tres leches cake with berries

Tres leches cake.  Also know as pan tres leches.  Translated, you have “three milks bread.”  But don’t be fooled.  This is not bread.  It is cake at its best.  Tres leches cake is Spanish in origin.  Some say it is from Nicaragua.  Others insist it was born in Mexico.  No matter …the one thing all agree on is that it is delicious.  And super moist.  Try it with freshly whipped cream and sweetened strawberries.  You’ll swear you just had the best strawberry shortcake ever.  But it’s not shortcake.  It’s actually a sponge cake.  Soaked in three kinds of milk.  Evaporated, sweetened condensed and heavy cream.  I know.  It sounds so rich.  Just wait til you try it.  You’ll agree it’s worth the splurge.

Plan ahead for this. The eggs should be at room temperature.  The prep work takes no time at all.  But once the cake is baked and cooled, the milk combo is poured over and it must be refrigerated at least six hours before serving.  Here’s the best part …Ina Garten says that this can be completely prepared and kept in the fridge for a full five days!  Speaking of Ina, she stresses that the eggs, sugar and vanilla need to be beaten for a full 10 minutes.  If you have a stand mixer, you will be so happy when you get to this step.

While the cake is baking, start working on the milk combo.  This recipe calls for seeds scraped from one vanilla bean.  If you aren’t familiar with using vanilla beans, here’s a warning …they are very expensive.  Feel free to substitute with a good quality vanilla extract.  As far as conversions go, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract is equal to one 2-inch piece of vanilla bean, so 1 typical vanilla bean will equal 3 teaspoons extract.

Give the cake about 40 minutes to cool on a wire rack.  Then go to town poking holes all over it.  That helps with the absorption of the delicious milk concoction.  When pouring the liquid over the cake, pause every now and then to allow for absorption before continuing with the rest.

And that’s it for the cake.  Cover and place in the fridge for at least 6 hours and up to 5 days.  For best results, prepare the whipped cream and sugared fruit just prior to serving.

You’ll end up with 12 servings from this cake, so you really could serve it on more than one occasion.  If that’s the case, adjust the amount of whipping cream and berries accordingly.  For every 2 cups of sliced berries, sweeten with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.  And feel free to mix it up.  Use a combination of in-season berries.  Or just your favorite.

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tres leches cake with berries

Adapted from Ina Garten's Make It Ahead

Servings 12 servings

Ingredients

CAKE

  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
  • sifted confectioner's sugar, for dusting

TOPPINGS

  • 8 cups sliced strawberries
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 pint whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

Instructions

CAKE

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan.

  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a small bowl and set aside. Place the eggs, 1 cup of granulated sugar and the vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed for 10 minutes until light yellow and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add half the flour mixture, then the milk and finally the remaining flour mixture. Mix with a rubber spatula to be sure the batter is well mixed. 

  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cake springs back when touched lightly in the middle and a cake tester comes out clean. Set on a wire rack to cool in the pan for 40 minutes.

  4. In a 4-cup liquid measuring cup, whisk together the heavy cream, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, almond extract and vanilla seeds. Using a bamboo skewer, poke holes all over the cooled cake and slowly pour the cream mixture over the cake, allowing it to be absorbed completely before continuing to pour on more of the mixture. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
  5. Dust the cake with confectioners' sugar, cut in 12 squares and place on dessert plates. Surround each serving with the strawberries, put a dollop of whipped cream on top and serve.

TOPPINGS

  1. Toss the strawberries with the 5 tablespoons of granulated sugar. 

  2. Place mixer bowl in freezer for at least 20 minutes to chill.  Pour whipping cream, sugar and vanilla into the cold bowl and beat on high speed until medium to stiff peaks form, about 1 minute.

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