Friday, February 12, 2010

Pastel de Tres Leches (Three-milk cake)

Yeah, nothing to write home on the face of it, innit? Until, one day, at a Mexican restaurant in Montclair NJ, my uncle made me try some. Holy. Mother. Of. All. That. Is. Sacred. And. Tastes. Good.

Take a sponge cake, and soak it with condensed milk and cream - bleurgh you say. I don't like condensed milk you say. That really doesn't sound very appetising you say. And then you eat two pieces. (True story, of my colleague who is addicted to all that is chocolate.)

When I came back to India and realised I would never be able to stroll out to a restaurant and eat it again, I was desperate, desperate to find a recipe that worked. Much research revealed that it is a Central-American dessert, and called so because the soaking syrup calls for three kinds of milk: condensed, evaporated and cream. The first time I tried it was for my gramma's birthday last year. I assumed evaporated milk was milk powder, and proceeded to toss some in. Bad idea. If you can't get evaporated milk, skip it! I also found that the damn cake wouldn't drink the syrup as promised, which just meant much more work. And then I left it to soak in the fridge, which meant it set instead of soaking and wasn't all gooey right through.

Anyway, in commemoration of one year as a corporate whore, I decided to try again. Based on this recipe, from Spork or Foon, I had another series of glitches. First off, the can of condensed milk I thought I had turned out to be empty, so I had to wait a whole day after it was made to soak it, which meant it had mostly settled by the time and began and I had the soak failure again. Second, my beater had died, so I had to do all the beating by hand (!!!!!) which meant those whites were far from as stiff as they should have been, and the cake not as airy and spongy as it should have been.

However, the results were delectable and devoured so fast I couldn't believe it.

(Yes, I only own a bundt pan. I really need a round one and a loaf pan, but woevah.)

For the cake:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 5 whole eggs
  • 1 cup sugar, split into 3/4 and 1/4 (powder it if you're in India!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ⅓ cups milk

For the soak:

  • 1 can condensed milk (Milkmaid or Mithai mate will do.)
  • 3/4 carton Amul cream

  • Whipped cream and strawberries for garnish

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Separate eggs. Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined. Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff. Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool.

Combine condensed milk and cream, and beat for a bit so they mix properly. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle the milk mixture all over the cake - try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can. (I ended up standing there spooning it over the cake for an hour.) Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture. The original said 30 minutes, and recommended a few hours. I say overnight. Outside the fridge! Cover with whipped cream (by hand again here, sob) and decorate with fruit.


Nandini Vishwanath said...

I've been meaning to try a particular recipe for this cake. I can't wait to go back and try it :)

Also, I was wondering if you've gone through the photo section of White on Rice couple? They have great tips for food photography. I think of you every time I go there :) since you love photography too!

MinCat said...

try try try it di. hmm have not done that. i also love deb, of smitten kitchen, and my kitchen cafe, both of whom have GORGEOUS photos!

Nandini Vishwanath said...

Tried it. But not eating it. After an overkill with food in India, I'm dieting and exercising.I know. Criminal. But I tried hard and cake didn't fall into any category of food that I ought not to miss :| So I missed the cake. But Ajit said it was great.

Going to make it again for a bday or something. Jazz it up a little more, maybe!

MinCat said...

awesomeosity! it is good. did yours soak? im toying with trinyg it AGAIN and being VERY good about the chiffon cake to see if it does soak...

Nandini Vishwanath said...

It soaked a little, to be honest. A lot according to me coz I thought it wouldn't soak anything! :)