Pastel de Tres Leches or "Three Milks Cake" has become a traditional dessert all over Latin America. While the history of it's origins are not exactly known, we know that in the 19th century, there was a recipe floating around Mexico for a bread cake that was soaked in wine and topped with custard. This is thought to be a spin of the Italian tiramisu or the English trifle, both alcohol-soaked sponge cakes with heavy cream, cheese and sugar! All recipes were a great way to reconstitute left over, stale cookies, cake or bread into a great dessert. With the European influence in Mexico during the 19th century it goes with little explanation why these soaked recipes became popular in the New World using European ingredients like custard, bread and wine.
In the 1930s when the Nestle Company opened up plants in Mexico during World War II, a recipe for Tres Leches was printed on the outside of the evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream cans. Nestle is popularly held responsible for taking the Tres Leche Cake mainstream.
All recipes in Mexico use a combination of evaporated, condensed and cream in their recipe even today. The flexibility to customize the sweetness of the dessert is desirable to many who don't like "too sweet" iced cakes.
In Mexico, you can find tres leches in nearly every bakery, restaurant, and taquiera there is, and is commonly served at family meals and celebrations!
Enjoy Chef Olivier's home Tres Leches recipe!
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 cup sugar (divide into ¾ and ¼ cups)
1 tsp vanilla extract
⅓ cup milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
⅓ cup 35% cream (+ more for as much fresh whipped cream as desired!)
Fresh berries (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350°F and grease a 9 x 13-inch cake pan with butter.
In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and set aside.
Separate the egg whites and yolks into 2 medium-sized bowls.
Add ¾ cup sugar to the bowl with the egg yolks and mix on high speed until yolks are pale yellow.
Rinse and dry your beaters.
On high, use your electric beaters to beat the egg whites on high speed. Gradually add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar as you mix and continue beating until stiff peaks.
Combine the egg yolk and sugar mix with the dry ingredients. Make sure to get rid of the lumps.
Gently fold the egg whites into the batter with a spatula little by little, do not overmix.
Pour the batter into your greased cake pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes at 350°F. Insert a toothpick into the centre and it should come out clean.
Once the cake has cooled, use a fork to poke holes in your cake and pour your syrup over the cake and let soak!
While soaking, make as much fresh whip cream as you would like (Chef prefers to use very little sugar for his whip). Finish by serving it with fresh whipped cream and decorating with fresh berries if desired. Enjoy!