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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
- 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)