Let me begin by saying that I was introduced to the “Pan Tres Leches” baking technique by a friend of mine a few months ago. I went to visit her in Sheffield over the summer, and she had made this amazing sponge cake, soggy and gooey and soft and moist, it was so succulent, it just melted in my mouth and that sweetness bursting through on my palate as a result of the Pan Tres Leches sauce, it was so luscious, I was all in awe of it and I knew I just had to make it. It was simply magnificent. So, eventually I decided to combine my new love of it with my ever love of coconut. I have always loved coconut, the taste is a dream to me and the aroma of it just lulls me to a deep serenity. I don’t know, it just calms me like none other; and to have a cake that’s adorned with coconut essence and flakes, is simply heaven to me. It just touches me at the heart of gastronomy, flavour and the ever constant curiosity of deliciousness.
I made this cake on an extremely noisy Saturday morning. I got up early because we in the UK are having our winters and thus the days are very short and I really wanted to shoot this beautiful cake in the warm day light. Luckily, it was quite sunny that day as well and the frost a top of everything, the roof tops, the grass, the trees and the bird nest in my garden, it was all so snowy yet the contrast with that splendid warm and quiet sun with all its beams, so dazzling, it was such a gorgeous morning.
Although, all that quietness faded in the distance when my kids came running and screaming downstairs for breakfast whilst I was in the middle of preparing this cake. Now, don’t get me wrong, my kids hustle and bustle is the life of my home, but at that particular moment it flustered me and the reason being, this is a very tricky cake, it has to be preped and in the oven fast. It is not the kind of cake you can leave on your work top after you’ve done preparing it while you tend to other errands in the kitchen, because it does not do well just sitting out for too long. That was perhaps the first time I realised what Colette exactly meant in Ratatoullie, when she avers,
“you waste energy and time! You think cooking is a cute job, eh? like mommy in the kitchen? Well, mommy never had to face the dinner rush while the orders come flooding in, and every dish is different and none are simple, and all different cooking time, but must arrive at the customers table at exactly the same time, hot and perfect! Every second counts and you CAnNOt be MomMy!”
With my kids each wanting a different breakfast, asking for one thing or the other and furthermore my hubby wanting to have a hearty breakfast, asking me if I can make my Masala Egg Braidfast, because it was Saturday after all, I could honestly relate to Colette. I felt I was Colette, working in a fancy gourmet kitchen rather than a mommy cooking peacefully in my home kitchen. Nonetheless, what Colette doesn’t know is that being a mom, comes with its perks, the one most pragmatic, thus is, multi-tasking and that which comes naturally to a woman when she becomes a mother. Also, mom’s don’t always and most of the time are cooking in hectic situations as well, i.e. Between homeworks and going to and fro to kids clubs or karate practice or taking them to a football practice, all the while getting the house clean, getting laundry sorted and making beds and it goes on and on and on. So in all the family bustle, I managed to pick up pace to get everyone sorted, in particular my cake. So, I’m happy to say, All’s well and ended well.
Before I move on to the recipe, let me explain what “Tres Leches” or aka “Pan Tres Leches” is. It means “three milk bread”. It is a sauce of the concoction of the luscious condensed milk, evaporated milk and milk and in this particular recipe, Coconut milk, that is poured all over a spongy cake to give it depth and moisture. The sweetness and the moisture of the cake melts in your mouth giving you a punch of luscious flavour. Trust me when I say this, you will not be able to hold yourself back from this.The amazing thing about this cake is, is that, the more chilled it is the more scrumptious it becomes. The coconut essence and flavour comes through loud and clear with those dainty roasted flaked coconut drizzled on top of the frosting, which by the way, is finger licking good, extremely creamy and rich, packed with coconut flavour. Truth be told, that’s a lot of coconut, but hey, it’s coconut, I can’t get enough of it anyway.
