Friday, May 7, 2010

Three little milks

Cinco de Mayo was a few days ago. I don't particularly make a point to celebrate every little holiday that comes around, especially if times are busy (when are they not?) But Wednesday night, I found myself with no plans and at the last minute decided to get together with my friends John, Janelle, their dog Abby and their foster dog, Bo. I brought over Mexican takeout, a tres leches cake, margarita mix and Miss Lucca.

Tres Leches = Three Milks
(evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream or half & half)

Ok, let's not lie: the main reason we decided to get together was to let Bo roughhouse with Lucca since they'll basically play together nonstop for as long as they are within reach of each other. Have you heard that phrase "a tired dog is a happy dog"?

"What world?"


But the whole Cinco de Mayo "party" was fun too.

I have an incredibly difficult time showing up places without baked goods. Potlucks, dinner parties, friends' houses, my office, picnics, bike rides, birthdays, kid parties, dog parties, my parents' house, housewarming fĂȘtes, holiday get-togethers, BBQs, meeting friends for lunch, baby showers, bridal showers, kickball games thrown by friends at a park close to my house. You get the idea.

"Cinco de Mayo Hangout with John, Janelle, Abby and Bo" was no exception. I'd thrown some Mexican dessert ideas around all afternoon. I wasn't overly excited about Mexican Wedding Cookies since I make them all the time. And flan should really sit overnight in the fridge before serving. So I suddenly remembered an "award winning" tres leches cake my old VP made for this baking contest we had at work (which I actually WON with this pie!!) Everyone loved her tres leches and fortunately for me she still had the recipe on her blog at work.

First things first - go out and buy a nesting set of mixing bowls

Well as I always do - I reworked the recipe. I'm not entirely sure why I always do this. Maybe so that I feel like the recipe is my own? Or to challenge myself to find a "better" way to do something? So I really didn't do her recipe. Actually, I did something similar to this and roughly used my veep's ingredient measurements.

I put a couple teaspoons of cinnamon in with the dry ingredients

The cake is made like a sponge cake. Whip egg whites to pretty stiff, beat yolks and sugar til they're ribbony, then fold it all together with some flour. It's important that the cake be light and spongy since this is what keeps the cake from becoming too soggy and drenched with the milk. If it were too dense, it'd fall apart after a night of soaking.

There is a rumor that Nestle helped the tres leche cake popularity along during WWII
I wonder how that got started?

After the cake bakes you soak it or drench it in a mixture of three different types of milk. OBVIOUSLY where the name "tres leches" or "three milks" comes from. Evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and cream or half and half.

I became stupid for an hour or so and never thought to make a half recipe for 3 people.
So I made "2 cakes" instead and took one to work the next day

There seem to be a couple of different methods to soaking the cake in the milk mixture:
1) pour the tres leches over the cake while it's still in the cake pan, let it soak and cover it with the meringue topping
2) put the cake on a platter and spoon the tres leches over the cake until it is "milk-logged", then cover with the meringue topping


I did #2. Initially, I was a little disappointed. As I was assembling the cake, the milk started to pool up around the cake on the platter after it was "full". And as we ate it, it was mostly just the bottom of the cake that was still moist and wet. The top half of the cake had "drained" if you know what I mean.

This part was fun! Whee!!

However, by the next day it seemed to be about perfect. Not too soggy and not too dry. And I guess, if I'd done #1 and let the cake sit in the milk for too long (like overnight or a day) it'd get soggy and fall apart - so really, it's a balance. In the end I think I did prefer how I made it - sort of "half soaked". Then, if desired, one can just spoon some of the extra milk on it.

I just wrote about 3 paragraphs on how to pour milk onto a cake. I hope someone gets something out of that.

The cooked meringue topping.
I was so tempted to Photoshop a cat's face on there...

I've read of a couple different toppings for tres leches cake. Sweetened whipping cream, or an Italian meringue. Wait, did I just write Italian meringue?... to top a Mexican tres leches cake? But yes, I did, since when one cooks a sugar syrup then pours it into egg whites and beats it to a frenzy --> I (and most bakers) would call this "Italian Meringue" (vs. French which is baked if not left raw and Swiss which is cooked).

Definitely serve this on a plate with sides!

This recipe had me making the meringue topping. It's a nice and airy "frosting" that isn't overly sweet nor overly fatty. 'Twas yummy! It's a cake that could be described as refreshing. I really liked the addition of the cinnamon to the cake. I had a coworker ask if it was wheat flour. Ha, I wish!


  1. An awesome cake! I love the picture of your dog ;-P.



  2. I have made this cake before, but never with a meringue topping. I guess I will have to make it again now. The photos were wonderful too.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog, it was really kind of you to leave a message.

  3. damn... constant "leftovers" to the office... it would pay to work with you!