Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cory's Tres Leches Cake with Strawberries

Tres Leches Cake is a classic Mexican sponge cake soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream. Sweet, moist and delicious, Tres Leches Cake, or Pastel de Tres Leches from Spanish, 'three milk cake', is rather like like a custard due to the rich ingredients that are soaked in its creamy syrup for up to 24-hours. Another version of the cake is Pastel Borracho, or 'Drunken Cake', which is extremely popular throughout Mexico and Central America, and is made by soaking the cake in an alcohol spiked mixture of water, sugar, rum or brandy. In the Caribbean, they also make a version call Bizcocho tres Leches, which is made using rum and cream of coconut, instead of condensed milk, and then topped with whipped cream and shredded coconut.

Cory became our Simcoe Day chef-de-cuisine, whipping up this delicious 
Strawberry-Topped Tres Leches Cake garnished with Muskoka mint

This past Simcoe Day long weekend, we spent four glorious days soaking up the sun, eating fabulous meals and sharing good times at our great friend's C&M's gorgeous Muskoka cottage. One of the most spectacular meals we enjoyed over the long weekend featured Cory's Strawberry-Topped Tres Leches Cake, which he garnished with clouds of whipped cream, sweet juicy summer strawberries and sprigs of fresh Muskoka mint. Inspired by a fabulous recipe from Fine Cooking Magazine, Cory's Tres Leches Cake was luscious, light, moist and creamy — an ethereal end to a truly exceptional weekend.

Strawberry-Topped Tres Leches Cake à la Cory
Serves 12-16

For the cake:
Unsalted butter, softened, for the pan
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup whole milk
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the soaking liquid:
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 12-oz can evaporated milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch kosher salt

For the topping:
2-1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 cups sliced strawberries 
1 tsp Grand Marnier, optional

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch Pyrex baking dish, or a nonreactive metal pan, and line the bottom with lightly buttered parchment paper.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a medium bowl and the yolks in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, beat the yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar on medium speed until the mixture is pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the milk and vanilla and beat until combined, 1 minute more.

Clean and dry the beaters and beat the egg whites, gradually increasing the speed to high, until they reach soft peaks, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a stream, continuing to beat on high, until you reach firm but not dry peaks, about 1 to 2 minutes more.

Whisk a third of the dry ingredients into the yolk mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in a third of the egg whites with a rubber spatula. Fold in the remaining dry ingredients and egg whites, alternately, in two more batches each, until fully incorporated. Then pour the batter into the prepared dish and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack, remove the parchment, and let cool completely. Return the cake to the baking dish or invert it onto a rimmed platter — note: the cake will soak up more of the liquid if it's returned to the pan it was baked in.

To soak the cake, stir together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan, and mix until the condensed milk is well blended. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring to avoid scorching, until it begins to bubble around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into a heatproof 4-cup measuring cup.

With a toothpick, prick the cake to the bottom in 1/2-inch intervals. Pour the soaking liquid slowly over the cake, starting at the edges and pausing to let it soak in before adding more. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the cake is well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

To top the cake, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer on medium speed. When it begins to thicken, slowly add the sugar, vanilla and Grand Marnier liqueur if you like, and continue to beat just until it holds firm peaks, 3 to 4 minutes, being careful not to over-beat. Spread the whipped cream all over the top of the cake and decorate with the sliced strawberries and serve.

Note: You can soak the cake in the milk mixture up to a day ahead and top it up to 2 hours ahead.