Phoebe's Tres Leches Cake

When my granddaughter says she wants to bake or cook something, I’m always in!  Her latest interest was in baking a Tres Leches Cake.  Did you know there is a Tres Leches Cake mix?  We didn’t use it.  I wanted her to learn how to make if from scratch.

There are zillions of recipes for this cake online.  I chose to use Pioneer Woman’s recipe, changing the flavoring extract from vanilla to almond.  The cake is essentially a sponge cake, and I’ve been baking those for forty years.  A sponge cake is my go-to when I want a dynamite flavor in the cake mix.  A sponge cake is also better the second day than the day it is baked.  Sponge cake is the foundation for peanut rolls, which are a favorite fundraiser in my neck of the woods.  You can’t go wrong with a sponge cake.

We started our cake adventure on a Sunday at noon.  We baked the cake, poured the three milk combination over it and refrigerated it until dinner time.  Just before serving it at dinner, we whipped the frosting.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
5 whole eggs, separated
1 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup whole milk

For the three-milk combination that your pour over the cake:
1 can evaporated milk
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup of whipping cream

For the icing:
At least a pint of whipping cream. I used 3 cups.
3 Tablespoons sugar

Here is how we made it!

We used a stand mixer, but a hand mixer will work fine. Unlike the recipes tell us, I begin by separating my eggs and whipping the whites until stiff, but soft.  I pour the egg whites into a smaller container, so I only have to use one bowl for the stand mixer.  The whites will stay perfect until you are ready to fold them into the batter.


Then we creamed the egg yellows with the sugar and the almond
extract.  When the eggs are light yellow and creamy, whip in the 1/3 cup of milk.

Now it is time to blend in the flour.  Mix the baking powder and the salt with the flour so it is well distributed, then blend in the flour.  When this is well mixed, it is time to fold in the egg whites.  We used a spatula to do this.  We removed the bowl from the mixer, poured the egg whites in and gently lived the batter from the bottom, folding in the egg whites.  It is important to do this gently, so the batter is light and fluffy.

Pour the batter into a 13 x 9 inch pan which has been prepared with baking spray.  Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.  Remove the cake and let it cool.  We left our cake in the pan,  but you can turn it out onto a serving piece if you’d like. 

While the cake is baking, mix together the 1 can evaporated milk, 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and ¼ cup of whipping cream. You can do this with a whisk or a fork in a measuring cup with a spout.

After the cake cools for about 30 minutes, use a fork and pierce holes all over it.  Don’t think of this as a “poke cake” and use the handle of a wooden spoon.  You need to use the fine tines of a dinner fork.  Pour the three milk mixture over the cake and along the edges, so the mixture soaks in the cake.

Cover the cake and refrigerate it for at least three hours.

When you are ready to frost  the cake, whip the whipping cream with 3 Tablespoons of sugar until stiff peaks form.  Use the whipped cream as frosting.  Place a maraschino cherry on what will be each piece of cake.  We guessed we’d cut 12 pieces of cake.  In reality, 16 or 18 pieces would have been plenty big enough.

Tip about maraschino cherries – If you just lift the cherry out of the jar and put it on any cake frosting the juices in the cherry will run all over the frosting.
  You can prevent this by counting out the cherries you need and placing them on a couple layers of paper towels.  The juices will run out and the cherries will essentially be dry when you use them.

You can tell my looking at this picture, that this cake was scrumptious.  It was shared with friends, but it still took us about three days to finish it off!

If this looks like an unhappy baker, she's not.  She never wants to have her picture taken, although her career goal is to be a photographer!  She just likes the other side of the camera.

Make this cake.  It is delicious.

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