Monday, September 29, 2014

Tres Leches Cake

We have mice. Well, at least one. A mouse with the potential for plural. I wish I was one of those people who wasn't bothered by critters and that I could apply my typical, un-fun level-headedness to the situation. While everyone else is screaming and standing on chairs, I wish I could be the one shaking my head and gracefully and seamlessly ushering the pest outside or to the great mouse-hole in the sky. But that is not the reality.

I don't "do well with animals." Pets are fine. I've even had a few. (My first pet, a fun gerbil turned feral/immortal rodent beast named Cody, gnawed off my sister's thumbnail. Sorry, Annie.)

So, pets are usually fine. But the number of times I've heard a distressed pet owner exclaim, "I'm so sorry, he's never done that before!!" plus the number of times I've been LITERALLY CHASED BY A RACOON (twice) ... innumerable.

"But racoons don't chase people," my dad said, laughing uncontrollably. My 8-year-old self stood against our front door, crying and shaking and gasping for breath, probably in the middle of a panic attack so THANKS FOR LAUGHING, DAD. He went outside to "investigate" and realized I had been near a baby racoon sewer nest so yeah, the fast and tiny footsteps I heard closing in on me as I ran up our hill probably belonged to an adult racoon. I won! But I also lost. I lost so hard.

We had mice in my dorm junior year. Somehow, 31 floors up, we became a swanky Manhattan pent-mouse (see what I did there?) for multiple rodents. It played out much like a nightmare would. Scurrying across my bare feet? Check. A Saw-esque plotline involving inhumane sticky traps that maintenance "wouldn't be able to come back to get until Monday"? You bet, plus haunting, dulcet rodent screams. A mouse SHIMMYING UP MY BEDSPREAD and ONTO MY BED while I was ON SAID BED, establishing and maintaining EYE CONTACT before SIGHING AT ME?! Yeah. Yeah, that happened, and I ran out of my dorm room, without pants or key.

A mouse ran under my bed last night, so of course I "overreacted." My roommate asked if I had food in my room -- as if she didn't know the answer. Just last week, after I woke up from a nap, her boyfriend picked a Trix cereal morsel off my cardigan. So yeah. There's food in my room. There's probably food in my bed. There is food in my bed.

Anyway, mouse problems aside, I made a cake this week. Don't worry, people who ate that cake, it had nothing to do with the mouse(s). It was a pure cake. And it was my favorite cake. There's an adorable lots-of-lunching-ladies cafe in St. Paul -- Cafe Latte -- that makes a tres leches cake so amazing it just might be my wedding cake in the future, even if I'm marrying myself. Especially if I end up marrying myself. I found a recipe online that claimed to be THE Cafe Latte Tres Leches Cake, so obviously, that was happening. It turned out perfectly moist and milky and I can't recommend it enough.

Tres Leches Cake


1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk 

Soaking Liquid
about half of a 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk 
1 cup half & half
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon [hope you didn't put it away because it's time for more] vanilla extract 

fresh raspberries for garnish 


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8-inch cake pan. (I also floured it, but I think that was responsible for the slightly-too-brown bottom. I also may have been the only one to notice this.)
In a large mixing bowl (use your standing mixer here if you have one), combine the oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Whisk thoroughly. 

That buttermilk can't wait to join in on the fun!

 In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Fold the dry ingredients into wet ingredients and slowly add the buttermilk, while stirring. 
Mix well, until blended. 
Find a way to taste this batter and just, like, take a minute.

Mmm... glue...

Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for about 30 minutes. (It was at this time I realized the bottom seemed to be browning too quickly, but the inside wasn't done yet. I hope your experience is less stressful. Trust yourself. And the toothpick-test.)

Delicious on its own, pre-soaking and pre-creaming.

 Allow the cake to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes, then remove. 
Carefully cut the cake in half, horizontally. (I probably could've cut higher up -- I thought I was in the middle, but as you'll see, I wasn't.)

Place the two cake halves on a wire rack and allow to cool completely. 

Uneven halves! Whoops!

While the cooling is happening, whisk together the soaking liquid (sweetened condensed milk, half & half, vanilla).

Mmm... different glue...

 Put each cooled cake half on its own plate. 
Evenly pour the soaking liquid over the cake halves and be kind of grossed out?

Drenched! Like a wet t-shirt contest, but less demeaning and more cake-like.

Cover and refrigerate for basically as long as you want.

When you are ready to assemble the cake, GET EXCITED BECAUSE YOU ARE ABOUT TO MAKE WHIPPED CREAM. 
If you have a standing mixer, use it. If you have a hand mixer, use it. If you have to use your own strength, god bless you. 
Mix the whipping cream on medium speed, adding the powdered sugar and vanilla. 
Mix until soft-almost-stiff peaks form -- about 7 minutes.

Check out that lil' peak!

Apply a generous layer of whipped cream to the bottom half. But the top of the bottom half. You know what I mean.

I could've -- and should've -- added more whipped cream here. Don't make the same mistake.

Frost the rest of the cake with the whipped cream. Maybe you'll do a better job than I did.
Adorably garnish with raspberries.
 Eat the rest of the raspberries with leftover whipped cream and require a private moment.

All day.

This cake is simultaneously light and rich. It makes a good birthday cake -- especially if your special birthday someone doesn't care for traditional frosting... and loves vanilla extract. Because that shit is prominent. 

Happy baking! 


  1. Next time I have time and vanilla, I'm making this and eating this...all.

    1. Sam, you should be making this cake. It's so good. Please find the time and the vanilla, and let me know how it goes. xo