Tres leches cake is not normally something I associate with this time of year. Around this time of year, I am usually focused on pecan pies, pumpkin everything, and soups of all kinds. Tres leches is usually the furthest thing from my mind.
Of course, that all changed when we made last-minute plans to spend Hallowe’en evening with friends. They were planning a Mexican-themed dinner. (serving carnitas tacos, Mexican rice, and bacon-wrapped, cheese-and-jalapeno-stuffed shrimp. YUM.) I decided to bring along some homemade refried beans, a homemade salsa, and if I could pull it off, a gluten-free tres leches cake.
If you have never experienced the wonder that is tres leches cake, let me tell you, it’s amazing. Essentially, it is a sponge cake, baked and then poked full of holes, and soaked with three milks (hence the name) – whole milk (or cream – I used half-and-half), evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk. And then, to top it off, it’s frosted with sweetened whipped cream. It’s moist without being soggy, and ever-so-creamy, rich, and delightful. Set your diets aside, because this certainly isn’t a “healthy” treat. But sometimes, you just need a bit of decadence. And this cake is so worth it.
When I started to make this cake, I honestly wasn’t sure if it would turn out. I’m still somewhat of a novice when it comes to gluten-free baking, but recently, I’ve become a bit more confident in understanding how certain gluten-free flours behave, and the role that xanthan gum plays in binding. My confidence has allowed me to break free from strictly following a recipe, and instead “feel” my way through baking. (something I wasn’t even comfortable doing when baking before going gluten-free!) Of course, when something turns out, I’m still so astonished. After I made this cake, and ate a piece, I exclaimed “Wow, this doesn’t suck!”
Aah, such high hopes I have, for these experiments of mine.
But truly, it didn’t suck. In fact, the flavor is absolutely wonderful, and the cake is not soggy in the slightest. I think that next time, I’ll reduce the milks by about 1/2 cup (I’ve written the recipe below making this change for you), because it was almost too wet, but the cake held up just fine, in spite of the amount of milks it was holding. But honestly, I could stuff myself silly with this sweet treat. It’s that good.
For the cake:
5 eggs, separated
1 c sugar
3 T butter
1 t vanilla extract
1 t orange zest
Pinch of cinnamon
½ c sorghum flour
½ c masa harina
1 ½ t baking powder
1 t xanthan gum
¼ c milk
½ t cream of tartar
For the milks:
1/2 c half-and-half
12 oz can evaporated milk
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
For the topping:
1 c whipping cream
¼ c sugar
1 t vanilla
Sliced strawberries and mint leaves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 13X9 baking dish. In a large bowl, beat ¾ c sugar, egg yolks, and butter until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Fold in the vanilla extract, orange zest, cinnamon, sorghum flour, masa harina, baking powder, xanthan gum, and milk.
In another large bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks, adding cream of tartar after about 20 seconds. Gradually add the remaining ¼ c sugar and continue beating until egg whites are glossy and firm, but not dry.
Gently fold the egg whites into the cake mixture. Pour this batter into the baking dish, spreading out evenly. Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Pierce cake all over with a toothpick.
Whisk together the milks, and pour evenly over cake. Allow to cool for a bit, and cover and place in refrigerator for 4 hours, up to overnight.
Before serving, place the whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla in a mixer bowl and whisk to stiff peaks, and nice and thick. Spread over cake and top with strawberries and mint leaves.
Allow to chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.