One of my favorite desserts is Pastel Tres Leches (AKA Cake with three milks). It’s rich, so I have it about once a year. I’ve experimented with many recipes for Pastel Tres Leches. I narrowed down my search to two, one by Pati Jinich (Pati’s Mexican Table) and one by the editors of Cook’s Country and developed a hybrid of the two. I then tweaked it until it was—at least to me—to die for yummy. But I must give credit to both sources for the inspiration to master this dessert.
The cake is a two-day, three-step process, so one might argue it isn’t a hasty tasty meals recipe. I won’t debate that. But some things are worth the extra trouble. Pastel Tres Leches is a rare treat for me, and is worthy of the time and effort. If you don’t agree, then shop the bakery at Publix. They sell a good version of the cake.
First, understand that the cake is a cousin of bread pudding in that it’s a custardy dessert. If you accept that the dish is cake only in its infancy, and that you must feed it milk to grow it into a mature dessert, you’ll have no trouble following the three steps.
You may use a stand mixer, hand mixer, food processor, or the Vitamix. My version employs the Vitamix. You bake the cake, store, and serve all in the same pan.
Pastel Tres Leches
©2014 Cheryl Norman
Day One: The cake
- Preheat oven to 325°. Spray nonstick cooking spray inside a 9” X 13” baking pan.
- In the 64 oz. wet container of the Vitamix, whip 6 large eggs for approximately 30 seconds on Variable speed 1 gradually increasing to 10 then High. To the whipped eggs add ½ cup milk, 1 stick unsalted butter (melted and cooled to “warm”), and 1 ¾ cups sugar. Blend on Variable speeds 1—10 then High until blended. (Some recipes call for 2 cups sugar, but that was a bit sweet for my taste)
- Combine 1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. Kosher salt, 2 tsp. baking powder, and a pinch of cinnamon. Add the dry ingredients in one-cup increments to the egg sugar mixture. Process on Variable speed 3-4 just enough to mix. Do not over blend.
- Pour batter into the prepared baking pan, place on the center shelf of the preheated oven, and bake 35 minutes. Batter will be wet and the cake will not raise much during baking.
- When cake is done (inserted toothpick tests clean), cool in the pan on a rack for 30 minutes while you prepare the three milks.
Day One: The Tres Leches
- In a microwave safe bowl or in a double boiler, heat the contents of one can of condensed sweetened milk on Low until it becomes a light caramel color. Cool to room temperature. (This step can be omitted, but caramelizing the milk intensifies its flavor)
- Combine cooled condensed milk with 1 cup coconut milk and 1 can evaporated milk (both at room temperature). Or you may use 1 cup whole milk or half and half instead of the coconut milk.
- With a skewer, poke holes evenly into the cake at about ½-inch intervals. Slowly pour the three milks mixture over the cake until it’s completely covered.
- Let cake rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Refrigerate uncovered overnight or at least 8 hours. This concludes Day One and Steps One and Two.
Day Two: Whipped Cream Topping
- Remove the chilled cake from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving.
- In the dry container of the Vitamix, combine 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract, and 1 Tbsp. corn syrup. Whip on Variable Speed 3 just until the cream thickens.
- Spread the whipped cream over the cake and (Optional) sprinkle with 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut. Cut cake into 12 slices, and serve. Refrigerate leftovers for up to three days.
You can omit Day One/Step One and use a boxed cake mix, and/or substitute prepared whipped topping for Day Two/Step Three to save time, but it isn’t as yummy.