Pastel de Tres Leches (literally “Cake of Three Milks“) is a very popular Latin dessert. I believe it originated in Nicaragua, but its popularity quickly spread throughout South America and now many Latin countries sport their own variation of it. No matter which version you choose to make, the common thread is a sponge cake which is soaked in three different “milks” and then frosted.
When choosing a serving platter for the cake, make sure to select a large one with a lip, or one with sides that slant upward because the milks can soak down to the bottom and seep through the cake as it sits. This cake is usually served plain without any embellishment other than the frosting, but I decorated mine to look like a flag in deference to the 4th of July holiday.
PASTEL DE TRES LECHES
For the Cake:
- 9 eggs, separated
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9×13″ baking pan.
- Beat the egg yolks until fluffy.
- Add sugar and vanilla and continue to beat.
- Mix flour and baking powder together in a small bowl.
- Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk to the egg yolk mixture, beating until well combined.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
- Carefully fold egg whites into the yolk mixture. Take care not to deflate the mixture.
- Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
- Allow cake to cool completely.
For the Filling:
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 1 can condensed milk
- 2 cups whipping cream
- With a wire whisk, blend all ingredients together in a bowl.
- Set filling aside.
For the Frosting:
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Beat the whipping cream until light and fluffy.
- Add the sugar and beat until well blended.
To Assemble the Cake:
- Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake, then turn it out onto a platter with a lip to catch any excess filling.
- Poke holes all over the cake with a skewer.
- Slowly pour the filling all over the cake until all of it is absorbed.
- Frost with the whipped cream frosting.
NOTE: This recipe makes a nice, sturdy cake which is what you need for it to stand up to being soaked in all the milks without becoming soggy. It also makes a big cake. The cake will rise up above the baking pan but that’s okay because it gives you the chance to cut it straight across the top once it cools. Use a sawing motion with a long serrated knife lying on top of the pan edges. Then when you turn it out, you’ll have a nice, level cake. Plus you get to eat all the cake scraps!
TO MAKE THE FLAG CAKE PICTURED: Use fresh blueberries and strawberries to make the stars and stripes like I did.