This the season for fall flavors, friends. Pumpkin-spiced things (including, but not limited to, candles and wall plug-ins), nutmeg-y baked goods, snappy ginger snaps, and apples laced with cinnamon in some form. I’m right there on that bandwagon of fall-flavored overload with all of your Pinterest boards. Only last week we posted my first ode to the season, an apple spice cake with maple cream cheese icing.
But this tres leches might be blasphemy for fall food posts. It fits no stigmatic mold for autumn-flavored nostalgia, nor is it an expected dish at the Thanksgiving table. But let’s be brave, you and me. Let’s walk past those aisles of canned pumpkin and discounted bulk cinnamon sticks and veer toward the exotic and exciting dessert flavors of Mexico. Or Central America. Or South America.
Wikipedia wasn’t exactly clear where this dish originated, so we’ll just cover all of our bases, shall we?
Tres Leches Cake!!! Where to begin? I tried this dish for the first time at a slightly sketchy Tex Mex restaurant years ago. It’s now closed, but it used to be called Los Molcajetes. Since my college roommate and I neither knew the meaning nor pronunciation of this word, we resorted to calling it “Los Meningitis.” Regardless of the unfortunate nickname, the restaurant served the most amazing tres leches cake… Tasting it was one of those rare, treasured moments of total taste epiphany. Tastiphany. Sweet, buttery cake soaked in a comforting blend of evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk, topped with freshly whipped cream.
Could anything be better? The taste is almost comparable to birthday cake soaked in quickly-melting ice cream, but better.
Just let that soak in. It’s better than birthday cake and ice cream. Whaaaaaat.
Like cake and ice cream, it’s not something we eat in abundance around here. Something about calories, cholesterol, sugar intake, genetic predispositions to diabetes, blah blah blah… But since the season of layers upon layers of pudge-hiding scarves and sweaters are upon us, let’s indulge. Yes?
What’s more, let’s add some stout coffee to the milk mixture to give it a hint of the flavor that drives caffeine-addicts wild and was meant to be combined with three types of milk. Yes?
Here we go.
It takes no skill or particular time commitment to make this. Bake the cake, let it cool, poke some holes, pour the milk mixture over it, cover in whipped cream, eat. Eat and eat to the satisfaction of your stomach, and those of your neighbors and in-laws.
They tried this cake and gave it their hearty seal of approval. I need you to know that, in case it’s the extra push you need to get in your kitchen and make this.
I would say I sprinkled cinnamon all over the top of it to hopelessly fangirl for fall, but alas, no. Those are just the perfect flavors of Mexico (or Central or South America – what is the answer, internet???) combining to make something delicious. The cake itself is adapted from Martha Stewart’s, while the milk mixture is a classic common combination, with our addition of coffee.
So for all of those holiday work parties and family gatherings that are coming up in your calendar, make this. Channel your teenage self that so desperately wanted to be different and unique to the outside world, forego the pumpkin bundt cakes that are exploding across the internet, and bring this.
Combined with turkey and stuffing, it will undoubtedly render everyone comatose for a bit, but maybe use that time like Jerry and George in Seinfeld and play with your host’s antique toy collection. Or something like that.
Coffee Tres Leches
For the cake
- 1/2 cup butter softened
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 eggs
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the milk mixture
- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 12 oz can evaporated milk
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/3 cup strong black coffee
For the whipped cream
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream chilled
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ground cinnamon for sprinkling
- Prepare a 9"x13" baking pan with baking spray, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about a minute. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla
- With the mixer running, add the flour, salt, and baking powder in increments.
- Once combined, evenly spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Combine the 3 milks and coffee in a small bowl or pitcher. Whisk until very well combined.
- Once the cake is cooled, poke holes evenly all over it (I used a meat thermometer to poke holes, but you can use a baking dowel or fork prongs). Evenly pour the milk mixture over it, in increments, until it has all been absorbed by the cake. Let the cake sit in the refrigerator for 2 hours to overnight, so the milk has time to absorb.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the heavy cream on medium high speed until soft peaks begin to form. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue whipping until stiffer peaks form, or it reaches your desired consistency. Spread evenly over the top of the cake, then sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon. Serve cold.