HCB: Tortas de las Tres Leche

>> January 18, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, I purchase Rose Levy Beranbaum book “Rose’s Heavenly Cakes”. I have her other book  “The Cake Bible” and in the past would use it as a huge reference point when I wanted to dig in deep and go all out on cake making.

This new book is beautiful. I think I love it more than the old book and as soon as I sat down to view it; I started to mark all the wonderful cakes I wanted to make.

I was in trouble.

Then I found this group and I knew I was lost.  Actually, everyone in my house was in trouble - Cake-baking-galore coming up, hold on to your waistline folks!

The baking group works simply by posting a weekly cake from the book to make and everyone bakes it and blogs about their overall experience.  Having said this, I will note right now that due to copyright laws this will be the only time I WILL NOT POST the actual recipe of what I'm making.  You will need to go and get the book, but trust me, it's totally worth the money, specially if you like baking.

Let's start the show!

A side story to this cake.  I have been making a different version of this cake for over 20 years. When I lived in Miami all the Nicaraguan restaurants around town have this cake on their dessert menu, and once I tasted it, I knew I had to learn to make it. Lucky for me, one of my junior high school friends’ mom used to make this cake for a very popular restaurant in South Florida called Los Ranchos. So I made sure I paid attention and perfected the recipe throught the years. The cake according to my family (and friends) became my signature cake and it’s the first one that is requested during those important dates.

When I read Rose’s version I was intrigue because it was totally different take on how I made mine, so I was exited to try it and see if I could perfect my own some more.

My family not to much.  They believe in the "if it ain't broken, don't fix it" theory.

The actually sponge cake was easy enough to make, and I learned a whole different way of making it from the book. The warming up of the sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt over simmering water was a bit intimidating, mainly because it was a new technique for me. I was a bit unsure as to when it would be “warm enough” since the book was very unclear on this step, so I took a chance, placed the “warm” mixture in my kitchen aid to beat on high and double in volume. I'm happy to report that I hit it right on point… the creamy, double mixture was a perfect velvety pale yellow as noted in the instructions.

The next step was to fold the flour and pour the batter into a round 8x3 cake pan - I do not own a 9x3 cake pan, so I decided to best sacrifice a bit of the batter, since I did not want it to spill all over the oven. (Methinks I’m going to have to buy a 9x3 round pan in the near future, since that is what is used the most as a baking pan in the book.) That decision worked as well.

The cake did what the book said, it rose, cracked a bit on top and when tested came out dry – DONE and DONE!

Took it out of the oven and unmolded it right away, as per instructions (Another first for me).

I then set out to prepare the milk mixture and this is where this cake is totally different from my own recipe. Rose’s uses skim milk, whole milk, heavy cream and sweeten condensed milk and she cooks it. (My version uses whole milk, evaporated milk, sour cream, sweeten condense milk and rum - and no cooking it anywhere). Verdict? End results were a bit sweet on my part but I keep on, I was determined to follow this to a “T”.

Then the soaking began and into the refrigerator it went for an overnight rest.

Since I had the family coming over to taste this and I knew that most would be taking a piece with them I decided not to follow the books instructions in toping it with heavy whipped cream since it was going to flatten rigth away after sitting on it for a couple of hours. So instead I used my own topping which is basically an Italian Meringue (which I learned to do from Rose’s first book). I also covered the whole cake instead of just the top.

And then the comments came in.

My mother who is a true Tres Leche fan: told me that while this version was “ok” she preferred my own version. She mention that this was much sweeter and felt it was not moist or creamy enough (my version does not get unmolded, but stays in the pan maintaining the cake super moist at all times).

Tom (the boyfriend): Liked my version as well, commented on being too sweet as well. But, did say that if did not know better, he would probably like it and would ask for a repeat performance.

My neighbors who tasted it for the first time ever: Really loved it. And actually took almost ½ of the cake home with them.

