Preparation time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 45 mins
Difficulty: Easy - for beginners
Serves: 12 servings
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder for sautéing
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs, separated
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 and 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 (14-ounce) can evaporated milk
2 tablespoons light rum
4 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup water
1 cup light corn syrup
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease and lightly flour a 9 x 13 baking dish. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together.
Separate the egg yolks and whites. Beat the whites until very foamy and frothy. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla extract with an electric mixer.
Continue mixing and slowly add the milk. Then start adding the flour mixture, a little at a time, until all the flour is incorporated and the batter is smooth. Finally, use a spatula to gently fold in the beaten egg whites until completely mixed.
Pour batter into a greased and lightly floured 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean. Allow cake to cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
Now it's time to get fancy. Invert the cake onto a jelly roll pan or a baking tray with a raised edge on it â€“ something to catch the syrup! Use a fork to repeatedly pierce the top of the cake.
Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream and rum in a mixing bowl, until well blended. Pour syrup over the cake a little at a time, until it soaks through. This is a cake that demands patience! Pour the milk syrup slowly and let it soak in. Use your fork to help it along a bit, piercing here and there through the syrup until it soaks in. Keep doing this until most of the milk syrup is absorbed. Don't worry if there is still a pool of syrup around the bottom of the cake, it will gradually soak in.
Cover the now syrup-drenched cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours before frosting.
Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar in a large bowl until they form stiff peaks. Set aside. In a separate pan, mix the water, sugar, and corn syrup. Cook over a high heat, stirring constantly until a candy thermometer reads 230°F. Remove from heat. While beating the egg whites with an electric mixer, immediately pour the hot syrup into the egg whites; continue beating for about five minutes. Let frosting cool in refrigerator. With a wet spatula, spread a thick layer of the frosting on the cake. To serve, cut individual squares, top with a red maraschino cherry, and serve cold.
To make a Banana Tres Leches Cake, add 1/3 cup banana liqueur to the milk syrup, omit rum and reduce the evaporated milk to 3/4 can.
Many Miami restaurants now serve a cuatro leches cake. This is the basic tres leches cake with a topping of dulce de leche (a caramel sauce). If you want to serve this, follow recipe instructions above. Serve the cake in a bowl or round sundae dish. Add a layer of dulce de leche around the sides of the cake in the bowl.