|This is what your cake will look like after you have poured in the cream. Do not be disturbed.|
|Yes, your cake may ooze on your plate. This is normal. Just think of it as brains and pretend to be a zombie.|
For those of you whose Spanish is limited to Taco Bell menus and Ricky Martin ditties, 'tres leches' refers to the three milks -- usually whole, condensed and evaporated -- that soak this sponge cake to a gooey, custardy consistency, after which it's covered with tangy meringue or sweetened whipped cream.
After much research, all of which led to nowhere, the only certain origin story I can pinpoint for this delight is as follows:
"Pastel de Tres Leches" is descended from a long and respectable tradition of desserts that extends back through colonial Mexican history to medieval Europe. However, the version we have all grown accustomed to became popularized via Nestle Evaporate Milk, who had published the recipe on the outside of cans shortly after WWII. So there you go.
TRES LECHES CAKE
6 large eggs, separated
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 14-ounce can evaporated milk
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
** It is not unheard to also add rum, khalua, or amaretto at this point to add a little extra kick. I added tequila to mine. Dump in as much or as little as you want to taste... but remember, you idiot, the alcohol bakes out leaving only the flavor behind. You will not get drunk with your little baked White Russian experiment.
3 tablespoons water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large egg whites
1 ripe mango, peeled, seed removed, and thinly sliced
1 ripe papaya, peeled, seeds removed, and thinly sliced
** I'll be honest... I just bought jarred papaya and mango fruit slices, found in the jam aisle of my grocery store. This cake was too much work to also have to chop up and deseed fruit... plus, the jarred versions are already glazed with a preservative, so it won't rot in your fridge when you're storing away your leftovers.
To make the cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer, beat the egg whites on low speed until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually with the mixer running and peak to stiff peaks. Add the egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after the addition of each.
Sift together the flour and baking powder and add to the egg mixture, alternating with the milk. (Do this quickly so the batter does not lose volume.) Add the vanilla. Bake until golden, 25 minutes.
To make the cream topping
In a blender, combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream and blend on high speed.
** I don't have a blender. A food processor or even your beaters will work just fine.
Remove the cake from the oven and while still warm, pour the cream mixture over it. Let sit and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.
To make the icing
Once the cake is completely chilled, in a saucepan combine the water and sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Cook until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, 235 to 240 degrees F. Remove from the heat. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. While beating, add the hot syrup in a stream. Beat until all the syrup has been added, the mixture cools, and a glossy icing forms.
Remove the cake from the refrigerator and spread the icing evenly across the top. Arrange the mango and papaya slices over the top and serve.