Thursday 31 January 2013

Tres Leches Cake with Blackberries & Coconut - Happy Birthday Kitchen Boudoir!

The Kitchen Boudoir turns one this week, after a year of 'dishing, intimately.' With the recipes on this blog, neighbours have been won-over, friendships have been cemented, landlords have been bribed, and much fun has been had. As a result of what happened with butter, sugar, eggs, flour, milk and cream this year, buttons were often unbuttoned for reasons more amorous than overindulgent.

You can read all about how this blog came to be on my inspiration page here. Today, however, I want to celebrate what this blog has come to be over this past first year: a virtual space to make real connections, and a truly wonderful (not to mention delicious) creative outlet. To celebrate - creatively and calorically, I made a Tres Leches birthday cake: a threesome of milks mingling atop a bed of almond-flour sponge cake, filled out with billowy whipped cream, plump, juicy blackberries and fragrant toasted coconut.

The 'tres leches' in question are: sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and whole milk (although sometimes heavy cream is used). I like to know where my ingredients come from, which is why I tend to buy organically and locally where possible. In a similar fashion, I like to know where my recipes come from, which is why I spend hours on Google tracing the etymology and wikilinks to a variety of facts and fairy tales about the origins of a certain dish.

I was intrigued to learn that the Tres Leches cake is of uncertain origin. Hypotheses abound for how it might have started out: Nestle's Mexican branch printed the recipe on the side of their condensed milk cans in the late 1800s; Nicaraguan grandmothers reconstituted dry cake with a triple milk bath and everyone ate it up; Latin America borrowed from the European tradition of 'soaking cakes' like British rum cake, tiramisu, or trifle.  Tres Leches cake has been a longtime favourite in Latin-American kitchens, and eaten con mucho gusto (with pleasure) by anyone who tries a bite.

I found myself smitten with the idea of making an almond sponge cake to soak up this creamy concoction (the base for Tres Leches can also be a traditional butter cake). I decided to use almond flour to fill out the sponge cake, which makes this cake naturally gluten free!

For the sponge, egg whites are whipped with sugar until stiff. The yolks are tossed in, one at a time, along with vanilla and coconut extracts to perfume, followed by the almond flour and some baking powder and whole milk. The cake puffs up and hollows out invitingly when baked, creating the ideal location for the three milks to get intimately acquainted.

The smell of the baking cake will deliciously cling to your body and you may notice people standing a little closer than usual. When I went to bed, my sheets smelled of it too - sweet dreams, indeed!

The sponge cake lustily drinks in the triple-milk sauce to moisten every crumb. Watching this happen borders on culinary voyeurism.

In the privacy of the fridge, the cake and the tres leches get more familiarizado. The cake is then topped with a luscious mound of whipped cream, tangy blackberries and golden-toasted coconut flakes before serving.

~ ~ ~

This year of blogging boudoir-style has seen me practicing safe synonyms, exploring erotic metaphor and contemplating the carnal implications of many an ingredient or kitchen implement.

I have my dear friend S. to thank for getting me started with this blog, and have had much help along the way:

I have turned to Marvin Gaye to set the mood.

I have visited the sites of the bloggers I have met online for 'visual stimulation,' and have even been known to turn down the lights and blog in my peignoir when faced with a case of writer's block. True story.

I especially would like to thank my friend T., who has generously given his time and expertise this past year to design, edit, taste-test and encourage a certain standard for the blog.

To all who have visited my Kitchen Boudoir either physically or virtually - I am so very grateful (especially to those of you with the 'difficult' task of eating what I made. My pant size thanks you.).

~ ~ ~

When it came to eating this post's birthday Tres Leches cake, the volunteers voiced such 'complaints' as:

"That slice clearly isn't big enough. Keep... Moving... The... Knife... Over."

"I'm eating a threesome!"

"This bite brings to mind some things that happened in Mexico that are staying in Mexico."

and, my personal favourite:

"For the sake of this cake, I will momentarily ignore the fact that I am gay and ask for your hand in marriage."

I will add this to the tally of marriage proposals I have received as a result of this blog, which is now at an even '4'.

This cake, with its ménage-à-tres-leches, successfully celebrates what I have come to recognize as the mandate of The Kitchen Boudoir: to inspire appetites of every kind. Enjoy!


OVEN: 350 F

For the Cake: 

3 eggs, separated
3/4 CUP sugar
1 TSP vanilla extract
1/2 TSP coconut extract
1 CUP almond flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1/4 CUP whole milk

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add in sugar. When stiff peaks form, add egg yolks, one at a time, followed by the extracts. In a separate bowl, combine almond flour and baking powder. Add to whipped egg mixture, alternating with milk, mixing until just combined. Pour into greased and floured 10" springform pan. Bake at 350 F for approximately 25 minutes, or until golden and no longer jiggly in the centre. 

For the Tres Leches:

1 CAN sweetened condensed milk
1 CAN evaporated milk
1 CUP whole milk or heavy cream

Combine all three milks. Pierce baked cake with a fork and carefully pour the sauce all over it. Wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. You will have quite a bit left over - feel free to get creative with alternate uses. I will be churning mine into a Tres-Leches-inspired ice cream!

For the Toppings:

1 CUP whipping cream
2 TBSP confectioner's sugar
1 TSP vanilla extract
1 1/2 CUPS blackberries
1/4 CUP toasted coconut flakes

In a stand mixer, whip the cream until soft peaks form, slowly adding the sugar and vanilla extract. Spread on top of the refrigerated cake and decorate with blackberries and toasted coconut. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


  1. this cake looks fabulous lovely pictures

  2. Happy birthday! This cake is so inviting and the comments very promising. Looking forward to the second year of the opportunity to peek into the luscious boudoir.

  3. Awww...Happy Blog Birthday! We started our blog almost at the same time (mine in Feb.). I'm making my blog a birthday cake as well, tomorrow. Hehehe, but I don't think mine will be as gorgeous as yours! I love coming over to your kitchen boudoir because you make the most fantastic sweets! Whenever I come here, I ogle your photos and smile at your words. So, here's to another year food, recipes, and friends!!!

    1. Thanks Jen - just saw the 'preview' of your blog birthday cake on Instagram and I can vouch wholeheartedly for its beauty.

  4. This sounds wonderful. Happy blog birthday to you!

    1. Thanks Caroline! Happy to also celebrate you as one of my first blog friends. :)

  5. Devine.
    I would be surprised if marriage was the only thing proposed due to your scrumptious blog;-)
    I will shamelessly admit to dipping my tongue in a can of condensed mild- I can only imagine the combination. Really the whole combo with blackberries and coconut too.
    You are bringing out the naughtiest one-liners that I just must keep in my head!!! Well mostly.
    cheers and Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum blog Geburtstag...

    1. Danke Wendy :) Ok, next can of condensed milk I use is being taste tested straight from the can - no shame! Yes, the ample space 'between the lines' is deliberate for those of us with fertile imaginations...

  6. "For the sake of this cake..." LOLOL!

    What a way to celebrate a birthday. Congrats. And I can't wait to see what's next!

    1. I know...and I'm not even making these up! The cake was so good it's in the running for my actual birthday. Or for whomever's birthday is next, as I'd have to wait until December for mine.

  7. Hi,
    Very sweet! nice post. I appritiate your write up. Could you please tell me which mixer you use for doing this? I was found a best hand blender on your blog but sad I have not got it. kindly mention me a best stand mixer for make apple juice.

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