I’ve been meaning to share this Strawberry Tres Leches Cake with you for a couple of weeks.
With berries beginning to show up in greater quantities, I’ve been buying them….then we’ve eaten them. Then I would buy more for my recipe, and we’d eat them again.
Life’s been busy the past couple of weeks, (although I think we’re forever busy around here), and I just wasn’t able to sync up having fresh strawberries on hand the same day I had time to make the cake.
Even this past weekend, as I was trudging around the “great” outdoors, in the rain and the cold and the mud, I thought, hey, I could be home in my warm kitchen baking a cake :)
Last year, I made a Pineapple Coconut Tres Leches Cake that was so good, I wanted to play with another fruit. Strawberry Shortcake is a favorite dessert and, I thought, the perfect inspiration for this creamy dreamy cake.
Originally, I thought that I would try my hand at making this a layer cake…but I chickened out.
The truth is, I didn’t know if I could successfully stack this cake, and with all the delays I’d already experienced to get it done, I was in no mood for a recipe fail. What would happen to a cake drenched to the gills with creamy sweet milk if I tried to do two layers?
I envisioned a serious cake slide, or slump or perhaps the weight of the the top layer would crush the bottom layer. I know it’s possible to layer these types of cakes, but most of the recipes I’ve read remove the cake from the pans and then saturate it with the three milks.
The recipe I use lets the cake soak up the milk overnight while it’s still in the pan, which yields a perfectly moist, but not drippy piece of cake. I like that milk is trapped in the pan and the cake has lots of time to truly drink up all of the liquid.
At the last minute, I decided to try to flip the cake out of the pan. I didn’t actually think it would work, but I couldn’t resist trying it. It was a no go. It wasn’t going to budge.
(The second photo below was taken immediately after the milk was poured on top. It absorbs almost completely when left to sit overnight.)
For those of you who have never tried a tres leches cake, it sort of tastes like a cake doughnut that has been dunked in a melty vanilla milkshake. If you dunk a cake doughnut fast enough, it soaks up just enough liquid to be super moist.
The three milks taste like a custard and the cake is rich with eggs, so it’s like a drenched custard cake. Okay, so it doesn’t taste exactly like that, but if any of my description attempts appeal to you, then you’re almost certainly going to love this cake.
It’s also a fairly easy cake to make. Easy batter, easy baking. Poke a bunch of holes in the cake and pour the milk mixture over it.
Top the cake with sliced strawberries and some lightly sweetened whipped cream and you are good to go! A perfect cake for Cinco de Mayo or for Mother’s Day. Yes! Make this for mother’s day!
Tips for making Strawberry Tres Leches Cake:
- I always bake tres leches cakes in a 13 x 9 pan, but I wanted a different look this time. As I mentioned, I really wanted to try this as a layer cake, so I settled for baking it in a 10″ round pan. I think it turned out pretty, but I honestly preferred the slightly larger pan that had more surface area for the milk mixture to settle and I think the texture was better.
- Do not skimp when poking the cake with holes. I’ve used a fork or a bamboo skewer.
- I cut the strawberries in half, then sliced them because I wanted slender pieces that wouldn’t interfere with cutting the cake. That worked pretty well, but next time, I would just chop them up and make for even easier cutting.
- I originally planned to layer the strawberries in a fancy design, but really, nobody is going to see them, and it was getting a little tedious with the size of strawberries I cut, so I very casually arranged them. For you. Since you were going to see them:) Next time, I’m chopping them all up and throwing them on the cake.
- The first piece of cake is probably not going to come out cleanly, especially if you use the size pan I did. (This is another reason I vote for the 13 x 9 size. It’s easier to serve from because you’re cutting squares.) Here’s a tip I use when I make it in the 13 x 9: Cut the cake in desired slices before you put the final whipped cream on top. Then, you won’t have to cut it, you’ll scoop up your pieces with a spatula and the whipped cream should just pull away nicely. This worked beautifully for me when I was serving multiple cakes to a large group. My whipped cream was soft enough to do that though. The cakes had set at room temperature for a bit before serving. Firm whipped cream may not work as cleanly for pre-cutting, in which case, you would just cut it when you serve it, wiping the knife clean after each cut.
- I didn’t sweeten the strawberries before placing them on the cake because I believe the cake has enough sweetness to balance any tartness the strawberries might bring.
So there you have it. Strawberry Tres Leches Cake. I finally had baking time and strawberries on hand at the same time. It was worth it. I love this strawberry version.
Of course, you can use any fruit you wish or use no fruit at all. Or you can make the Pineapple Coconut Tres Leches Cake that has coconut milk in it. They’re all good. Yep…
Strawberry Tres Leches Cake
For the cake:
- 6 3/4 ounces cake flour (about 1 and 1/2 cups + 1 Tablespoon)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter 1 stick, room temperature
- 8 ounces sugar 1 cup
- 5 large eggs room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the glaze:
- 1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
- 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup half and half
For the topping:
- 2 cups chopped or sliced strawberries
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- Additional strawberries for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 13" x 9" pan. Set aside.
- Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, (using paddle attachment) beat butter on medium speed until fluffy, about 1 minute.
- Decrease speed to low and very gradually add sugar (this should take a good minute) scraping sides of bowl as necessary.
- Add the eggs, one at a time mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix until combined.
- Add the flour mixture in thirds and mix just until combined after each addition. Scrape bowl as necessary and don't over beat.
- Transfer the batter to prepared pan and spread evenly. This will be thin layer of batter.
- Bake for 18-25 minutes until lightly golden. If you have a thermometer, the cake will be done when it's internal temperature registers 200 degrees. Mine took about 18-20 minutes.
- Place cake on a cooling rack and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Then, poke the top of the cake all over with a skewer or a fork. I used a skewer this time, but found that the fork was much more effective. Be thorough with poking the cake. Any areas without enough holes will not absorb the glaze as well as the areas that have a lot.
- Allow cake to cool completely.
- Make the glaze by combining the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and half and half in a liquid measuring cup. Whisk to thoroughly combine, then slowly pour the mixture over the entire cake.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, most, if not all of the liquid should have been absorbed by the cake.
- Arrange chopped or sliced strawberries all over top of cake.
- Place the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla into a mixing bowl and using whisk attachment or electric mixer, beat to stiff peaks. Spread or pipe the topping on the cake and allow to chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. Garnish with additional strawberries, if desired.
*Store cake covered in refrigerator. Once the cake is thoroughly chilled, you should be able to cut pretty clean squares. Mine only chilled for about an hour, so my whipped cream was still a bit soft. (Or, use my tips for pre-cutting mentioned in the post.)
*Even though I baked my cake in a 10" round, I'm recommending that you bake it in a 13 x 9 and therefore, have only mentioned that size in the directions. If you do decide to use the 10", baking time will be a few minutes longer.
*The original recipe is all in weight measurements which is great if you have a scale because you won't need measuring cups. I've provided the traditional measurements that are as close as possible to the weight measurements.
*I just lightly sweetened my whipped cream because the dessert is already sweet. If you like a sweeter whipped cream, you can double the powdered sugar or add even more to taste.
*Make sure you thoroughly poke the cake. I like to use a fork and poke every half inch or so until the top of the cake is covered in tiny holes.
*Update 5-6-16: It tooks us a few days to get through this rich cake (even though we shared it with others.) I thought I'd share that I thought it was better the day after I put the fruit and whipped cream on it and it was possibly even better on the day after that. The strawberries soaked up more of the milk and let out more strawberry flavor. Recipe adapted from Food Network The Merchant Baker Copyright © 2016