This cake is a crowd pleaser. I have made it more times than I can count for family gatherings and every time; it never fails that I get several requests for the recipe. The cake is moist, soaked in a silky and rich milk mixture. This cake is great when made ahead (such as the night before), to allow the soaking liquid to set into the cake. Tres Leches cake is best served chilled.
For the cake
1 cup 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. vanilla extract
For the soaking liquid
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
pinch kosher salt
For the topping
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tbs. confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp. pure vamilla extract
1 tsp. instant coffee
2 tbs. heavy cream
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Line the bottom of the baking dish with parchment and lightly butter or spray with non-stick spray the parchment.
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 then beat the egg whites, gradually increasing the speed to high, until they reach soft peaks, 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, 1 to 2 minutes more.
Whisk a third of the dry ingredients into the yolk mixture 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.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 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.
Soak the cake
In a saucepan, stir together the 1/2 cup strong brewed, condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, and salt 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 cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the cake is well chilled, at least 2 hours.
Top the cake
In a small bowl, dissolve the instant coffee with 2 tbs. heavy cream and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the 2 1/2 cups heavy cream with an electric mixer on medium speed. When it begins to thicken, slowly add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat just until it holds firm peaks, about 3 to 4 minutes. Spread the whipped cream all over the top of the cake and serve.
Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking magazine, recipe by Fany Gerson.