This yummy, dense, hot milk cake (leche uno) is soaked in a vanilla milk sauce/thin pudding/thin custard made from combinations/permutations of sweetened evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and/or sweetened heavy cream (leche dos) and covered in whipped cream or yup!cool whip "leche" tres). The cake and the soaking cream are usually heavily flavored with vanilla. Recipes for Tres Leches vary almost as much as the "we made it first" claims. All that can definitively said is it is widely popular. One possible theory for the general confusion about origin may be that it originated as a promotional recipe once distributed in many areas of Latin America, perhaps on cans of evaporated milk.
Nope, I don't have a recipe of my own so I won't cut and paste one of the many available on the web. There is no family tradition. I just read about this cake somewhere and had tried it many times when eating out before I ran into Alton Brown's version here. It isn't classic as it is not a hot milk cake base but it is very good.
Tres Leches is now my go to recipe for pot luck dinners.
I recommend you try Tres Leches next time you're eating in your favorite Cuban,Puerto Rican, Salvadorean or Nicaraguan restaurant or google "tres leches recipe" or try Alton Brown's version like I did and make it for yourself.
Alton Brown's version fits my pan perfectly which in turn fits perfectly into a cooler. I don't know if I want to rock the boat but next time I may use my mother in law's recipe (below) for hot milk cake and bake both layers together in the same 9 by 13 inch pan.
ROSE's HOT MILK CAKE:
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
Grease and flour - 2 cake pans (8 or 9 " / round or square are fine).
Rose's Hot Milk Cake (also called sponge cake). Good with bittersweet chocolate icing (with or without vanilla pudding in cut layers), butter cream icing, or a base for strawberry shortcake (ice with whipped cream and berries). Rose also used to ice half the cake in butter cream and half in bittersweet chocolate icing. It is also good just plain with no icing, with ice cream or Jae's variation of cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top before baking.
Cream together - 2 cups sugar, 4 eggs, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract plus a pinch of salt.
Warm together - 1/4 pound butter and 1 cup milk (skim is fine) just until butter is melted.
Mix in a separate bowl - 2 cups un-sifted flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder.
Add the flour mix then the milk mix to the egg mix in 3 alternating batches. Start with flour and end with milk.
Do NOT over beat (just enough to combine) and be quick. The baking powder activates quickly.
Pour into the 2 pans. Rap pan sharply on the counter to remove major air bubbles. Place in oven immediately.
Bake 1 hour or until golden brown and/or a toothpick inserted comes out clean. May need to rotate pans half way through cooking if your oven temperature is not staple.
Turn out of pan immediately and cool completely on cake rack before icing.
If desired cut each cake layer in half horizontally using dental floss. It may help to cut the corners on the starting side first with a serrated knife. This anchors the floss and prevents smashing the corners in.