg yolks and the remaining 3/4 cup sugar till pale and creamy; the mixture should fall in ribbons when the beaters are lifted from the mixture.
Add the milk and vanilla essence.
Next, fold in the flour with a spatula till just combined.
Fold in the egg whites in 3 batches, and then add the oil and mix.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 deg F or 180 deg C. Grease and line a 10" round cake pan (I used a 9" cake pan, but on hindsight, I feel a 10" cake pan will be better; the original recipe uses a 9" x 13" pan).
Bake for 30-35 mins, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool the cake and then poke it all over right down to the bottom of the cake (at 1/2" intervals) with the skewer.
for the soaking liquid (adapted from Un Dejeuner de Soleil):
Evaporated milk: 1 1/2 cup
Condensed milk: 1 1/4 cup
Buttermilk: 3/4 cup
Brandy: 1 1/2 tbsps, optional
Vanilla pod: 1 small, or vanilla essence: 1 tsp
Slit the vanilla pod length-wise and scrape the seeds. Add the pod and the seeds to the evaporated milk and heat it till bubbles start to form around the edges of the evaporated milk. Cool and then add the condensed milk, buttermilk and brandy, if using.
Return the cake to the cake pan - I used a 9 1/2" springform pan, which made it easy for me to later transfer the cake on the cake platter - and slowly pour the milk over the cake starting at the edges and moving to the centre. I poured the milk in 3 batches, at an interval of 5 minutes between each addition.
Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours in order to allow the cake to absorb all the liquid.
for the topping:
Whipping cream: 300 ml
Icing sugar: to taste
Vanilla essence: 1/2 tsp
Frozen mixed berries: 450 gms
Sugar: 1/2 cup
Lemon juice: 1 tbsp
Cornflour: 2 tbsp mixed in a little water
Whip the cream with the icing sugar and essence till you get soft peaks.
Mix together the berries with the sugar and lemon juice and set aside for 30 minutes. Then, cook over a low heat till the berries soften and the juices start bubbling. Add the cornflour and stir continuously till the sauce thickens. Cool to room temperature.
Transfer the cake on a serving dish and spread the whipped cream over the top and sides of the cake and spoon the berry coulis over the top.
I made the Tres Leches Cake for a dinner party and it was devoured. Yes, devoured. There is no other word for it. This is all I was left with the next day; I barely manage to get a decent slice for a picture.
So, how is the cake, you ask.
To tell you the truth, in spite of all the praises heaped on the Tres Leches Cake, I made it with a bit of skepticism. I kept wondering if the soaking liquid would drown the cake and make it soggy, but I was wrong. It is amazing how the soaking liquid does not drench the cake. The cake stays firm, each slice retains its shape and yet each bite is very moist. The buttermilk gives it a slight tang, almost indiscernible, but still very much there. And then there is the whipped cream with the berry coulis...an explosion of flavours and texture in every bite.
I loved it so much that I can't wait to bake it again.
Oh, and in case if you are wondering what to do with the leftover evaporated milk, cream and condensed milk, make this kulfi which needs exactly the same ingredients.
Clearly, on some days, you can end up with a lot of dessert!
It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!
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