Almost every Tex-Mex restaurant has Tres Leches Cake on the dessert menu. I believe Texans are so enamored of it because it contains sweetened condensed milk. The Pioneer Woman likes to call it the nectar of the South. I couldn’t agree more. Tres Leches is a sponge cake drenched in a sweet, creamy sauce made of three milks. It’s heavenly. It’s a very strange cake in that it contains no oil or butter. And I’ve even seen flour-less versions of it that use ground almonds instead.
Now, there are many variations of this cake to be had. I’ve had delicious versions of this cake that contained Mexican vanilla. While tasty, I feel that it competes with the milk flavor. But if vanilla is your thing, by all means, stir some in! I’ve also had versions that contained cinnamon in the batter. I left it out of this recipe to stay true to the original, but I wouldn’t mind a bit if you added ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon. Most folks prefer this cake frosted with whipped cream, but I’m not a big fan of whipped cream in general so I serve it on the side. And finally, to many people, it’s not Tres Leches unless there’s a neon red Maraschino cherry on top. Feel free to garnish.
For the cake:
- 1/2 cup unbleached flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 large egg, separated
- pinch of cream of tartar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup half and half
For the milk sauce:
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 2/3 cup sweetened, condensed milk
- First, preheat your oven to 350°. Grease a 6” cake pan with butter.
- In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
- In a medium glass bowl with scrupulously clean beaters, beat the egg white with a pinch of cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Tilt the bowl to help get it going if necessary. Once soft peaks form, slowly stream in the sugar while beating continuously.
- Next, beat in the egg yolk.
- Now, turn off the beaters and switch to a rubber spatula. Fold in one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the half-and-half. Repeat, finishing with the flour mixture.
- Scrape this mixture into the cake pan and level it with the spatula. Bake for 22 minutes. The cake is done when it pulls away from the edges of the pan and has a golden brown crust. Cool the cake on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes.
- Next, invert the cake onto a serving plate that has a lip to catch the milk sauce. In a measuring cup, stir together the half-and-half and the sweetened condensed milk. Using a toothpick, make holes all over the cake. Pour the condensed milk mixture on the cake slowly.
- Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Serve with whipped cream and Maraschino cherries, if desired.