Monday, January 18, 2010

HCB - Torta de las Tres Leches

I picked this week's recipe for the Heavenly Cake Bakers: Torta de las Tres Leches. Yay! I chose to make this cake for my husband's birthday. And since Marie already made this cake before, I'm your guest host for this week :o)

A little history lesson... Although nobody knows for sure where this recipe originated from, it's thought to be somewhere south of our border. The Leches Leches cake, which stands for "3-milk cake", is a sponge or butter cake, soaked with a milk mixture, usually containing 3 types of milk: sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and cream. In some instances, sweetened condensed milk is replaced with Dulce de Leche, which is caramelized sweetened condensed milk. I have done this before and that's really good too.

Rose's version of this cake uses a sponge cake and 4 types of milk: sweetened condensed milk, cream, skim and whole milk. The latter is cooked until reduced by half. I "cheated" and used 2 1/2 cups of evaporated milk instead.

About 30 seconds after removing the pan from the heat; not much volume and still pretty yellow

About halfway through the beating; at least doubled in volume and paler in color.

After 5 minutes; close to quadrupled in volume and very pale. Ready for the flour.

Poured the batter into my makeshift 3" pan and baked for 30 minutes, with convection turned OFF.

The sponge cake was easy to put together: heat up eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla au-bain-marie, and followed by a good beating in the stand mixer until quadrupled in volume. Gently fold in the flour and you're done. Since the sugar dissolves into the warm eggs anyway, I used regular granulated sugar, whereas normally I would have used the food processor to make superfine sugar.

Here's the baked sponge cake; nicely domed in the middle with a couple cracks.

I don't have a 9" x 3" round pan so I used my 9" x 2.5" spring form pan with a parchment paper collar. This worked very well too. I probably could have omitted the collar altogether because the cake didn't rise above the pan on the sides, like it did in the middle.

Removed the top crust but preserved the hump in the middle

While the cake is cooling, I prepared the milk mixture and then sat it in the fridge. After the cake is completely cooled, I removed the top crust. Normally I would have used my cake leveler for that but Rose specifically says to leave the hump in the middle. So I used a serrated knife instead. This brought back memories from when I sculpted two Bundt cakes into a volcano :o) Nothing goes to waste in this house (not often anyway) because I hate wasting food. I tasted the crust and it reminded me of lady fingers. Yum! I poured some Tres Leches over it and voila, there's your mini-torta!

The cake is ready for its milk bath

Nice and slow otherwise it'll end up in the gap between the pan and the cake.

After lining my 9" spring form pan with plastic wrap and putting the cake back in it, I slowly poured the milk mixture on the cake. This was the thirstiest cake I had ever seen. I could have easily poured in another 2-3 cups of milk, it seemed. Into the fridge it goes for an overnight rest before frosting it.

Instead of plain whipped cream, I made caramel whipped cream. Now don't get me wrong, I love sweetened whipped cream, but this is a birthday cake after all and I wanted it to be extra-special. To make caramel whipped cream, you start out by making a dry caramel. This means put sugar in a pan with a heavy bottom on low-medium heat, and wait until the sugar melts and caramelizes. The first 10-15 minutes is like watching paint dry. No change whatsoever. After that it goes pretty quick. After it's amber colored, you add cream at which point some of the caramel will seize and consequently harden, so you return the pan to the heat and re-melt it. Refrigerate overnight, then whip into luscious caramel-flavor whipped cream the next day and frost your cake of choice with it.

Ta-dah! The rose and leaf decorations are Caramel Panna Cotta which is cooked cream/milk/sugar + kosher gelatin.

After taking the cake out of the pan using the bottom of my 11" tart pan, I frosted only the top of the cake. There was too much milk oozing from the bottom. I contemplated using a straw to drink it (obviously the cake had more than it needed so I wasn't "stealing" it)... but I didn't. In any case, I feared that frosting applied to the sides would slide off the cake so I abstained. For next time, I think I will use less milk.

As you can see, there is quite a puddle of milk surrounding the cake. I need to find a straw!

A slice of milky goodness. Bon appetit!

