Pastel de tres leches (tres leches cake)


Today is my boyfriend’s birthday. We celebrated this weekend with a good deal of good food, too. On Saturday we went to Woodberry Kitchen and had an all-around wonderful meal, simply wonderful (review and pictures to come). I can’t say too many good things about it. I had tuna seared with Moroccan spies; he had braised leg of lamb with lamb sausage and eggplant and other good things. I could go on, but I’ll save that for another time.

We continued the food good times Sunday night with steamed crabs covered in salty, delicious Old Bay seasoning. At the end of the meal, the proprieters were so good to let me bring in the cake I had baked for his birthday.

This cake, in fact:

Tres leches cake made with a rum milk syrup.

Tres leches cake made with a rum milk syrup.

Because we went out so much for his birthday I didn’t have the chance to make him a meal at home, so cake was my contribution. I had briefly entertained the notion of making a 12-layer swiss mocha cake with espresso and chocolate buttercream, but even then it seemed a bit ambitious.

This isn’t his favorite cake (he loves strawberry shortcake and Bostom cream pie), but this year he wasn’t particular about what I made him, and I had been wanting to try this cake out at home. I’ve only had this cake once, but I liked what I tasted, and it was enough to set me on a tres leches kind of course.

When I cook I like to improvise. However, with baking I need a good recipe because I think of as chemistry. The right ingredients need to work together to create the perfect pastry form. I can’t suddenly add more salt or butter to the cake after I’ve baked it. So I credit, especially in this case, a good recipe with good result. In this case, let me credit Epicurious/Gourmet with giving me the guidelines to my first spongecake.  I made some very mild adjustments, including lightening the milk syrup and switching out a meringue topping for a whipped cream, but for the most part it was just right.

Pastel de tres leches

Sponge Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk

Rum Milk Syrup

  • 1 can evaporated milk (12 oz.)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)
  • 1 can half nd half (use empty can from condensed milk – 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons  rum (I used a light rum), optional

Whipped Cream Topping

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’/powdered sugar

For Sponge Cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 10×13 cake pan, and line with parchment paper.
  2. Sift flour with baking powder and cinnamon. Using a standing mixer with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until frothy, then slowly add sugar to tighten whites to semi stiff peaks. Add yolks one at a time. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk. (Note: I don’t have a standing mixer, so instead I used my regular mixture. The egg whites didn’t stiffen properly because I was beating them too hard, but I didn’t overbeat it and the spongecake still turned out nice and light)
  3. Pour batter into pan and bake for about 40 minutes or until the middle springs back when touched and edges pull slightly away from pan. Cool. Make sure to watch the cake so that it doesn’t overcook. If it overcooks it will have trouble absorbing the milk syrup.

For Rum Milk Syrup:

  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Whip thoroughly with a whisk and reserve. Refrigerate if made in advance.

For Whipped Cream:

Chill a large bowl and whisk in the freezer for about 10 minutes. In the large bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat, or else whipped cream will become lumpy and heavy.

Assembling the cake:

This can be made at least two ways. If you want to the cake pan to double as the serving pan, you will not need to line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. The parchment is there to help remove the cake from the mold. If you choose to keep it in the pan, prick the top of the cake before pouring the syrup over the cake. Gently coat the cake and let the syrup absorb. Continue until syrup is gone or saturation is to your satisfaction. Top with whipped cream.

In my case, I chose to unmold the cake and make it into two layers. While it was still warm, I pulled the parchment paper and lifted the spongecake out of the pan. I cut the cake in half in two even squares. (To make the layers more even you can use a serrated knife to cut off the rounded tops.) Prick the cake with a toothpick or fork and slowly pour the syrup into the cake, letting it absorb. Make sure to do this on a plate/pan with a lip, as the milk syrup that doesn’t absorb will drip out. I did one layer at a time, coating the first piece with whipped cream before layering on the top piece (not yet covered with the milk syrup). Once I placed the top cake layer on, I finished soaking it with the rest of the syrup. Once this was done I coated it with the remaining whipped cream and topped with fresh fruit.


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4 Responses to “Pastel de tres leches (tres leches cake)”

  1. Michael Says:

    this looks yummy!
    check out my food blog and tell me what you think:


  2. Heathers Christmas Cakes Says:

    Very artistically done! It looks gorgeous, as if would just fall apart in your mouth. I hope to give your recipe a go, I will be adding custard to mine just to see how it is.

  3. Recipe Master List « matzo&rice Says:

    […] pastel de tres leches (tres leches cake) […]

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