You know how you grew up with certain foods or dishes cooked by your mother which were so characteristic of her? There were these special things that she cooked on some special days, and you would just wait till it got done. Especially the desserts. For festivals. Or birthdays. Or the ones made for no reason at all. There were days made special only because something wonderful was made.
The funny thing is that my mother had some typical desserts perfected to the T. Everytime she made it, it would be just like the last time she made it. Perfect. But even if my brother and I had eaten it so many times over the years, we would still relish it every single time – never getting bored. That’s the magic of things your mother makes for you. Those typical desserts which always take you back to your childhood. Those desserts which no matter how much you eat outside, you will always think of how your mother made it.
My brother and I grew up with some very simple things. A chocolate and vanilla marble cake – We would always ask her to save us some batter to lick before the cake went in the oven. And the cake would be devoured by within half an hour of being out of the oven. Nankhatai – a rich, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth cookie. Gaajar ka halwa. Fruit salad – Typical fruits in a thin, milky custard. These are some of the desserts which I will probably never make for my future kids because I wouldn’t want to change the perfect memories of them from back then. I am just going to have to think of different desserts. Different memories.
This cake will definitely be one of those desserts that my future kids grow up with. The one which will make an ordinary day special. The dessert which will make them wait impatiently while it gets prepared.
Tres Leches means Three Milks in Spanish. It is a light airy sponge cake soaked in 3 kinds of milk and topped off with whipped cream. I made the Tres Leches Cake for the first time in March last year for my belated birthday party. After that, I made it about 8 or 9 times. It is the cake I think of making when I have friends coming over, especially ones who haven’t had it yet. It is one of my mom’s favorite things made by me – she requests(!!) it every time I go home. And even though I have given her the recipe a couple of times, she still will want me to make it for her! It is beautiful. A subtle, different flavor that just melts in your mouth. Although I enjoy eating it so much myself, I love making it now because I love watching the reactions of people who eat a piece for the first time and then immediately reach for a second helping. And then a third. I don’t know one person who hasn’t reacted that way after tasting it. I could go on. But you get my point.
The sponge itself is made with a stiff whipped egg whites mixed with beaten pale yolks. It has no butter or oil which keeps that lightness intact. I have topped the cake off before with fresh mangoes (Which pair up wonderfully with that whipped cream!) or strawberries. Even some grated chocolate. But even just like that, the cake is wonders!
Yeah, okay. I am just going to put it out there, I am kind of crazy when it comes to this cake. I strongly urge you to make it if you have even the tiniest interest in baking. You won’t regret it.
My future kids will be so lucky! 😛
- 1 cup All-purpose Flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 5 whole Eggs
- 1 cup Sugar, Divided
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla
- 1/3 cup Milk
- 1 can Evaporated Milk (I just reduce one litre of milk to 400ml)
- 1 can Sweetened, Condensed Milk
- 1/4 cup Heavy Cream
- 1.5-2 cups Heavy Cream, For Whipping
- 3 Tablespoons Powdered Sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan liberally until coated.
- Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Separate eggs.
- Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.
- Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.
- Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.
- Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool. I usually just leave the cake in the pan I bake it in.
- Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle all but about 1 cup of the milk mixture—try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.
- Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes. To ice the cake, whip the heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of sugar until thick and spreadable.
- Spread over the surface of the cake. Decorate cake with mangoes, strawberries or chocolate. Cut into squares and serve.
- Evaporated milk isn't easily available in India. I usually just boil a litre of milk and then simmer it for about 2 hours - regularly checking on it and stirring till it is reduced to about 350 to 400ml.