Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pastel de Tres Leches (Cake of Three Milks)

The pastel de tres leches (cake of three milks) may have originated from either Nicaragua or Mexico according to What's Cooking America, Wikipedia, and Texas Cooking. This incredibly moist cake comes from being soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk or heavy cream. Topped with a layer of whipped cream. Hmm. Shouldn't it be cuatro leches cake then?

Tres leches cake is very popular in Latin American cuisine. The recipe supposedly came from the back of a can of evaporated or condensed milk as a way to promote the product. Condensed and evaporated milks were invented in the mid-1800's as a way to preserve milk without refrigeration. This recipe probably originated around the early 1900's.

Well, I did promise my cousins when they were over for bo luc lac (Vietnamese shaking beef) that I was making Cuban lemon garlic roast chicken the next day if they wanted to stop by. I thought this cake would be the perfect accompaniment. Except I didn't have evaporated milk on hand. I did have soy milk, however, and thought it was an perfectly acceptable substitute.

So after scanning various recipes, and making adjustments because I simply don't eat that much dessert, here's what I came up with.

If you want to serve this for dinner, it's best to make it early in the morning or the night before so the cake has a chance to cool down, and to absorb the milks.

Pastel de Tres Leches (Cake of Three Milks)

For an 8X8 inch cake, you'll need:

1 cup all-purpose or cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk, or cream
1/2 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
6 oz soy milk, or 1/2 12-oz can evaporated milk

For the frosting, you can make your own whipped cream topping by beating heavy whipping cream for 3 minutes. Or cheat like I did and use pre-made whipped cream.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat 1/4 cup butter with 1/2 cup sugar until mixture becomes light and fluffy. Add in one egg at a time, beating until mixture becomes creamy. Add 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and mix until blended. Pour into a greased pan. Spread the mixture out as much as you can. Don't worry if the batter seems sparse, it'll spread as it's baking.

After about 30 minutes, check to see if the cake is done. Allow to cool down. Then prick the cake all over with a fork like so.

Now you're ready to add your three milks. Thoroughly mix 1 cup milk or cream, 1/2 can condensed milk, 6 oz soy milk or 1/2 can evaporated milk. Pour three milks over the cake and let chill in fridge. It'll be very liquidy but after several hours, the cake will have absorbed the milk like so. You may have to prick the cake a bit more if it doesn't seem to be absorbing the milk.

Frost with whipped cream.

I like this cake best served chilled with the whipped cream just a little melty.

It's a very, very wet cake, but not mushy at all.

In case you missed it, I served the cake as part of my Cuban dinner with frijoles negros (Cuban black beans), bananas frita (fried bananas), and lemon garlic roast chicken.



  1. I'm sorry Dub C, but because of your, ahem, semen tea post I can't look at this cake without thinking of something else. Ha! You asked for it;)

  2. I ate a ton of tres leche cakes when we lived in the Dominican Republic. I liked it because it was sweet but not overwhelmingly so.

  3. Wow! between the Tres Leches and the Shaking Beef....I don't know which one I want to make first.
    Everything looks so yummy.

  4. Marvin,
    Eww, now I can't look at it that way either! But weak! I was expecting something better with your sense of humor! ;)

    I came across a Dominican recipe that had coconut milk. That sounded yum too!

    Make them both! :)

  5. it certainly looks very good and delicious. :)

  6. Ooh, thanks for the recipe - I've long wanted to make this cake, having had several yummy versions at various work events. And the quantities are perfect - I don't eat much dessert either and usually can't manage making dinner AND dessert :-)

  7. Cooking Ninja,

    Just make sure to let the milk soak overnight. It takes so long! And you may need to do a bit more pricking.


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