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Tres Leches

An Academy Awards dinner [1] would not have been complete without some sort of special dessert. I decided to use it as an opportunity to tackle this recipe for Tres Leches cake that has been at the top of my “to bake” list for a while. If you scroll down, you’ll see that this recipe is more complicated than what I normally post. It is true. You need to devote some time and energy to this one. You’ll also notice that this cake might kill you. With over a dozen eggs and several cups of heavy cream, this needs to come with some sort of health warning.

It isn’t quite as bad as it seems, It does serve a bunch of people. The original recipe claims to serve 12, but I think 16 is a better estimate. Bottom line: this is a really lovely version of tres leches. I love the addition of blackberries and maple-glazed almonds. The almond cream is amazing. My only problems were with the cake itself. I had some trouble getting the cream to soak into the cake. I poked lots of holes, and then poked even more holes but much of the cream refused to be absorbed. I’m not sure why. The result was really unevenly distributed cream filling; not the worst thing in the world, but annoying.

The recipe is another from the Paley’s Place Cookbook [2], which I am becoming a huge fan of. I liked the addition of Kirsch (instead of the more traditional rum). I tracked down a bottle of Clear Creek Distillery’s [3] Kirsch (recommended by the Paleys), and was glad I did. It is excellent stuff and I am looking forward to using it in future recipes. Kirsch is a cherry brandy and this particular kirsch is produced in Oregon from local cherries.

While there are lots of steps in the making of this cake, none of them are particularly difficult. If you have time to devote to the process, you’ll be glad you did. Otherwise, whip up some almond cream and maple almonds and use them to top a bowl of fresh fruit and you’ll have an amazing dessert.

Tres Leches Cake with Blackberries and Maple-Glazed Almonds (adapted from a recipe by Vitaly and Kimberly Paley)

Cake:

Filling:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with nonstick vegetable spray or lightly coat with butter. Set aside.

To make the cake, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 9 egg yolks and 2 cups of sugar on high speed until the mixture becomes thick and pale in color, about 5 minutes. Add the 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and the 2 teaspoons of almond extract and mix on low speed until incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the baking powder with the milk and stir. In 3 batches, using a large spatula, fold the flour and milk mixture alternately into the yolk mixture, beginning and ending with flour.

Using a clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the 9 egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Stop the mixer, add the 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and whisk at high speed until the whites form soft peaks. Using a large spatula, in 3 batches, gently fold the whites into the flour mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake until golden brown, 45 minutes to 1 hour. The edges of the cake will have pulled away from the sides slightly.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely in the pan. Run a small knife around the edges of the pan, but do not remove the cake.

To make the cream filling, in a saucepan, combine the heavy cream and 3/4 cup sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Put the 4 egg yolks in a bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the hot cream mixture to temper the yolks.

In another bowl, combine the sour cream, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 2 teaspoons almond extract, the kirsch and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Whisk smooth and slowly add the yolk-cream mixture, whisking to combine.

To finish the cake, poke holes with a wooden skewer over the entire surface. Slowly ladle a cup of the cream filling over the surface. repeat until all of the cream filling has been evenly absorbed. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.

To serve, cut the chilled cake into servings, and garnish with almond cream and blackberry coulis. Sprinkle with Maple-Glazed Almonds. (recipes follow)

Blackberry Coulis

Place all ingredients in blender and liquefy. Strain to remove seeds. Taste and adjust for sweetness. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Almond Cream

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the sour cream, sugar, salt, and almond extract on low speed until blended. Increase the speed to medium and slowly add the cream. Increase the speed to high and whisk until the cream forms soft peaks. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Maple-Glazed Almonds

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a bowl, add the almonds, drizzle with maple syrup, and sprinkle with salt. Toss to combine and coat the nuts. Spread the nuts on the prepared pan. Bake until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container.