Finally, it all came down to presentation. If I were to not photograph this, I would serve this right out of the baking tray, but because I wanted to take pictures, I wanted to make it look pretty. When I think coconut, I think, cake or cupcakes, elegantly dreamy and ravishingly dazzling and my tea table has to look fancy and aesthetic altogether. Hence, this came to be, “though she be but little, she is fierce” (Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night Dream)
That Saturday, I discovered another love, the love of my afternoon tea with the accompaniment of this exquisite Tres Leches Cake and Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as he himself puts it, “love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind”. This is absolute love for me, and though some may say, it’s just another cake, well! Guess what? I am arrowed by the Cupid blind. How can you not fall in love? How pretty!
Okay, a few reminders, bear in mind that a sponge cake has its fundamental key steps that need to be taken heed of in order to get that perfect cake. First and foremost, beating the eggs to their fullest frothyness and making sure they are warm which I will tell you how to in the recipe card. Moreover, do not over beat anything or over-fold the flour. The best way to know if you have beaten your eggs right, is to make sure it gets to its ribbon stage i.e. When you pick up your beater from the batter, it should fall back in in a ribbon form and it usually takes about 6-7 minutes to get that ribbon-like texture.
The more airy and frothy the eggs and batter, the more light and fluffy your sponge will be. Second, do not fold in the flour too aggressively because it might deflate the batter and hence you will end up with a denser cake. Third, sift the dry ingredients in as it makes the flour airy and helps the cake to rise up better and stay moist and airy. Also, the recipe calls for a cake flour. The cake flour is much more lighter and airier in texture as compared to plain flour. If you can’t find cake flour in store, don’t stress, make it. For every 1 cup of flour, take 2 tablespoons of flour out and add 2 tablespoons of cornflour in. Mix together well and that is your cake flour; but, in case you are wondering, you can use plain flour as well if you desire.
All these factors contribute towards a perfect light and spongy cake; be kind to your batter and your batter will always be upto standards.
Now, if you are feeling nervous, don’t be, because it’s really not difficult. If you love baking then this should be a walk in the park for you. If you are a beginner, always remember with time you get better and even if it doesn’t turn out right the first time doesn’t mean it never will and it really is a very simple cake. The first time I baked a sponge cake, it took me a dozen tries to achieve perfection. Nonetheless, this is a very bake-friendly recipe and it turns out pretty great.
Cooking time 30 min
Oven heat 350° (180°)
226 g unsalted butter melted
1 3/4 cup of cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt or sea-salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1/2 cup of coconut flakes
- Boil a little water in a saucepan and turn off the heat.
- Crack the eggs in a glass bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and put it on top of the steaming water.
- Add the sugar and whisk it with a hand whisk together until the eggs have become warm and the sugar has melted somewhat. This process helps the eggs froth to their fullest easily which will make the batter extremely light.
- Now take it off the boiler and mix it on high speed for 5-7 minutes or until the batter is light and frothy and reaches the ribbon stage (see blog for details).
- Add in the sifted dry ingredients and mix making sure not to over mix. The batter will be a little sticky and thick.
- In a bowl or measuring cup, mix together the coconut milk, melted butter and the coconut essence.
- Add half of the wet ingredients to the batter and fold it in to loosen the batter.
- Add the rest in and mix with a beater until well incorporated.
- Lastly, fold in the desiccated coconut.
- Pour the batter in a 9″-13″ baking tray lined with a parchment paper and level it out.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Cool for 5-10 minutes.
~ Pan Tres Leches Sauce ~
1/2 cup of coconut milk
1/2 cup evaporated milk
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- Mix the milks together.
- Cool the cake for 5-10 minutes and using a fork, prick or a thick straw poke holes all over the cake and pour the milk sauce all over making sure it goes inside the holes. Do not let the cake cool completely otherwise it will not absorb the Tres Leches Sauce.
- Set it aside for 45 minutes to 1 hour to let the cake completely absorb the sauce.
~ Frosting ~
250 g Mascarpone Cheese
180 g Cream cheese
1/2 cup Double cream
4-5 tblsp Powdered sugar
1/4 cup Roasted coconut flakes – to garnish
- Beat the double cream and powdered sugar until stif.
- Mix in the cream cheese until well incorporated.
- Fold in the mascarpone cheese.
- Spread over the cake and top it with the roasted coconut flakes.
Happy FoodieAting ~
Notes: I made this in a glass dish but my personal preference and recommendation would be a baking tray for this.