Final thoughts/tips:
  • Hubby and I both liked the cake. The caramel whipped cream gave it a another dimension of milky-ness. We didn't feel it was overly sweet. The cake is not soggy at all. It's pretty sturdy when you cut it into it, but still melts in your mouth.
  • For a change of pace, you could try substituting Dulce de Leche for the sweetened condensed milk. Especially if you like caramel flavor.
  • The sponge cake is so good that I will use it to make other desserts as well.
  • The roses and leaves I used on the cake for decoration are Caramel Panna Cotta poured into candy molds, left to firm up in the fridge overnight. I got the recipe for the Panna Cotta from my dear friend Jane. Thanks Jane! :o)


  1. your cake looks awesome! I love the panna cotta roses pretty! thanks for the history lesson..i was thinking what leches means..i guess tres must mean "three" in english..

  2. Wow great cake Hanaa. It turned out so pretty. Im sure your husband appreciated you making him such a fine cake for hsi birthday!

  3. Happy Birthday to your DH Hanaa. Love the cake u made...the frosting just takes it away! Wonderful!!

  4. @Faithy: Thank you! The panna cotta was great. Very rich though! You guessed correctly; “tres” means “three” in English..

    @Flourchild: Thanks Michelle. He sure appreciated it. And even more after he ate a big slice yesterday :o)

    @Deeba: Thank you, Deeba. The caramel whipped cream is a bit finicky but it’s soooo tasty!

  5. Beautiful, Hanaa!! I especially love the panna cotta roses and leaves. Never seen that done before, anywhere. You may just be a baking genius! Your husband is one lucky guy...

  6. This looks so good! I wish I had a slice right now.
    You did beautiful work!

  7. I second Tish's remark - you are a baking genius! the cake is beautiful, and makes me want to put my hand into the computer and grab a slice -even me who likes almost exclusively chocolate cakes.
    Happy Birthday to DH, he is lucky to have such a dear wife!

  8. @Tish: Thank you, Tish. It's very nice of you to say.

    @Catherine: Thank you for stopping by. I still have some left, come on over :o)

    @Anat: You're too kind, Anat. Coming from you, it means a lot. I know how much you like choc cake. If you lived closer, you could even have 2 slices :o)

  9. Hanaa,
    The tres Leches cake was great, I liked the way it looks, I loved the taste. Very rich...
    Somehow I liked your previous tres leches cake better, may be because this cake's milk mixture wasn't well absorbed/retained by the sponge cake compared to the other tres leches recipe???...If you like we can compare/contrast both recipes for clearer explanation..
    BTW, the sponge cake is excellent, and the finished cake was astonishing.
    I loved the way it was decorated.
    Tayeb must be happy:)
    Happy B-Day to him! and have a happy life!

  10. Oh Hanaa, your cake looks divine! I have an original recipe for the leches leches cake and have never gotten around to baking it. I think I have recipes for just about everything if I looked. (Sigh) we collect so many wonderful recipes and yet how many will we actually bake in a lifetime? Practice, practice, practice sounds good to me =).

    The roses in molds using panna cotta is brilliant. I would never have thought of such a thing and just perfect for the caramel whipped cream frosting (also wonderful!).

    I didn't know Melissa did a podcast on the next recipe? If you wouldn't mind, I would love to take you up on getting an email with the podcast attachment. Visuals are always so much better =).

    Hope your holiday weekend went well and talk to you soon Hanaa, Shandy

  11. I think your gorgeous cake totally made up for the miss-in-action TWD dessert =). I can not believe how beautifully you write with icing!

    Thank you for the link to see the Podcasts. Perfect and I will look tonight. Have a nice evening Hanaa! I am off to make peanutbutter cheesecake brownies with white chocolate frosting

  12. Hanaa-- I am bowled over by how really beautiful this cake is! When you told me your vision for it, when we were talking about the panna cotta recipe, I tried to picture it and my picture was of something pretty, but the reality you've produced is exceptionally appealing and elegant. This is an inspiring cake design. I love it. Wonderful, wonderful job!

    :) Jane

  13. FYI - In the comment section of Marie's latest post, I posted a list of the cakes Marie made before the baking group. I didn't realize there were so many - 21 in all.


  14. What a beautiful cake! I love tres leches cake:) Great idea using panna cotta for the roses.

  15. Thanks Hanaa...I'm gonna try the panna cotta sometime too!

  16. Your cake looks just awesome. Your husband really got something special for his birthday! joan

  17. What a great idea using Panna Cotta in candy molds for decorating. A must try along with this lovely cake!!!


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