My take: Like my mother and the boyfriend I thought it was on the sweet end as well. I did like the texture of the sponge cake and I may adapt my own recipe to use this version. But I will stick with my own rendering of the soaking milk and my topping.


kuchenbaaker 18/1/10 2:12 PM  

HI Monica! I just came upon your Blog spinning off the Heavenly Cake Bakers one - I may also become hopelessly lost there... read your piece on tres Leches with great interest as I too have tried a few versions - some ok, some outstanding. Would you be at all willing to share the recipe for your Soaking Mixture - I am not so much into heavily over-sweet cakes, so am intereste dto see if yours is more similar to the one I use. ALSO - do you think that this cake could possibly be baked in individual serving sized foil cups for use as a dessert to serve hundreds of guests? I love that it is make-ahead and have been trying to think of a fuss-free way to serve it as the dessert at our church's annual Fundraising dinner for the Ministry in Mexico. Thanks and I look forward to your response!

Monica 18/1/10 7:12 PM  

Hi Kuchenbaaker....

My soaking mixture:

1 can sweetened Condense Milk
1 can of Evaporated Milk
1 can (use the empty one of the Evaporated Milk) of whole milk
1 can (use the empty one of the evaporated milk) of Sour Cream or Heavy Table Cream (this can be found in a Latin Market, or you can also use the mexican crema)
1 tablespoon of rum (this gives it a whole other dimension)
3 Egg yolks (save the whites for the topping)

I warm up the whole milk in the microwave.. everything else gets mixed in a bowl, pour the hot milk and mix up, and soak up the cake, which in my case does not get un-molded, but stays in a square pan.

On your other question, yes, you can do them individually. In fact in Miami and Tampa (where I live now) when you go to the latin markets or restaurants, they served/sell the Tres Leche in individual containers, like these: http://www.instawares.com/aluminum-cup-4-oz-34130hfa.34130hfa.0.7.htm?gclid=CMyHoZaUr58CFQ-bnAodoBXX1g&s_kwcid=TC|11195|aluminum%20baking%20cup||S|b|4934344329&

You can bake them in the cups and then soak them in there and cover with the toping.... give a spoon and done. I think for what you are thinking of doing it will be the best option. The only thing is you will really need to watch them when you bake them, I'm sure they will bake faster than if they would be in a bigger cake pan.

Hope this has help you out :)

faithy, the baker 18/1/10 11:02 PM  

I love how your topping on the cake! Thanks for sharing your soaking mixture Monica! I think yours is way easier than having to reduce the milk imo!

Vicki 19/1/10 3:18 PM  

Great photos! And your cake had the requisite "crack". It looks really nice.
Thanks for your Tres Leche version. Fun to
note the different recipes for this cake.

Nancy B 21/1/10 11:45 AM  

I'm also intrigued by your soaking mixture, especially as I'm also often saying "too sweet for me" on these cakes. I'm thinking the sour cream option would really help cut that back, and if I do a tres leches again I think I'll give your mixture a try. Thanks!

Nicola 21/1/10 12:26 PM  

Great photos! And your cake looks fab. I think the Italian meringue would add an extra dose of sweetness on top of that already in the syrup drenched cake?

Does that mean that your soaking mixture has raw egg in it? Or does it heat up enough with the milk?

kuchenbaaker 21/1/10 1:15 PM  

Thanks so much Monica - for sharing your Tres Leches secret with us! My recipe for soaking liquid had a greater proportion of heavy cream, with evaporated and sweetened condensed milk (I make from scratch using dry milk powder- easy and economical!)but it's a bit over the top calorie-wise... The addition of sour cream sounds delightful! The topping in my recipe is a combination of whipped cream and sour cream which I also love! A maraschino cherry on top adds a perky note of colour and eye appeal. I will definitely be trying the mini versions for church soon! Will keep you posted on the response! Meantime I look forward to your next posts...

Dina 21/1/10 5:57 PM  

the cake looks wonderful. it rose really well. looks delish!

Monica 21/1/10 8:57 PM  

Nicola.. yes, the egg yolks go in raw, that is why I take the step of warming up the milk in the microwave, in order to cook the yolks once I mix everything in, which do using a mixer to wip everything up nice and smooth..the other secret ingredient that knocks the sweetness is the rum, it just gives it that "yum yum" taste.

And you are right, the toping will add to the sweetness, but since my mixture is not as sweet as the one in Rose's book, it usually balances out. I think that is the reason why most of my die-hard tres leche fans in my family mention the sweetness.

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