It’s a glorious weekend for a barbecue – Summer is here! Now, although cake is not traditional BBQ food, when it comes to a cookout, I’m in charge of dessert. I leave my friends to get in touch with their inner pyromaniac lighting and cooking on the barbie, and I sort the pud for when everyone craves that sweet kick at the end of the evening. It’s a system that seems to work, so this week, I’m offering a summery, South American Tres Leches Cake.
what is Tres Leches Cake?
Tres leches cake is a beloved dessert hailing from Latin America. Tres Leches means ‘three milks,’ because the cake is soaked in a three-milk mixture once baked. It is believed to have evolved from various European sponge cake recipes that were brought to the region during colonial times.
The concept of soaking cakes in sweetened milk likely developed as a way to make dry cakes more palatable in regions with limited access to fresh dairy products.
The traditional tres leches cake can be customized and varied in many delicious ways. Many different types of tres leches cakes incorporate different flavors by adding fruit such as strawberries, lemon, pineapple, raspberries, pumpkins, or mangoes, incorporating chocolate for a tres leches chocolate cake, or even infusing it with coffee (mocha) for a subtle caffeine kick.
You can also add other ingredients to make your cake more creative like pumpkin spice, coconut milk, eggnog, rasmalai, caramel sauce, herbs, or nuts like pistachios or almonds. To make healthy vegan tres leches cake, you can use plant-based milk, eliminate eggs, and add other ingredients like vinegar and vegetable oil.
simple Tres Leches cake recipe
It is a lovely, simple cake with an easy recipe for outdoor entertaining because it is so effortlessly light – it’s not a doorstop of a cake you have to eat on an empty stomach. Its milky sweetness is also very satisfying and has a kind of nostalgia to it – a taste of childhood.
The cake is soaked in a mixture of three different types of milk. It can look a bit kitsch when cut into squares and topped with a glace cherry, so I baked a round cake and topped it with chocolate sprinkles for something a little different (OK, you may think chocolate sprinkles are still kitsch but I’m fine with that!) Here is how to make tres leches cake:
Tres Leches Cake
For the cake
- 175 g caster sugar
- 175 g plain flour I used a gluten-free blend
- 1 tsp baking powder gluten-free, available in most supermarkets
- 4 eggs
- 75 ml milk
For the sauce
- 400 ml condensed milk
- 200 ml evaporated milk
- 200 ml double cream
- Preheat the oven to 180oC and grease and line a cake tin.
- Separate the eggs – put the whites into a large bowl and use an electric whisk to beat until thick and peaks form.
- Fold in the sugar gently and then fold in the egg yolks one at a time.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the flour (sieve first), baking powder and milk, then fold this into the egg mixture.
- Transfer to the tin and bake for about 40 mins, until risen and golden.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce by lightly whisking together half the condensed milk, half the double cream and all the evaporated milk.
- As soon as the cake is out of the oven, skewer all over and pour the sauce over so that it soaks into the cake. Leave to cool for 5 mins in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack.
- Make the cream topping by whisking together the rest of the cream and the condensed milk until thickened.
- Once the cake is cool, spread this on top and decorate as desired.