Tres Leches Cake – or Nectar and Ambrosia


You know how the default option of bringing something sweet to a party, potluck or brunch is always something with chocolate? Because pretty much everyone likes chocolate? Be it in chocolate chip cookie form, babka, brownies etc. Chocolate-anything baked goods are hard to resists. Well here is the thing, chocolate is not the only thing that gets people swooning in sweet sugary delight. Tres Leches Cake does the exact same thing.

On paper, Tres Leches sounds wholly unappealing. At least to me. I mean, who really wants to eat a dessert that is essentially a wet sponge cake, served cold? And we are not talking moist, we are talking soaking wet. And mushy (admittedly that never stopped anyone from liking Tiramisu). But then you try your first Tres Leches cake and you are immediately converted. Flavourwise it is as sickeningly yet comfortingly sweet as the puddle of milk left over from eating a bowl of Frostries. Pure infantile delight. Or nectar and ambrosia as we like to call such things in my family. It also means it’s the perfect thing to make for a crowd – unless one of your friends has a serious dairy intolerance, it will be difficult to find anyone who will not ask for seconds or thirds.*

*I tested this at a dumpling feast with friends last year. After seriously gorging on hundreds of dumplings lovely folded by my sister and a friend of ours, noone could have (or should have) had any space left for dessert. And yet, everyone had a piece of the Tres Leches cake I had brought. And then went for seconds. Some for thirds. And some people may have even scraped the serving platter clean with their spoons. Tres Leches cake is that good.

And there is no real magic to the recipe: a simple fat free sponge soaked in a mixture of 3 different types of milk (fresh cow milk, condensed milk and evaporated milk) and topped with barely sweetened whipped cream. But I figure that whenever you hit on a total crowd pleaser of a recipe it only seems fair to share it.

Tres Leches Cake

Notes: This is the bare bones version of Tres Leches Cake. Some people replace one of the milks with coconut milk and finish the cake with toasted shaved desiccated coconut. Others top it with salted chopped peanuts. Both of which add a nice textural contrast. Some place glace cherries on top of the cake which sounds both cute and retro. Others add a bit of their favourite tipple to the soaking liquid (something like baileys or frangelico is probably nice here). Yet others serve Tres Leches cake alongside a tropical fruit salad (think mango, passion fruit, papaya etc) to cut through the sweetness. You could even add a layer of Dulce de Leche right before spreading the whipped cream on the cake. So feel free to play with this. 

Serves 9


For the cake
3 eggs
150g sugar
125g flour
1 tsp baking powder

To soak the cake
200ml evaporated milk
200ml sweetened condensed milk
200ml milk

To finish
250ml cream
1 tbsp sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius and grease and flour a small baking pan (mine measures 20x30cm).

In a large bowl suspended over a pot of simmering water, whip the eggs with the sugar until tripled in volume and very thick (ca. 7 minutes).

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Carefully fold into the whipped eggs.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for ca. 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Once the cake has cooled pierce all over with a wooden skewer.

Mix together the three milks and pour over the cake. Initially it will look like it is far too much liquid but the sponge will eventually soak it all up.

Cover and place cake in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Just before serving whip the cream with the sugar, then spread all over the cake.

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