a good day and tres leches cake

Sometimes a day comes along that is almost perfect. Saturday was that day for me.

It was a day of happy little occurrences sprinkled throughout the morning and afternoon. Picking these wildflowers with my daughter was one of them. When I see pink and purple and white phlox growing on the side of the two-lane country roads between here and my parents’ house, I always think of my mother. I have memories of stopping to pick phlox with my mom when I was a kid, our hands sticky with sap from their stems and our bare legs itchy from wading through calf-high weeds to get to them. I felt blessed to share that with my own daughter on Saturday.

Sharing a lunch hour with my mom and my grandmother, my newly-wheelchair bound father, my husband and kids, and my sister – who came down from Chicago to visit for a few days – was another highlight of the day. We sat near the front picture window of this lovely little restaurant and shared plates of fried green tomatoes served with ranch dressing for dipping. My children, who normally refuse tomatoes of all sizes, ate these crispy treats and asked for more. My heart was full.

And then this.

For the last six months or so, Oliver has been asking us to take him to an Eeyore farm. My husband and I were puzzled by how we were going to accomplish this. Do donkey farms exist? We’ve seen plenty of farms with cows and horses around, but donkeys? We were stumped. We placated him with assurances that yes, of course we could go to an Eeyore farm – knowing full well that we intended to ignore the request from the 4-year-old.

Until Saturday came along.

Driving home on the country roads after lunch, we spotted two donkeys in a pasture off to the left. “Eeyores!” my son yelled, his voice filled with excitement and delight. After a quick u-turn at the entrance of a nearby gated neighborhood, we parked the car in the grass along the edge of the road and walked up to the fence. The donkeys – the Eeyores – came right up to us. Oliver and Maddie petted their soft noses and fed them weeds and grasses plucked from the ground on our side of the fence.

I think I smiled the entire way back home, just thinking of Oliver’s happiness at getting to pet and feed Eeyores for the first time ever. I’m never as happy as when my children are.

*   *   *   *   *

I promised myself I would share this recipe with you as soon as I could. I struggled with what dessert to make for Easter on Sunday, and ultimately decided to go with a Tres Leches (“Three Milks”) Cake. I discovered this cake when I lived in Miami some years ago, but I’d never made it before.

I learned two things from making the recipe this weekend.

First? Homemade whipped cream is hedonistic bliss on a spoon. I’m not sure I’ll ever buy the canned variety or the processed stuff in a tub anymore.

Second? This cake is unbelievably decadent. The sponge cake absorbs the liquid from the three milks, soaking up that sweet creaminess and giving the cake melt-on-your-tongue moistness. Topped with the homemade whipped cream, this cake was insanely delicious.

I think I actually mourned when that last bit of cake from the pan was gone.

Tres Leches Cake

Adapted from this recipe from Alton Brown. Prep time is 45 minutes plus 8-hours of overnight refrigeration time; cook time is 25 minutes. While it may look intimidating, it really is a very simple cake to make. Don't let the recipe overwhelm you. It serves 10-12, but be forewarned - you will want seconds of this cake.


Ingredients for Cake

vegetable oil for pan
6 3/4 ounces cake flour, plus extra for dusting pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces sugar
5 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Ingredients for Glaze

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup (8 ounces) half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Ingredients for Topping:

2 cups (16 ounces) heavy cream
4 ounces granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preparation of Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil and dust with flour a 13-by-9-inch metal cake pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Decrease speed to low and with the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar over 1 minute, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix thoroughly to combine. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches and mix until just combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. There will appear to be just a little batter for the size of the pan. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the cake is lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.

Remove the cake pan to a cooling rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Poke the top of the cake all over using the tines of a fork. Allow the cake to cool completely and then prepare the three-milks glaze.

Preparation of Glaze

Whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, half-and-half, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon in a 1-quart measuring cup. Once combined, pour the glaze over the cake. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preparation of Topping

Place the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk together on low speed until stiff peaks are formed. Change to medium speed and whisk until thick. Spread the topping over the cake and allow to chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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25 Responses to “a good day and tres leches cake”

  1. 1
    Adriana — April 27, 2011 @ 4:11 pm

    Loved the story of the donkey farm. In one of my first trips out to California, I had a friend stop the car so I could take a picture of farmed ostrich, which I had never seen before. I didn’t try to reach out for them, but it was awesome just stopping and seeing them in all their tall, live glory. If I had fun and didn’t even get to see one at arm’s length, I can only imagine how happy your kids were! I love tres leches cake, but haven’t tried to make it myself. So many people do a great job with it around these parts! My favorite version is actually called ‘Cuatro Leches’, which also has dulce de leche in it.

