Inma of la Galletika was our Sept. 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and WOW did she bring us something decadent and delicious! Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk Cake, creamy yet airy, super moist but not soggy… just plain delish!
The first time I made a pastel de tres leches, or “three milks cake”, I honestly thought there was a mistake in the recipe when I read the part instructing me to pour close to three cups of milk over the beautiful sponge cake I had just taken out of the oven. But since it was a recipe from my trusted friend Martha, I took a deep breath and poured that milk over that cake… and was amazed to see it all soak in within minutes, resulting in one of the moistest, most delicious cakes I’d ever had. Consequently, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to make another one!
I actually planned to make a pastel de tres leches for Nate’s birthday earlier this year, but it got vetoed in favour of chocolate-caramel-bacon insanity (which I was totally OK with, as it turns out!), so I was glad to see Inma’s challenge for the Daring Bakers this month. I would have loved to make a layer cake, as her original recipe indicated, but I wanted to be able to take it to work and share it easily, so the square slab cake won out. I flavoured the milk syrup (a mixture of evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk) with coffee and cinnamon, and covered the whipped cream topping with sliced peaches. I found the cake to be a little bit on the soggy side – it could have used about a cup less of the milk syrup – but it was really delicious regardless (I’ve adjusted the recipe below to use slightly less milk syrup). The eggy sponge cake plus the milk and cinnamon reminded me a little of french toast, and the moist cake plus whipped cream and fruit brought to mind a trifle. Best of all, it felt light (in texture, not calories!) and wasn’t too sweet.
A note about the sponge cake: this is a true foam cake containing no chemical leaveners – it is essentially flour suspended in meringue. When you are folding in the flour, you want to keep as much air in the batter as possible because the cake will not rise in the oven – it relies solely on the air trapped in the batter for its height. My favorite way to fold the batter is with a balloon whisk rather than a spatula, using as few as possible large, firm strokes to fold the batter from the bottom of the bowl to the top.
Inma, thanks for the great challenge and the excuse I was looking for to make a pastel de tres leches! Check out the Daring Kitchen for the delectable cakes made by the rest of the Daring Bakers this month. 🙂
Peach & Coffee Pastel de Tres Leches
Adapted from the original challenge recipe. Makes one 10″ square cake, about 16 servings.
Vanilla Sponge Cake
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease a 10″ square cake pan with butter and set aside.
Wipe out the bowl of an electric mixer and the whisk attachment with a paper towel moistened with vinegar – this will remove any oily residue that might prevent the egg whites from whipping up properly.
Separate the whites and yolks of 5 large eggs, at room temperature. Use 3 bowls for this: one for separating each egg so that you don’t contaminate the whites with any broken yolks, one for the uncontaminated whites, and one for the yolks.
In the super-clean mixer bowl with the whisk attachment, beat the 5 egg whites on medium speed until foamy, soft peaks form. Slowly mix in 1/2 cup granulated white sugar and increase the speed to medium-high. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Transfer the whipped egg whites to another large bowl and set aside.
Place the 5 egg yolks in the mixer bowl and beat on medium-high speed with the whisk attachment until very pale and thick. Stir in 2 tsp vanilla extract. Pour the beaten egg yolk mixture over the whipped egg yolks and fold gently with a balloon whisk to combine.
In a small bowl, sift together:
1 cup of all-purpose flour
a pinch of sea salt
Re-sift the flour over the whipped egg mixture and again fold gently with the balloon whisk to combine. Pour the batter into the greased cake pan and spread it out gently with a spatula. Bake in the preheated 350˚F oven for about 25 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
With a skewer, poke holes all over the cake (this will help it soak up the milk).
Coffee-Cinnamon Milk Syrup
While the sponge cake bakes, mix together:
1 cup whole milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 can condensed milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp instant coffee granules
Pour all but 1 cup of the milk mixture* over the warm sponge cake – magically, it will be soaked up almost immediately. Let the soaked cake cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
*Save the excess milk mixture to pour into your coffee. Mmmm.
In the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat 1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Mix in 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar and continue beating to stiff peaks. Spread the whipped cream evenly over the chilled, soaked cake.
Cut 4 ripe peaches into quarters, the cut each quarter into 5 or 6 slices. Lay the peach slices decoratively over the whipped cream-topped cake.
If desired, brush the peaches with a glaze made of:
1 tbsp apricot jam, sieved
a squeeze of lemon
This will keep the peaches shiny if you are not eating the cake immediately. Garnish the cake with mint leaves and cut into squares to serve.