I wish I could say that I grew up eating tres leches cake when I lived in Colombia or even when I was a kid here in the US but I would be lying to you if I did. My family is not really big into baking and it seems like I was the only one who is crazy about it, so we never had it growing up. In fact, I didn’t actually get to eat it until I was in college and it was only because my mother gave me a leftover piece from a birthday party she had been invited to, and it was delicious!
You will read in many food blogs or even recipe sites that tres leches cake originated in Mexico, others say it was creted in Costa Rica, others say South America, many in Colombia say it was born there even though they call it “torta genovesa” (Genoese cake), and they’re all right… and wrong. No one really knows where it came from even if they swear up and down that they do, but the reality is, no one can really say for sure. It does have a lot of Latin flavor though so I’ll give them that much. I guess the correct answer would be that it is considered a Latin American cake. How about that?
The traditional way of baking it is by using a sheet cake pan, usually 9 x 13 inches (33 x 23 cm), so that it can catch all the extra liquid that the cake may not be able to absorb, plus it makes it much easier to bake. However, my favorite way of making it is by using a 9 x 2 inches (23 x 5 cm) round baking dish and then cut it in half to make it into a two tier cake, it not only looks better but you can also fill it with whipped cream and fruit if you want. The trick is to use less liquid or you’ll end up with a huge mess. In this recipe I decided to add a little bit of arequipe to the whipped cream to give it a richer flavor and the result is amazing!
- 1½ cup (210g) all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 cup (200g) white sugar
- 4 large egg yolks
- ½ cup (118 ml) whole milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup (200 g) strawberries, sliced (For the filling)
- 4 large strawberries, cut in half (For decoration)
Arequipe (Dulce de Leche) Whipped Cream:
- 2 cups (472 ml) whipping cream
- 3 tbsp arequipe or dulce de leche
- 1/3 cup (55 g) powdered sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup (118 ml) heavy whipping cream
- 1 can (354 ml) evaporated milk
- ½ cup (118 ml) sweetened condensed milk
- Pre-heat oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
- In a medium bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- Whisk the egg whites until frothy. Slowly add the sugar while still whisking at high speed until it thickens, approximately 3-4 minutes.
- Add the egg yolks one at a time while mixer is still running and mix at high speed for another 3-5 minutes.
- Add half of the flour mixture and keep mixing until it is blended. Then, add the milk and the vanilla extract. Finally, add the remaining amount of flour. Mix until everything is well blended.
- Grease and flour a 9 x 2 inch (23 x 5 cm) round baking pan and pour in the batter. Tap a few times so the air bubbles rise to the top and bake for about 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the baked cake cool on a cooling rack.
- Mix ½ cup (118 ml) of the heavy whipping cream with the arequipe or dulce de leche.
- Place the remainder whipping cream in a mixing bowl that has been in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. Mix at high speed until it foams. Add the ½ cup of dulce de leche whipping cream and keep mixing until it thickens, approx. 1-2 minutes. Then add the powdered sugar and the vanilla extract, keep mixing at high speed until soft peaks form (about 3-5 minutes). Refrigerate until ready to use.
- In a medium bowl mix the heavy cream, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk. Set aside.
- Once the cake has cooled, cut it in half with a cake leveler or a knife so you end up with two pieces. Poke one of the cake pieces with a fork and then slowly pour half of the tres leches mixture. Let the cake absorb it thoroughly.
- Once the milk has been absorbed, cover the cake with some of the whipped cream and then place the strawberry slices on top. Cover the strawberries with another layer of whipped cream.
- Place the second cake half on top of the strawberries, poke it with a fork and slowly pour the rest of the tres leches mix. Let the cake absorb it completely.
- Finish frosting the cake with the remainder whipped cream and the rest of the strawberries. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
- You can double this recipe to make two 9 inch cakes.
- If making two cakes, then you should also double the amount of whipped cream, strawberries and tres leches.
- The arequipe gives the whipped cream a delicious caramel flavor, but you can omit it, if you want.
- If you cannot find evaporated milk, you can substitute it with regular whole milk.
- Try not to overmix the batter once you add the flour to avoid ending up with a dry and dense cake.
- Do not overmix the whipping cream or it’ll curdle.
- Keep the cake refrigerated so the whipped cream does not start to melt.