Editor’s Note: The following article is one in a series of Holiday inspired pieces, brought to you by Target. Seasons Greetings!
I never tried a pastel de tres leches until I moved to Florida. My new Cuban friends raved about it and it brought back sweet childhood memories of lady fingers cake with fresh peaches soaked in rich, condensed milk.
Pastel de tres leches (three milks cake) has many other versions: Cuban, Mexican, Dominican, Peruvian, Nicaraguan, among others.
Nevertheless, this tres leches cake—which can also be served for breakfast or merienda—is basically a sponge cake or butter cake soaked in three different types of milk: evaporated, condensed, and whole.
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Some people use heavy cream instead of whole milk or even both and they add rum or brandy to the creamy soaking liquid. Since the cake is soaked in a creamy, sweet combination of different leches, the end result is thick, sweet, and very moist .
SPONGE CAKE VERSUS BUTTER CAKE To know which cake we should use, butter or sponge, for a tres leches…we need to understand their basic natures. A sponge cake is a cake made of flour, sugar, eggs. See note *
While a butter cake (also known as pound cake) also uses sugar, eggs, flour, its main ingredient in this cake is butter. And the key in a pound/butter cake is to use equal amounts of butter, sugar, flour, eggs. Thus, the name pound cake, synonym for a dense, rich cake.
You can use either. But since this is already a quite heavy cake, adding more heaviness or richness won’t make it more delicious. Therefore, a sponge cake is best suited for a tres leches cake.
*Some tres leches cake recipes might call for a small amount of butter. I skip it since I already have the fat and moistness from the oil.
Though a bit time consuming, this dessert is worth every bite and can be part of any special occasion.
PASTEL DES TRES LECHES Serves: 10
Sponge Cake: 1½ cup cake flour Pinch of sea salt 1 TSP baking powder 1/3 cup organic vegetable oil 1 cup sugar 1 TSP pure vanilla extract 5 large eggs ½ cup whole milk
Soaking Liquid: 12 oz. evaporated milk 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk ¼ cup heavy cream with ¼ cup whole milk 1 TBSP rum, brandy or cognac (optional)
Topping: 1 cup heavy whipping cream 1 TBSP confectioners sugar Dulce de leche (optional)