I've never really enjoyed Tres Leches Cake which always struck me as being mildly sweet, soggy, and a bit milky. Nothing really special. Then I read about this version, in the Wall Street Journal of all places, which has been tweaked by Kathleen Squires to reflect the flavors of her beloved Puerto Rico. Rose made it for a meal provided for our parish's men's retreat and months later she's still getting compliments.
Naturally, we had to try it for ourselves. Wow. It is so delicate but also so flavorful. A hint of coconut is perfectly complimented by the nutmeg and cinnamon sprinkled across the top. Somehow it all comes together to make a dessert that is rich, light, and refreshing.
In fact, it is rich enough that we serve 16 instead of the 12 called for below. Larger pieces are just too big. And that's not something I say every day. In fact, I may say it never.
TRES LECHES CAKE
For the cake:
Butter, for greasing pan
5 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons coffee liqueur such as Kahlua
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 (14-ounce) can condensed milk
1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
2 tablespoons aged Puerto Rican rum, such as Don Q Gran Añejo
For the whipped cream:
2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Freshly grated nutmeg
1. Butter bottom and sides of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat egg whites on high until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and gradually beat in sugar. Then beat in yolks one at a time. Sift together flour and baking powder, and fold into wet ingredients. Mix in milk and coffee liqueur. Pour mixture into buttered baking dish.
3. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into center of cake emerges clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes. After cooling, use a toothpick or skewer to puncture cake’s surface at 2-inch intervals.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together all canned milks and rum until well combined. Carefully pour onto cooled cake. Cover cake pan with foil and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
5. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together heavy cream, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla on high until stiff peaks form, 4-5 minutes. Spread whipped cream on top of chilled cake. Finish by sprinkling with ground cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg. Serve immediately.