    • 1.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — April 27, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

      Oh, I bet you have access to some amazing versions of this cake. I cannot imagine adding dulce de leche to this cake – I might never stop eating it.

  2. 2
    Amy | She Wears Many Hats — April 27, 2011 @ 4:59 pm

    I’ve yet to make a tres leches cake yet, and I don’t know why. It does look mighty fine. Mighty fine indeed.

  3. 3

    First off, the story of Oliver wanting to see Eyeore made me smile ear-to-ear… those photos are so cute. Second, tres leches cake has been on my list for several months to make. After this ringing endorsement, I might just have to tackle it this weekend!

  4. 4
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — April 27, 2011 @ 5:50 pm

    So adorable! What a cute story!

    And now you have me drooling over this cake. How divine that looks!

  5. 5
    DessertForTwo — April 27, 2011 @ 9:06 pm

    Tres leches and pineapple upside down cake fight for #1 cake in my book. Yours looks great!!

  6. 6
    Donna — April 27, 2011 @ 9:12 pm

    Thank you so much for posting the tres leches cake recipe and delictable photos. For Easter I made my totally trashing (but delicious) cake that we call “Orgasmic Coconut Cake.” The original name of the cake was “Decadent Coconut Cake” but at some point my cousin got confused and now the misnomer has stuck. At Christmas I made tres leches and on Sunday two of my nieces asked for the recipe. All I had to do was direct them to your blog for both the recipe and photos. Perfect timing!

  7. 7

    This cake looks phenomenal! So moist! I completely agree with you about homemade whipped cream (I say this right after I posted a cake with cool whip frosting-ha).

  8. 8

    So wonderful that you had perfect day! The cake looks amazing and just wish I had a slice in front of me right now.

  9. 9
    Adora's Box — April 28, 2011 @ 8:37 am

    Aren’t donkeys just so cute. Now that my children are grown, I really miss those squeals of delight when they see animals. We are not in tune with tres leches cake here in the UK although I’ve heard of it. Gosh, that sounds really decadent and wicked. Three kinds of milk and heavy cream! Wow!

  10. 10
    Lynda — April 28, 2011 @ 10:29 am

    This cake sounds and looks sublime. Lovely post!

  11. 11
    Lora @cakeduchess — April 28, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

    Oliver is adorable petting the eeyore. I am also never as happy as when my children are:)Such a sweet post. Your tres leches cake is making me HUNGRY! Looks fantastic MJ:)

  12. 12
    Joy — April 28, 2011 @ 10:41 pm

    I love love tres leche cake. That looks wonderful.

  13. 13
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — April 28, 2011 @ 11:12 pm

    Sounds like an amazing day… And, the cake looks equally perfect! Can’t wait to give the recipe a try.

  14. 14
    marla — April 29, 2011 @ 8:06 am

    Your tres leches cake looks wonderful, but that time with your family is precious and priceless. Love that you found the Eeyore farm for your son 🙂

    • 14.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — April 29, 2011 @ 10:26 am

      Thanks, Marla. Yes – you’re right. The day with the family was just wonderful. One of those seemingly-rare days when everyone is in a good mood and there’s very little bickering. And then the donkeys were the icing on the cake. 🙂

  15. 15
    Anita Menon — April 30, 2011 @ 7:09 am

    A lovely day out with family. Nothing beats that!
    The tres leches cake seems like the best thing in the world right now. I have book marked it. thank you for sharing:-)

  16. 16
    Aggie — April 30, 2011 @ 4:36 pm

    That Eeyore story has got to be the sweetest story ever. How awesome to run into a couple of Eeyore’s on the side of the road…

    And the cake. I can seriously just taste it. Even though I am not even sure I’ve ever had it or know what it would taste like. I’m going to save this recipe for a special treat, I have a feeling it will wow anyone I serve it to.

  17. 17
    Katty's Kitchen — April 30, 2011 @ 8:50 pm

    I love this story–and what is NOT to love about tres leches cake! I refer to myself in Eeyore terms when I’m having a gloomy day and say I need to nail my tail back on just as soon as I can find it! 🙂 A good day for you and Oliver, too!

  18. 18
    Mauna — May 1, 2011 @ 12:16 am

    James just made this for my parents. It was a huge hit with everyone. My mom deemed him the ultimate son-in-law!

  19. 19
    TheGourmetCoffeeGuy — May 5, 2011 @ 12:47 am

    Delightful story. Donkeys are actually very intelligent animals and have some characteristics that make them excellent companions for farmers in many parts of the world. The Tres Leches Cake sounds incredible, moist and hard to put down… Nice photos, thank you for sharing.

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