Monday, February 9, 2015

Dallas Desserts Valentine's Day Edition: Tres Leches Cake

Dallas Desserts Valentine's Day Edition: Tres Leches Cake

Dallas Desserts is a collaboration with Dallas Decoder, the top fan site for the Dallas television show.

For this year's Valentine's Day Dallas Dessert, Dallas Decoder and I decided to give our valentine to the show itself for having come back for 3 more great seasons produced by Warner Horizon Television and aired on TNT (check out Dallas Decoder's post here).

And what better way to celebrate the triple delight that was the Dallas revival than tres leches cake!

This is our favorite Mexican dessert (although fried ice cream is an incredibly close second). We first had it years ago at Alero in Cleveland Park, which was our Mexican restaurant of choice when we lived in that neighborhood. We immediately fell in love with it and order it periodically in Mexican restaurants ever since.

What is it? It's pretty simple actually: a single layer cake soaked with three milks ("tres leches"): evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and whole milk (or half-n-half or cream, depending on how rich this recipe is). It is often topped with sweetened whipped cream and may be drizzled with some other delicious sauce like chocolate, caramel or berry sauce.

Tres leches cake can either be made with a sponge cake or a yellow cake. I prefer the latter. I find the denser, cream-soaked cake to be more appealing. After baking the cake, poke it all over with a fork, then pour the three-milks mixture over the cake. I like to do this in increments to give the middle of the cake a chance to absorb the liquid as it's added, otherwise in the mixture tends to pool at the edge of the cake pan. Let the cake soak overnight before topping it with the whipped cream.

For this version, I topped the cake with drizzle of simple chocolate sauce. You can make your own with the recipe below or use a store-bought sauce.

Tres Leches Cake
Adapted from a Recipe by Alton Brown for Food Network

6 3/4 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour (or cake flour), plus extra for the pan
4 oz. (1 stick or 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus extra for the pan
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
8 oz. (a little less than 1 cup) sugar
5 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

12 oz. can evaporated milk
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup half-and-half

2 cups heavy cream
8 oz. (a little less than 1 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate sauce (optional, see recipe below)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F with an oven rack in the middle position. Rub a 9 X 13 baking dish with butter and dust with flour, tapping out any excess flour.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

3. Beat the butter in a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) on medium speed until fluffy, about a minute. Reduce speed to low and slowly add the 8 oz. of sugar while the mixer is still running. Add the eggs one at a time and then the 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the flour mixture in three batches and mix until just combined.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake on the middle rack until the cake is lightly browned on top and its internal temperature is 200 F, about 20-26 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and set aside on a cooling rack to cool completely.

5. Whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and half-n-half in a medium bowl (a large liquid measuring cup works well for this). Poke the cake all over with a fork. Slowly pour the dairy mixture over the cake. Refrigerate the cake over night to soak well.

6. Add the heavy cream, remaining sugar and remaining vanilla extract to the bowl of a stand mixer and, using the whisk attachment, whisk on medium-low speed until thick and then on medium-high speed until stiff. Spread the whipped cream topping over the cake and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

7. Serve squares of cake on plates topped with a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

Simple Chocolate Sauce

2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup water
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat chocolate and water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until the chocolate has melted, whisking frequently to mix and smooth. Add salt and increase heat to medium and bring to a simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla. Store in the refrigerator; reheat gently in the microwave before spooning over cake.

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