Sunday, 9 December 2007

Tres Leches Cake (Three Milk)

I promise to always tell the truth about my baking and the truth here is that you should only make this cake if you have a lot of time to lavish on it. And I mean a lot. It is worth the effort though - in fact, it's a bit of a stunner and unlike anything you'll have had before.

This is not a ‘quick make’ as the cake requires time to soak up a mixture of milks and cream (hence the name of the cake). When I started basting the cake with the milk/cream solution I was very concerned that it wouldn’t absorb all the liquid. After about two hours less than half the liquid had found its way into the cake. Then, as a last resort, I flipped the cake. Voila! A one way ticket to speedy absorption. Therefore, my top tip is when you put the cake into a large tin to pour the milk/cream solution into it, ensure that you turn the cake upside down to how it was baked i.e. so the flattest surface, which was the bottom when baking, is now the top. This limits how much liquid rolls off the top and gives a much better surface for soaking.

When you take it out the oven, the cake will sink a little and shrivel. It was quite odd to see a plump sponge turn into the cake equivalent of a shar pei dog. But once you start soaking it, it plumps up again so fear not!

Here it is looking shar pei like before I flipped it:

And see how it looks flipped with all the liquid absorbed:

The thinking behind the cake is interesting: make a fat free sponge and then soak it in condensed milk, evaporated milk and cream. This gives a rich and moist finish that is out of this world and worth every minute lavished on it. It takes the idea of a rum baba and makes it more dairy focused (which can’t be a bad thing – remember we all need calcium for healthy bones!)

It’s very hard to describe the taste and texture – it’s dense in texture because of the liquid but not heavy. The best I can do is to say it tastes like vanilla ice cream in cake form. If making the meringue with boiling sugar syrup frightens you, this cake would also work with whipped cream.

Boiling the sugar syrup – the temperature’s not quite at the required level yet:

For the cake:
6 eggs, separated
230g caster sugar
125ml milk (whole or semi skimmed)
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
290g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
395g tin condensed milk
375g tin evaporated milk
300ml single cream
3 tablespoons rum

For the meringue topping:
290g caster sugar
4 egg whites
½ teaspoon cream of tartar

How to make:

- Preheat oven to 170°C/fan oven 150°C/325°F/ Gas mark 3 and line a 22cm square tin with greaseproof paper.
- Beat the six egg yolks with all but 2 tablespoons of the sugar (put aside for the egg whites) until pale, thick and creamy. Don’t skimp on this stage or try to rush.
- Fold in the milk and one teaspoon of the vanilla extract.
- Fold in the flour and baking powder. Put the bowl to one side.
- In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until they appear frothy, then add the cream of tartar.
- Resume whisking until the whites start to peak, then add the sugar.
- Continue whisking until you have stiff glossy peaks.
- Stir a spoon of whites into the cake mix to slacken the mix.
- Carefully fold in the rest of the whites until the mix is just combined.
- Pour into the cake tin and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine took 45 minutes.
- Cool in the tin for 30 minutes before removing from the tin and letting cool completely on a wire rack. This is when it will go a bit wrinkly looking!
- When completely cool, stand the cake upside down, so what was the bottom is now the flat top, in a larger tin (I used a plastic tray) and using your cake skewer make lots of deep holes in the cake.
- Mix together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, cream, remaining 2 teaspoons of vanilla and rum.
- Ladle a small amount of the milk mix over the cake and leave to absorb. Continue doing this periodically until all is absorbed. This may take several hours.
- Put the now soggy cake into the fridge overnight to let the liquid settle in the cake and mellow.
- The day you want to serve the cake, make the meringue topping.
- Put the sugar with 80ml water into a small saucepan over a high heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
- Let the sugar syrup boil until it reaches ‘softball stage’. What this means is a temperature of 240°F or 120°C. If you don’t have a sugar thermometer, boil for about 8 minutes and then take a tiny amount of the syrup and drop into a bowl of cool water. The sugar should form a small soft lump.
- While that’s happening, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form.
- Slowly add the sugar syrup to the egg whites and continue whisking while doing so.
- Continue to whisk until the mixture is thick and cool to the touch. This took me at least ten minutes. The hot sugar has cooked the egg white resulting in soft meringue.
- Spread the meringue over the top and sides of the cake with a spatula dipped in hot water. This will increase the ease of spreading.
- Refrigerate the cake uncovered until needed.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

1 comment:

Deborah said...

I have always wanted to make a tres leches cake, but have not. It sounds wonderful!!