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Tres Leches, aka pan tres leches (three milks bread) and three-milk cake - which is a cake perforated and soaked in a mixture of three different milk products; evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk or heavy cream.
Why three milks? A cake using canned evaporated or condensed milk originated in Latin America to promote the use of the their canned product. Evaporated and condensed milk is widely available throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America. So it's only natural if a highly appealing dessert would use these products, product sales would increase. Both became an immediate success in urban areas where fresh milk was lacking distribution from farm regions. But who knew this cake would become such a highly appealing global dessert.
So what’s the three milk difference?
- Condensed milk first came into use in the mid-1850’s as a way to preserve milk in cans without refrigeration.
- Evaporated milk first became available during the 1870’s when milk companies were able to heat the evaporated milk so that it would not spoil in the cans, thereby making the sugar unnecessary.
Butter or sponge cake is the foundation of this dessert; I suggest sponge cake since it's a better option for a lighter, airy texture and not as soggy, because it can better absorb the cake soaking up the three milks.
Sponge Cake Tips:
- It’s all in whipping the egg yolks and egg whites separately to build a light airy cake batter.
- Use the freshest eggs. The quality of the eggs affects the cake's volume and texture.
- Prepare cake pans by brushing with melted butter, dusting with flour and lining with parchment paper.
- Whisk the eggs and sugar until they have increased in volume about four times it’s original volume and the strands from the whisk are stiff enough to hold a trail on top of egg batter for at least 30 seconds.
- For maximum lightness, use sifted flour; and add flour into the mixture in three stages.
- Fold in the whipped egg whites using a long-handled spatula with an up-and-over motion, while turning the bowl in the opposite direction.
Pastel de Tres Leches
Makes about 10-12 servings
chefgeorgehirsch.com | George Hirsch Lifestyle
For the cake:
5 large eggs, separated
1 cup granulated pure can sugar
1/3 cup milk, warmed
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 Tablespoon melted butter
Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease a 13 x 9-inch cake pan or baking dish with butter and flour.
In a mixer, beat 3/4 cup sugar and the egg yolks until light and fluffy for about 5 minutes.
With a very clean wire whisk or whip, beat the egg whites to soft peaks, adding the cream of tartar after 20 seconds. Slowly add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until the whites are glossy and firm, but not dry.
Into the egg yolk mixture fold in the flour, baking powder; milk and vanilla. Then, gently fold the whites into the yolks. Add melted butter. Pour batter into cake pan.
Bake the cake until it feels firm about 30-45 minutes, you can test by inserting a skewer or a toothpick and it comes out clean. Cool completely in baking pan.
Pierce the cake all over with a skewer about every 1/2 inch to allow the milk syrup to soak into cake. Prepare milk syrup as directed.
1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon Myers Dark Rum
Combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, cream, vanilla and rum in a mixing bowl. Whisk until well blended. Pour the syrup over the cake, spooning the overflow back on top, until it is all absorbed.
When ready to serve top with additional fresh whipped cream or ice cream.
And, Tres Leches is ideal serve after a bowl of Posole, my pre-Columbian soup or stew from Mexico!