There are several ways that you can simplify tres leches cake while still enjoying it’s rich deliciousness. It’s an ideal cake for shortcuts, actually. The rich milk mixture that is poured over the baked cake is what gives tres leches it’s distinctive flavor, so it's easy to sneak a cake mix in as the base. I always make an italian meringue for the topping (it’s quick once you get the hang of it), but it would be even quicker to top it with whipped cream.
Give this cake time to soak up the milk mixture (overnight is best), and serve chilled. The texture and flavor are even better the second day.
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
- Yellow butter-flavored cake mix
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup water
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup) sour cream
- 1/3 cup melted butter, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon butter rum flavoring
- 3 teaspoons vanilla
- 3 tablespoons rum (optional)
- 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 5 ounce can evaporated milk
- 1 cup whipping cream
- pinch of salt
- 3 egg whites
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- Preheat the oven to 350 degress.
- Add the cake mix to the mixing bowl of a standing mixer. (Or a large bowl, if you are going to mix it by hand with a whisk). Add the eggs and ½ cup water, and mix on low speed for 30 seconds.
- Add the softened cream cheese, sour cream, melted butter, butter rum flavoring, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 2 tablespoons rum (optional) and mix on medium speed for 1 – 2 minutes, until well-blended.
- Pour into a 9 x 13 inch cake pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, just until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Let cake cool for 15 minutes.
- While cake cools, make the milk ‘syrup’ that will soak into the cooled cake. In a bowl, whisk together the condensed milk, the evaporated milk, and the whipping cream (the three kinds of milk, or ‘tres leches’), 1 teaspoon vanilla, pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon rum (optional).
- With a fork or small skewer, poke lots of holes in the cooled cake, and then slowly pour the milk mixture over the entire cake. The milk mixture will not soak in immediately, and may pool in the sides and the bottom at first. Tilt pan around some to help distribute the milk mixture.
- Cover cake with saran wrap and chill for 3-4 hours or overnight.
- To make the meringue topping, place egg whites in the (very clean) bowl of an electric mixer, and attach the wire whisk.
- Place the sugar, 1/3 cup water, corn syrup, and pinch of salt in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil.
- When the temperature of the sugar syrup reaches about 238 degrees Fahrenheit (after about 3 minutes), turn on the mixer and start beating the egg whites. When the temperature reaches 242 degrees Fahrenheit (117 degrees Celsius), remove the syrup from the heat. (The total cooking time is about 4 minutes, and the sugar syrup should make thin threads if you drizzle it off of a fork, and will have thickened.)
- The egg whites should be forming stiff peaks. Slowly and carefully pour the syrup down the side of the mixer bowl, into the beaten egg whites. Continue to beat the meringue until it cools, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon rum if desired.
- Spread meringue over cake, and use the back of a spoon to make decorative peaks. Sprinkle cake with powdered cinnamon.
A note about baking pans: Tres Leches is often served out right of the pan, but there are certain occasions like birthdays where you might want a more attractive presentation. You can bake the cake in 2 round cake layer pans, but once they are out of the oven, give them at least 12 hours to soak up the milk while the cakes are still in the pans, in the refrigerator. Once they have soaked up all the milk and are very well chilled, you can unmold them, and ice them with the italian meringue or whipped cream. It helps to line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper. Another possibility is to bake the cake in a 10 inch springform pan, and then remove the band around the cake once it is well chilled and has absorbed the milk.
Coconut Tres Leches Variation: Replace the water in the cake mix with ½ cup coconut milk. Replace ½ of the whipping cream with coconut milk. Add 1 teaspoon coconut flavoring to cake. Sprinkle finished cake with toasted coconut.