Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tres Leches Cake

So this cake was the result of the fact that literally none of the four grocery stores I tried on the UWS carry peanut butter chips.  I was trying to make this Black-Bottom Peanut Butter Mousse Pie to bring to a dinner party, but without peanut butter chips I had to come up with a plan B.  I have been meaning to try to make tres leches cake for some time now and I figured now was the perfect opportunity.  I was also planning on making a Latin American dish for dinner the night after the dinner party, so I figured tres leches was definitely the way to go.  I looked at several recipes while trying to decide exactly how I wanted to prepare my cake, including this recipe from Ree Drummond's blog, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, an Alton Brown recipe, an Emeril recipe, and this recipe from Food & Wine.  The Food & Wine recipe had a particularly intriguing cinnamon-scented dulce de leche component that you drizzle on top of the cake after it is completed, but I didn't have the time or the whole milk to make it.  But I am definitely going to make it the next time I try my cake because it sounds amazing.  One of my favorite versions of tres leches cake I have ever eaten was at a restaurant in Maryland where they serve the cake drizzled with a cinnamon simple syrup of sorts.  It is amazing - kind of like red hots in liquid form.

This cake recipe is easy, but it does require several steps and lots of dish washing.  When I prepared it I used my stand mixer three times, which required three washes, various measuring cups, etc.  So if you're looking for a recipe that doesn't make a mess of the kitchen, this probably isn't the recipe for you.  But if you don't mind a little dishwashing so long as it produces delicious results, I say give this recipe a try!  The cake is delightfully moist, sweet and somehow light.

Tres Leches Cake

1 cup all-purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
5 whole eggs, whites and yolks separated
1 cup sugar, separated, plus 3 tbsp
2 tsp vanilla extract, separated
1/3 cup whole milk
1 can evaporated milk (12 oz.)
1 can sweetened, condensed milk (14 oz.)
1 pint heavy cream, separated
1/2 cup toasted unsweetened coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Liberally coat a 13x9x2 glass baking dish with Pam or other cooking spray.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Separate eggs.  Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar in bowl of stand mixer on high speed until yolks are pale yellow.  Add milk and 1 tsp vanilla.  MIx to combine.  Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.

Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks begin to form.  With the mixer running, add remaining 1/4 cup sugar.  Beat until egg whites are stiff and glossy, but not dry.  Fold egg white mixture into the batter with a spatula very gently until just combined.  Pour batter into prepared baking dish, using the spatula to even out the batter.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow cake to cool for 10 minutes in pan, then turn cake out onto a rimmed baking sheet or a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and 1/4 cup heavy cream in a small pitcher.  Stir to mix.  Return the cake to the baking dish.  Pierce the surface of the cooled cake all over with a fork, which will allow the milk mixture to penetrate the cake fully.  Slowly drizzle the milk mixture over the surface of the cake.  Do not neglect the sides of the cake.  Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for at least 30 minutes. 

Pour remaining heavy cream, 3 tbsp sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla extract into chilled metal mixing bowl.  Using a stand mixer or electric hand-held mixer, beat until whipped cream is thick and forms nice soft peaks.

Serve cake topped with whipped cream and toasted coconut flakes.

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