Tres Leche Cake

Recipe from Good Food Magazine, March 2019

I like to take the opportunity to bake and improve my baking skills when I’m going to see enough people to eat and enjoy what I’ve made. This recipe caught my attention as it looked like a very light, moist cake that’s a bit different to the usual suspects.

Difficulty rating- 3/5, the recipe calls for separating eggs and needs careful handling to avoid knocking air out of the batter.

Necessary equipment-

4x mixing bowls (Or 2, washed up and used twice)

1x electric whisk

1x spatula

1x large metal spoon

1x 20cm square cake tin

1x skewer

1x hand whisk

1x palette knife

For how many people? 16


Total time taken (according to the recipe)- 1 hour 15 minutes plus cooling

Total time taken by me- 1 hour 25 minutes plus cooling

Hands-on time (according to the recipe)- 30 minutes

Hands-on time taken by me (including ingredients prep)- 40 minutes: 30 minutes before oven time, 10 minutes soaking/icing after the cake had cooled.

Oven time (according to the recipe)- 40-45 minutes

Oven time taken by me- 40 minutes

The making

I realised I only had a 23cm square cake tin, not a 20cm square tin, so from this point I was hoping the cake wouldn’t end up flat and dense as a result of a top large tin. I started off by greasing the tin with vegetable oil. I would have used a pastry brush for this but ours was in the dishwasher so I used kitchen roll instead.

I separated the eggs into two separate bowls. Using an electric hand whisk I beat the whites until they were frothy- the recipe seemed to think this would take three minutes but it only took about thirty seconds for them to turn completely to froth, so I was a bit worried I’d used too high a speed on the mixer. I added three quarters of the sugar to the mixture a dessert spoon at a time while I carried on whisking it. Later, when I added this to the egg yolk mixture the sugar and egg whites seemed to have separated a bit, so a teaspoon at a time may have been better.

Then I used the electric whisk to beat the yolks with the rest of the sugar for the full two minutes specified, before folding in the flour baking powder and milk with a spatula, as carefully as I could to avoid knocking any air out. Switching to a large wooden spoon, I did the same again, stirring in the egg white mix as carefully as possible.

At this point I realised I had forgotten to pre-heat the oven, so I turned the oven on, cursing my foolishness, praying all the air I’d been so carefully trying to keep in the mixture wouldn’t have time to escape and counting my blessings that our oven doesn’t take very long to heat up.

I poured the batter into the cake tin, there was no need to level it out as it was quite liquid and settled smoothly by itself. A few minutes later, when the oven had heated, I put the cake in.

After 40 minutes it was cooked through so I took it out of the oven. While I was waiting for it to cool I mixed together the ‘tres leche’ and then skewered holes evenly over the cake and spooned half the mixture over the top. Because I was going to be serving it in an environment in which people wouldn’t necessarily have plates & forks with which to eat the cake, I decided not to soak it with the rest of the mixture later.

Just before I was going to leave the house, I whipped the cream together with the icing sugar. It stiffened into soft peaks very quickly. I spooned most of the mixture over the top of the cake with a palette knife and sprinkled some cinnamon over the top.

Any cheats or changes?

I didn’t use all of the soaking liquid because of the environment in which the cake was going to be eaten.

Any extra tips?

Make sure you have spare eggs as it’s very easy to break a yolk while separating them. Also, use a smaller bowl or cup to catch each egg white before tipping it into the mixing bowl. That way, if you end up contaminating one of the egg whites with a broken yolk, you won’t have ruined the whites from the previously separated eggs.

If you don’t have an electric hand mixer, be prepared for a lot more work and for the first mixture to lose more air while you’re beating the second mixture.

Anything you’d change for next time?

I’d make sure to use the right size cake tin & remember to pre-heat the oven, but they were my mistakes not the recipe’s!

Serving Size- perfect for elevenses or an afternoon treat with a cup of coffee.

The eating-

Visually it was far more impressive than I had expected it to be. Presentation is definitely not my strong point, but the simplicity of this cake meant even I couldn’t ruin it and it actually looked really special.

The cake was such an enjoyable thing to eat. The flavours of sweet cream & milk are such a source of pleasure and nostalgia for me, which I forget until their presence takes me back in time. Cinnamon has a similar effect, but with extra Christmassy memories thrown in. Taking those things into account, this cake was always going to be a big hitter for me flavourwise.

Texturally, I really enjoyed the stickiness the soaking liquid imparted, it gave the cake an extra level of naughtiness which is part of the fun of eating cake. I can only imagine this would be enhanced further by using more of the soaking liquids as the recipe asked. The sponge was slightly closer and denser in texture than I had hoped for, but I think that’s because of my own errors with the cake tin size & leaving the mixture in the tin while waiting for the oven to heat during the baking process rather than a fault of the recipe. If I make it again, I will update this on whether these were improved by not making the same mistakes.

Any comments from other people?

It seemed to be a crowd pleaser, a lot of people said it was delicious and a few went back for a second slice.

My husband also really enjoyed it and said he definitely wouldn’t have wanted any more of the soaking liquid poured over as then the cake would have been too sweet for him.

Verdict– 4.5/5, not quite stunning enough to get full marks but pretty close! A clear, easy to follow recipe which yields really fantastic results. This would be perfect to serve at small parties at home or as a contribution to a coffee morning, and if you needed more cake, double the amount of batter distributed equally between two tins would be almost no extra effort.

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