LIGHT AND FLUFFY SPONGE CAKE SOAKED IN VANILLA FLAVORED THREE MILKS MIXTURE.
Tres Leches is our family´s all time favorite dessert. The reason for this is very simple: my mom has the best recipe in the whole wide world. This is not an overstatement, there is no close second that we´ve ever come across. Growing up in Lima, all our friends were crazy about it too, and were very happy that two large containers of cold, incredibly wet Tres Leches could very often be found in our fridge when they visited our house. The large containers never lasted more than a couple of days, and I´m afraid the largest portion always ended up in my grateful belly. We would have it for dessert after lunch and dinner, take huge portions of it in our lunchboxes to school, and I don´t know about the rest of the family, but I would even have it for breakfast (not very wise, but back then I didn´t even know the meaning of the word “health”). All I knew was that two 8×8 inch expressways to pleasure land were staring at me every time I opened the fridge. There was no way I could resist.
Three years ago I found myself in Lima trying to learn how to make a Tres Leches for the first time, as I started a dessert business and one of my customers wanted to add it to her menu. She wanted the original recipe, that she had heard was from Nicaragua. “I´m your girl”, I jumped immediately. Our recipe, as we knew would happen, was a total hit. I also made a more Peruvian take on it with Lucuma, a typical fruit from the Andes that is used for many desserts such as mousses, cheesecakes, ice creams, etc. What I did was blend some of it into the 3 milk mixture, et voilà ! It took longer to be absorbed by the cake, as it was more viscous, but the result was amazing. Only problem: it´s shelf life was shorter than the regular Tres Leches, because the fruit went bad faster.
Here is our fail-proof recipe for you to enjoy with your loved ones. It´s guaranteed to make everyone secretly want to lick the plate, (or be shameless like me and actually do it). If you want you can add some Lucuma flavor for a little extra Peruvian-ness and yummie-ness. If you find Lucuma powder in the supermarket or grocery store, just add 2 tablespoons to the milk mixture. You can be the judge of how much is enough. Last year we took a huge tray to a Thanksgiving dinner in Virginia, and it was gone before anyone could say Tres Leches. Compliments abounded. Why don´t you try it? You may become the dessert rock star of your next social gathering.
TRES LECHES (Makes an 8 x 8 inch tray. About 8-10 portions).
3 eggs (at room temperature)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk (at room temperature)
1 can condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
*Turn the oven on to 350 F.
*Sift the flour together with the baking powder.
* Beat eggs at the highest speed for about 5 minutes. They have to grow to about 3 times the volume (or more) from when you started beating them. Make sure your mixer is completely dry before you pour the eggs in it, otherwise they won´t grow. Same advice goes when preparing the meringue.
* Add the sugar little by little while still beating the grown eggs.
*Turn the beater down to slow speed and add a third of the flour, then a third of the milk, then a third of the flour, and so on, till all the ingredients blend completely.
*Transfer to an oven proof container (I use Pyrex), and bake for 30 minutes.
*In the meantime, mix the 3 milks with the vanilla and set aside.
*To make sure the cake is ready, pinch with a knife and it should come out clean, otherwise leave it in the oven for a few extra minutes till the knife comes out clean.
*Pinch the cake everywhere with a stick or with a fork. Do it as soon as it comes out of the oven so it´s still hot. Pour the cold milks over the cake immediately, making sure you do this evenly and cover every part of the cake, including the sides and corners.
*Let it cool, and then serve, or put in the fridge to serve cold (I prefer the latter). It keeps well in the fridge for several days, even better if covered with a lid or plastic film.
If you want to decorate it with meringue, here are the instructions:
*Beat 2 egg whites at full speed till they grow and start getting the consistency of soft meringue. (Again, make sure your mixer is completely dry and that there´s absolutely no trace of yolk, otherwise the whites won´t grow). Pour 1/2 cup confectioner´s sugar (or to taste), tablespoon by tablespoon, while still beating. You may want to do this on a low speed so it doesn´t bring up a sugar cloud in all your kitchen, and when it´s properly mixed with the egg whites start beating fast again. Stop beating when the meringue has the consistency you want and looks shiny and silky. If you keep beating past this point the meringue gets ruined, so better to stop early than late.