One of my favorite birthday traditions growing up was that my mom would always ask us what special meal & cake we wanted and then she’d slave away in the kitchen until it was just perfect. I’ve decided to continue that tradition, so I asked J-Bird for his special request. This year it was Tres Leches!
(instagram photo courtesy of Jason)
We were celebrating a BIG birthday – my hubs turned 30! He was out of town for work on his actual b-day, so we decided to gather up some friends and have a night out at the Japanese Steakhouse (his favorite). After slathering white sauce over everything and eating about a pound of rice, everyone came back to our place to sing & eat cake!
His choice of cake actually surprised me because I’ve only made Tres Leches once for a Cinco De Mayo party. It was kind of fitting for a 30th birthday – I told everyone it was a “Tres Cero” Leches Cake (three zero in Spanish). Oh the wit.
As far as I’m concerned, any cake you need a torch to make is a winner! The frosting is particularly forgiving because you don’t have to be too exact with your piping skills. You could even make it spiky with a spoon before torching instead. After it was all toasted, I garnished the top with some strawberry “roses” and blackberries.
Tres Leches is a sticky, buttery cake with most of the sweetness coming from the frosting and berries. The meringue adds that extra touch of caramely flavor that is hard to resist.
Don’t tell, but we ended up sharing leftovers for breakfast with a hot cup of coffee!
Tres Leches Cake w/ Toasty Meringue
3 c. all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 c. unsalted butter
2 c. sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. milk
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Sift together the 3 dry ingredients. Cream butter and sugar until white and fluffy. Add in eggs, one at a time until just blended. Follow with vanilla extract and mix until incorporated. Alternate adding 1/3 of the flour and 1/2 the milk, mixing until just incorporated.
Pour batter into two 8” greased cake pans lined with parchment. Bake 55 min or until it passes the toothpick test. Cool completely in pans.
Tres Leches Sauce
2 c. evaporated milk
2 c. sweetened condensed milk
2 c. cream
Mix and chill. Pour half of mixture over each of the two cake layers and allow to soak in.
2 c. granulated sugar
4 oz. water
1 c. egg whites (about 8 large eggs) note: save the yolks for creme brulee while you have the torch out!
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small pan. Heat until it reaches 240 F on a candy thermometer (softball temp for sugar). Whip egg whites in a clean metal bowl until soft peaks form. With the mixer on medium, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the beaten egg whites. Crank up to high speed, adding lemon juice and vanilla and mixing until stiff, shiny peaks form.
Turn cakes out and frost with meringue icing between layers. Spread extra meringue on the exterior of the cake and pipe designs as desired. Using a creme brulee torch, lightly brown the outside of the frosting with a continuous sweeping motion, taking care not to burn the meringue.
A note about eggs: I used pasteurized eggs for my meringue and they did not whip up as nicely resulting in a looser texture. I suggest regular eggs, but be aware that raw eggs can pose health issues. The lemon juice and hot sugar do help “cook” the eggs, but you can decide what you prefer.