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Tres Leches Cake Recipe & Video

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Tres Leches Cake, or a Three Milk Cake, is a single layer sponge cake that has a sweet milk flavor with a wonderfully soft and moist texture. It is almost like a pudding cake. What is so unique about this cake is that once the sponge cake is baked and cooled, it is soaked with a sweet milk sauce made from whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk. While it doesn't really need a frosting, a layer of fluffy whipped cream complements the soft and moist cake. I also like to garnish each slice of cake with a maraschino cherry, but you could use fresh fruit.  

As with a lot of sponge cakes, this Sponge Cake gets a lot of its rise from the air whipped into the eggs. The eggs are first separated and this is easier to do when the eggs are still cold. Then the egg yolks and granulated white sugar are beaten until thick, light, and fluffy. This takes several minutes and this long beating time is necessary for it not only gives the baked cake its full volume, it also gives the cake its nice open grain. Next the flour, mixed with a little baking powder and salt, is sifted over the yolks and folded in. Finally, the egg whites are beaten with a little sugar just until they are glossy and stiff. Care must be taken when folding the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk mixture to ensure that the batter does not deflate. 

Once the cake has been baked and cooled it is soaked with a Sweet Milk Sauce, a combination of sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and whole milk. Sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk are both made with whole milk that has about 60 percent of its water removed. The difference is that sweetened condensed milk contains sugar so its consistency is thick and sticky (like honey) and it is very sweet tasting. Pour the Milk Sauce gradually over the cooled sponge, allowing it to be absorbed into the cake. Then cover and refrigerate the cake until well chilled (about 4 to 6 hours) before serving.

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Tres Leches Cake: Separate the eggs while they are still cold, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another bowl. Cover the two bowls with plastic wrap and bring to room temperature (about 30 to 60 minutes).

When the eggs are at room temperature, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter, or spray with a non stick cooking spray, a 9 x 13 inch (23 x 33 cm) baking pan.

Then sift or whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt.

Place the egg yolks and 3/4 cup (150 grams) of the sugar into the bowl of your electric stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer). Beat on high speed until the mixture is thick, fluffy, and light colored (when you slowly raise the beater, the batter will fall back into the bowl in a slow ribbon). (This will take about 3 to 5 minutes.) Then beat in the vanilla extract and milk (or water). Set aside while you beat the egg whites.

In a clean bowl of your electric stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment (or use a hand mixer), whip the egg whites and cream of tartar, on medium low speed, until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup (50 grams) of sugar and continue beating, on medium high speed, until the egg whites are shiny and form stiff peaks. 

Next, sift the flour mixture over the beaten egg yolks (about one third of the flour mixture at a time) and gently but quickly fold (with a wire whisk or rubber spatula) the flour into the egg yolk batter. Then gently fold a little of the beaten egg whites into the batter to lighten it, and then add the rest of the whites, folding just until incorporated. Pour the batter into the pan, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon or offset spatula.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and is starting to pull away from the sides of the pan (a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean). Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool (the cake will deflate a little during cooling). Then, using the tines of a fork or a wooden skewer, pierce the top of the cake all over (you want lots of holes), making sure to pierce almost to the bottom of the cake.

Milk Sauce: In a large measuring cup or container, mix all the ingredients together. Then slowly and gradually pour the milk sauce over the cake, letting it absorb into the cake. Cover and refrigerate the cake for at least 4 hours.

Topping: In the bowl of your electric stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment (or with a hand mixer), place the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat until stiff peaks form. Evenly spread the whipped cream over the top of the cake. Garnish with maraschino cherries or fresh fruit.

Serves about 18 - 24 people.

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Tres Leches Cake Recipe:

6 large eggs, separated (you will need about 110 grams of egg yolks and 190 grams of egg whites)

1 1/4 cups (165 grams) all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons (6 grams) baking powder

1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) fine kosher salt

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar, divided

1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup (60 ml/grams) milk or water, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) cream of tartar

Milk Sauce:

1 cup (240 ml/grams) whole milk

1 - 14 ounce (396 gram) can (280 ml) sweetened condensed milk

1 - 12 ounce can (354 ml) evaporated milk

1 1/2 teaspoons (6 grams) pure vanilla extract

Topping: (Optional)

1 1/2 cups (360 ml/grams) cold heavy whipping cream (cream with 35-40% butterfat)

1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar

1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) pure vanilla extract

Garnish: (Optional)

Maraschino Cherries or Fresh Fruit

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