There are different versions about the roots of Pastel de Tres Leches. People from different Latin American countries claim the recipe their own and very traditional. I like the canned milk connection the most and joke that, unlike many other desserts, this one truly came from America to Europe, not the other way around.
A long time ago, I was on a quest to try as many different versions of Tres Leches in Austin as I can. For almost a year, I’ve been ordering, buying, and making it for dessert. It was fun! As a result, I found my favorite one to buy (Downtown WholeFoods’ Tres Leches Parfait) and developed a few favorite recipes to make at home (with baked milk and with cajeta, caramelized goat’s milk). I prefer versions where milk is the main source of flavor — no other ingredients like fruit, nuts, chocolate, etc. are allowed to overpower milk’s delicate and dreamy nature. For me, Tres Leches it’s a study on milk flavor. The recipe below is part of my ¡Viva Tequila! tasting event, featuring extra anejo tequila as an ingredient for the sponge feeding.
Preheat oven to 350F. Measure all ingredients. Prepare all tools and equipment. For this recipe, use 9x9" square baking pan or a pan for 12 regular size cupcakes. In both cases bottoms of baking pans should be lined with parchment paper.
Place 4 refrigerated eggs into a bowl with hot water (200F) for 10 minutes to warm them up. Separate whites and yolks.
Beat 5 egg yolks with 4 oz sugar and 2 oz cajeta to the ribbon stage.
Beat 5 egg whites with 4 oz sugar and dry egg whites to the stiff peak stage. Fold into beaten egg yolks in three steps.
Sift flour mixed with baking powder and fold into eggs foam in 2 steps.
Pour the batter into the baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes in cupcake baking pan or for about 30 minutes in 9x9" baking pan. Let the sponge to cool to room temperature.
Cook 12 oz of evaporated milk down to 8 oz slowly simmering it with star anise and whole vanilla been, split and seeds scraped. Strain the milk and discard solids. Let it cool to room temperature.
Mix well condensed milk, cajeta, and tequila first, than add infused with vanilla and star anise evaporated milk. Taste, adjust sweetness if needed. Add some heavy whipping cream if it's too sweet, or some agave syrup if you like it more sweet. Reserve ~1 cup of the milk sauce for serving.
Pierce the surface of the sponge using fork or thin bamboo skewers. Slowly drizzle the milk sauce on the top of the sponge, watching how it is being absorbed. Make sure all sponge is equally soaked with the sauce. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours. At this point, the cake can be put to portions and frozen.
Whip cream with powdered sugar and vanilla seeds. Pipe it to decorate every portion of the cake and place a hibiscus flower on the top.