Category Archives: Tres Leches Cake

Finishing a Tres Leches Cake

The génoise cake layer is the most challenging part of a tres leches cake. Once that’s in hand, you can pretty much just relax and have fun. I find the best finished cakes happen when you have the layers and any time-consuming condiments completed at least a day ahead of time. If you can arrange it so you’re making your cake on a weekend, so much the better. If you ask the wife when I’m at my happiest, she’ll tell you it’s when I have a free Saturday afternoon in front of me, an open beer and cake to build.

Start by peeling the parchment paper off the bottom of the cake.

I like to “top” the cake by just shaving off the top crust with a serrated knife. It really helps the milk “syrup” soak in. It also squares the edges nicely. You need not get every last bit of it off. Keep those trimmings for a snack.

Lots of home bakers fear handling and/or flipping cake layers. A couple of waxed 8″ cake circles make it child’s play.

Stir together your milks and dulce de leche.

Remove one of the circles and paint half the “syrup” on slowly. It may take ten minutes or so for it all to soak in.

Replace the circle and flip the cake over.

Remove the bottom circle and paint on the rest of the syrup. You might not need all of it.

How do you know when to stop? When the milk mixture puddles on the cake and doesn’t soak in anymore. That or it starts leaking out the bottom. Then you know the cake is fully saturated.

Now for the frosting. Pour the cold cream into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whip.

Whip to soft peaks, add the sugar…

…and the Grand Marnier and whip it to stiff peaks, maybe 20 seconds more

Now then, some cake frosting jobs call for a fancy revolving stand. Others call for cans.

Why cans? Because they allow you to reach all the narrow surfaces of a single layer cake with ease.

You can get as fancy as you’d like with the frosting. Some people like to pipe decorations onto a tres leches cake. Having zero piping skills, I just spread it on and serve. Works for me.

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Tres Leches Cake: The Génoise

I thought about just referring all you prospective tres leches cake makers to the basic génoise tutorial and saying: just add nuts! However the process for tres leches génoise is slightly more involved than that. My solution: to create a new tutorial that mixes old and new photographs. What? It’s not like my lighting or framing is ever consistent anyway. You’ll deal!

The first step is to prepare your pan, then preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay your almonds out on a sheet pan and bake them for about ten minutes until they’re only lightly toasted. About like so:

Cool them for a few minutes, then pour them into the bowl of your food processor and grind them finely:

Sift your flour…

…and add it to the food processor along with the salt…

…and your orange zest. This stuff:

Yes, I forgot to take a picture of myself adding this in. Cut me some slack, I’d stayed up late watching movies and drinking wine with the missus the night before. I was feeling a little rough. So where was I? Oh yes, the food processor. Process everything for about ten seconds until it’s all well blended. Like so:

Now turn your attention to the egg whites and sugar. You’ll want to find a saucepan that will comfortably fit your mixer bowl, like so:

Take the bowl off the saucepan, put about an inch of water in it, and set it to simmer. Off the stove top, add your sugar and eggs to the mixer bowl…

…and give them a good whisking.

Put the bowl over the simmering water and continue to whisk until the sugar is dissolved that the mixture is warm to the touch (no more than 120 degrees F).

Take the bowl off the simmering water and attach it to the mixer, onto which the paddle has been affixed. Beat on medium-high for roughly 8 minutes, until the mixture is extremely foamy. A thick ribbon should fall off the beater (I failed to capture it in this photo) and the small heaps of foam the falling ribbon creates should last for several seconds (I did manage to capture those).

Now is also good time to add the vanilla. Beat the mixture for about 10 seconds more.

Take about a cup of the foam and stir it into your melted (ideally clarified) butter. This will help the butter to more readily incorporate into the main volume of the batter.

Stir until it looks about like so (no need to be gentle):

And gently pour the mixture back into the mixer bowl…

Sprinkle the flour and almond mixture onto the foam all at once…

…and using your largest rubber scraper or spatula, fold until the mixture is uniform (instructions on how to fold properly are under the Techniques” menu to the right). 30 seconds or so later, your batter should look like this:

Pour the batter into your prepared pan:

And bake for about 30 minutes until the cake is firm and golden on top.

Cool the cake in the pan for ten minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely, about half an hour.

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Tres Leches Cake Recipe

The main layer is the basic génoise recipe from the site, only with some toasted almonds added. It also has a little orange zest mixed in, a great idea that I stole from Rick Bayless. Why a génoise for a Latin American cake? First, because spongecake is Latin American (by way of Europe, of course). Second, because few cakes rival génoise for its ability to soak up liquid without getting mushy. Here’s the formula.

For the Cake

3 ounces slivered almonds, toasted
5 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
Zest of one orange
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter (preferably clarified butter)
6 eggs
7 ounces (1 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extact

For the “Syrup”

1/2 cup dulce de leche
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup evaporate milk
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

For the Frosting

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (if desired)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lay your almonds out on a sheet pan and toast them until lightly browned, about ten minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour. Cool the almonds for a few minutes, then grind them to powder in a food processor. Add the flour, orange zest and salt to the food processor and process about ten seconds to blend everything. Set the mixture aside.

Drop your oven temperature to 350.

Set a saucepan big enough to hold your mixer bowl on the stove with an inch of water in it. Bring it to a simmer. Meanwhile, sift the flour and salt together into a medium bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside.

Pour the sugar into the mixer bowl, add the eggs and whisk to combine. Set the mixer bowl over the pan of water and heat the mixture until it’s warm to the touch (no more than 120 degrees). What you’re trying to do is simply melt the sugar…don’t cook the eggs! It’ll only take a minute or so.

Remove the bowl from the heat and, using the paddle attachment, beat the mixture on medium high until it’s very light and foamy, about triple its original volume (this will take up to ten minutes with a stand mixer). Add the vanilla and beat an additional 10-15 seconds.

Pour a cup or so of the egg foam into the cooled melted butter and stir it until it’s completely incorporated, then gently pour the mixture back into the mixer bowl (this eases the incorporation of the butter into the batter). Next, sprinkle the flour mixture into the mixer bowl and carefully fold (instructions under the “Techniques” menu to the right) until the flour mixture and the butter mixture are completely incorporated.

Gently pour the batter into a parchment-lined 9″ springform pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until firm and lightly browned. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool about ten minutes, then turn it out onto a rack and let it cool completely. The cake can be frozen at this point, and I usually do. First, because I normally make this several days ahead, second because it makes the cake a bit easier to work with.

When you’re ready to assemble the cake, “top” it by slicing off the very top layer of crust (this will make it easier for the syrup to penetrate it). Place the cake between two 8″ cardboard cake rounds. If frozen, allow the cake to thaw at this point, about an hour. Meanwhile, make the syrup: combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk them lightly.

To assemble: remove the top cardboard circle and with a brush, paint about 3/4 cup of syrup onto it. It’ll take you 5-10 minutes as it soaks in. Put the circle back on and flip the cake over, remove the “bottom” circle and paint on more syrup. Apply about half a cup and judge for yourself how well the cake is taking up the liquid. If it seems to have an appetite for more, paint on more, because you want it fully saturated. If the syrup is already starting to leak out from the bottom of the cake, stop. The cake can rest in the fridge for 2 days at this point if you wish.

For the final assembly, whip the cream to soft peaks and with the machine running sprinkle in the sugar and drizzle in the Grand Marnier. Continue whipping a few seconds more to stiff peaks. Remove the top cake circle and apply the whipped cream with a spatula. Lay the cake on a platter of your choice, slice into small wedges and serve.

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