Not So Innocent

Tres Leches, or "Three Milks" Cake is as sweet as a mother's lullaby. When its moist creaminess joins and melts together with the fresh tart sweetness of sliced strawberry, it then becomes una canciĆ³n de amor, a song of a love that is lasting and true. Leave it to an unashamedly romantic people to create a cake that sheds tears of joy.
Sadly for me, the only tears I have shed for Tres Leches have been tears of frustration.
How was I to know that after conquering tamales and chiles rellenos, that un cake-y of all things would be my crushing defeat? Bar none, no other recipe has caused me more consternation and gnashing of teeth. The first cake I baked was an unmitigated disaster—you can't even begin to imagine how tempted I was to hurl it! against something hard. But then I would have had to explain to my viejo why I made a gaping hole in the wall. That's how heavy and meh it was.

It was not until I baked three cakes, all of them insipid or Just Plain Bad, that I finally found what I consider the best overall cake-y recipe for Tres Leches.

Tres Leches calls for a rich cake with the lemony tang of buttermilk to keep it from descending into a cloying (and annoying) sweetness. A cake that is firm enough to stand up to a drenching of delicious not-so-innocent milk sauce, but not so dense that it can substitute as a doorstop. It is an answer to those friends of mine who have been turned aside by the dark sensuous seduction of chocolate cake. They happen to be of the opinion that Tres Leches Cake is too soggy and sweet, like the cute little baby with milk on its breath and a "gift" its diapers. . . . But I'm absolutely sure they will change their minds when they smell the brandy oozing out from the bottom of the cake.
Perhaps after they bite into its moist sweetness and feel its subtle allure, t
hey will be singing canciones de amor and shedding tears of joy, too.
(Feliz aniversario to some great amigos, pictured above, for their 40 years de puro amor. May their lives be a piece of Tres Leches cake with sliced strawberries and a yellow rosebud in the center. P.S. Dear Librado, in case you are reading this, one of my readers says that you look like Luis Miguel--uy, yuy, yuy!)

Tres Leches Cake
Pastel de tres leches
I used only one cake layer to make to make my Tres Leches Cake, and saved the other one for another time. Many thanks to a certain friend of mine for sharing the cake recipe with me.
Ingredients:3 cups of sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
3 large eggs, plus 1 yolk at room temperature
2 ¼ sticks butter at room temperature
2 cups cane sugar
a pint of strawberries, caps removed (optional)
Not-So-Innocent Leches Sauce (recipe to follow)
Whipped Cream Frosting (recipe to follow); or, your favorite white cake frosting
Spray the inside of two 9 inch cake pans with a non-stick spray with flour made especially for baking. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour the vanilla into the buttermilk and stir. In a smaller bowl, beat eggs and yolk just to combine. In still another large bowl, cream the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until the mixture is fluffy. Reduce the speed to medium, gradually adding in the eggs and beat until it is fluffy. Alternately add the flour and buttermilk mixtures a bit at a time. Keep beating until you see that the ingredients are not just combined but aerated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for a few seconds longer. Pour the batter into the cake pans and put them in the preheated oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cake is golden brown. Test by inserting a toothpick in the middle of the cake. It should come out dry.

Let the cakes cool for about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove them from the cake pans and put them on a wire rack to cool completely. Slice off the top portion of the cakes to create a flat surface. Invert one cake layer onto a large plate or cake stand, preferably one with a lip around the edge.

Use a bamboo skewer to make deep holes all over the top of each cake. Then, slowly pour half of the Milk Sauce all over the cake and let it sink in. Put the other cake layer on top and pour the rest of the sauce.

Take the whipped cream frosting and spread evenly all over the cake. Take the strawberries and slice them lengthwise, about 3/8 inch thick. Layer them in a circular motion from the outside in. Put a romantic rosebud in the center of the cake if you want. Watch the tears of joy seep out from the bottom of the cake.

Summertime tip: refrigerate this cake until it is ready to serve.

Note: if you do not care to soak the cake in the Leches Sauce, then do not poke holes in the cake. Simply pour the sauce over slice of cake instead.

Not-So-Innocent Leches Sauce Recipe:
1 12 ounce can of evaporated milk
1 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ teaspoon vanilla
the zest of one lemon or lime (optional); OR, one to three tablespoons brandy or rum (optional)

Pour evaportated milk and the sweetened condensed milk, whipping cream, lime zest into a bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined. Pour the sauce into a saucepan and cook uncovered over medium-low heat until the sauce is hot, but not boiling. Lower the heat down to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use a mesh strainer to catch the lime zest as your pour the sauce back into the bowl. Let cool before pouring over the cake.
Alternative: omit the lemon or lime zest and add brandy or rum. (Not recommended if you are putting sliced strawberries on top, but rum goes great with fresh sliced mango!)

Whipped Cream Frosting Recipe:
2 cups whipping cream
about four tablespoons sugar, or to taste (frosting should not be too sweet).
½ teaspoon vanilla

Chill the mixing bowl and beater prior to mixing. Beat all of the ingredients together until it is thick enough to spread easily over the cake.


kobico said...

It's such a pretty cake! I had a similar early experience making pancakes that came out not unlike hockey pucks back when I was younger.

Gloria said...

That looks amazing and so delicious. I would love to try that but right now just have no time. I'll look for the recipe at a later time to try it out. Thanks for sharing. Have a great Fourth of July.

Chrissy y Keith said...

I just bought a Tres Leche cake today. No way am I going to try to make my own.

Leslie Limon said...

Mmmmm! Tres Leches...mi favorito! Your friend in the picture looks a little like Luis Miguel! :)

Hope you have a Happy 4th of July! :)

Anonymous said...

oh, thanks for sharing this recipe. i love this cake. i tried making it once and the cake was so was awful. but the cream concoction was divine. i will try this recipe. hope it works for me : )

Mary C said...

Thanks for this recipe. I love Tres Leches cake, especially with strawberries! Can't wait to try this!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing the recipe. I now have confidence to try to make this cake. Gracias!

DodgerFanInRdg said...

You didn't include a salt measurement nor did you include a bake time!!!

Clementina said...

Hola, DodgerFanInRdg!
Dios mio de mi vida! Thank you so much for pointing out this glaring oversight . . . though my "ears" are still ringing at all of those exclamation points.
Thanks again and take care!

DodgerFanInRdg said...

My goodness, I had taken leave of my manners. I am soo sorry! I had baked the cake, left the house, and left my wife to watch the cake. It was at that point we caught the oversight. My apologies for being so harsh! I will say though that after baking the cake, this recipe gets 5 stars!!! As for your blog, please never take it down. This is hands down, no argument my favorite blog!! You are an excellent writer and your recipes....anyone reading this, please know this woman is the REAL DEAL!! Fans of Taco Bell simply move along unlesss you want to repent of your sins!!!

Clementina said...

Hola, DodgerFanInRdg!
You are making me blush! Have a great day, and thanks for saying some nice things about this blog. You make me what to not give up.
Cuidate mucho (please take care)!

Tera said...

Okay this is a dreamy post because I LOVELOVELOVE Tres Leches cake (when done well). But now I am medically forced to be on a gluten free diet! UGH! So I will dare try a gluten free tres leches but it's just going to be hidious....maybe not? No, it will....sigh.

Presley's Pantry said...

This is the first time I am visiting your blog and I LOVE IT! I want to make this cake today... right now!

Clementina said...

Hola, Presley's Pantry!
Gracias, chiquita. Please take care and hope you'll like the pastelito.