This is a great month for the cake series because we get to make tres leches! This is a crazy delicious cake that I first made WAAAAAAAY back in college. I’m telling you this because I want you to feel super confident making this cake. If I could make it when I first started baking in a college dorm kitchen with minimal equipment and no experience, I know you can do this.
Tres leches means 3 milks, indicating the different kinds of milk you add to the cake after it’s made. There are variations, but most of the traditional recipes include whole milk, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk. It’s a very light, sweet cake but isn’t goopy despite soaking the cake in milk.
While it’s not terribly difficult (seriously, a college baker can make it) but it does require a little bit of effort. We do have to separate some eggs, which won’t be hard at all if you made the angel food cake a couple months ago. If you didn’t that’s okay (although I do want you to make it because it’s amazing). To make separating eggs easy, separate them when they’re cold and then let them come to room temperature.
Once you’re ready to start, beat the egg yolks and sugar together for several minutes until they’re light and fluffy. This is the foundation of your batter, so don’t skimp on this step. You’ll know the mixture is ready because the yolks will be pale yellow. Next, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. When you lift the mixer out of the egg whites, they will mostly hold their structure but there will be a soft curl in the tip of the egg white. Then you’ll take a spoonful of the egg white and stir it into the egg yolk-sugar mixture to help lighten it a little and prepare to fold in the egg whites.
Next, you’ll sift flour over the egg mixture and fold it in as well. While I rarely sift dry ingredients because there’s just not usually a big difference in the finished product for the level of effort, in this case it’s important because the egg whites will flatten if you just dump a cup of flour on top and start stirring. The flour will also be easier to fold into the eggs if it’s sifted. And that’s it! Now you can bake the cake until light golden, and let it cool completely.
Were you wondering what to do with the other ingredients? Here’s where you get to use them and things get fun. First, you toast the coconut, being careful not to burn it.
Then you mix together most of the other ingredients, poke holes in the cake, and pour the mixture all over. After a few hours in the refrigerator you get to make some whipped cream (way easier than it sounds) and spread it all over the cake. After garnishing the cake with the toasted coconut and a sprinkle of cinnamon, serve squares of the cake and enjoy!
Now let’s get to the important part- the pairing. Tres leches is a very rich, very sweet cake but it’s also light. I don’t love red wines with this cake because I think the tannins weigh it down too much. If you must have red wine, try a sweet red with some nice, light fruit flavors. You can pretty easily do a sweet white wine like a sweet Riesling or if you want to get really crazy you could try a higher acid white wine. Acid balances sweetness, so this might actually be a good option if you don’t love super sweet desserts. Sticking with the Riesling theme, try a dry Riesling and see what you think. I actually prefer a dry Riesling. It’s not a sweet wine, so you’re not piling sweet on sweet which can be overwhelming. The acid in the Riesling cuts the cake’s sweetness some, which allows you to appreciate the flavors in the cake and the wine as well.
What do you think? Are sweet wines the way to go with this cake or do you prefer a drier wine?