This is such a fabulous cake on all levels that appeals to all the senses. I share almost everything I bake and test for this website with family and friends. The first thing my husband Jim said when he sampled this cake was “don’t give any of this away!” and I knew immediately this was a winner. Similar to a traditional Tres Leches Cake made with sponge cake soaked with 3 different milks – hence the name tres leches “three milks”, this version is made with 5 milks to make a sweet milky syrup that is reminiscent of Caribbean flavors.
Sight: Visually, this cake is stunning with four layers of golden sponge cake sandwiched with mounds of whipped cream. The covering of sugared almonds makes it extra pretty, and if you serve the cake with fresh fruit it becomes even more beautiful.
Smell: You will love the almond and cinnamon smells wafting out of your oven as the cake bakes, and the smell of fresh whipping cream is heavenly.
Touch: When biting into a piece of this cake you will feel the lushness of the soft whipped cream in your mouth, the texture of the ground almonds and the creamy moistness of the cake from the soaking liquids, and then comes the delightful surprise of the crunchy sugared almonds.
Hearing: Be prepared for many exclamations of ooohs, aaahs, and yums from everyone.
Taste: The best part about this cake is the incredible taste. The sponge cake itself is light with the flavor of fresh ground almonds and just the barest hint of cinnamon. The soaking liquid is to die for; it is incredibly scrumptious with the mixing of 5 different milks and creams and the undertone of coconut flavor from the coconut cream is lovely. The thick layers of sweetened whipped cream make this whole dessert ridiculously good and the sugared almonds is a treat all alone and just may become your new best baking ingredient.
Now that hopefully you are ready to bake this wonderful dessert yourself, let me give a few tips and suggestions. This recipe is from The Pasty Queen by Rebecca Rather, who provides other stunning recipes along with this one. The original recipe states the sugared almonds take 8 to 10 minutes to bake. But because of the ratio of egg whites to almonds, they will actually take 40 to 50 minutes. I would recommend making the sugared almonds and the Dulce de Leche one, or a few days beforehand to have these items ready. Yes, there are fourteen (14) eggs used for the cake batter plus 4 additional egg whites for the sugared almonds; this is not an error. Beating 14 egg whites also requires an extra large mixing bowl (I use a large ceramic potato chip bowl for large projects like this.) If you don’t have an extra large bowl you could beat just one half of the egg whites at a time. This makes a fairly large cake, and you will need a serving plate, preferably rectangular, that can accommodate a finished cake of about 8 x 10 inches. Instead of using a 12 by 17 inch pan you could substitute three 9-inch round cake pans if you prefer. I added vanilla extract to the whipped cream as I think this improves upon the flavor. You will have left over Dulce de Leche but don’t despair; use the leftover in coffee or as a topping on ice cream for some indulgent treats. The original recipe makes 4 cups of sugared almonds; I actually only needed about 3 cups to cover the cake, therefore you could cut the recipe down to 3 cups if you desire. However these sugared almonds are so good you will be glad you have leftovers and will be wishing you had more. They are good to just eat by themselves, sprinkled on oatmeal, served with fruit, and on and on and on.
Muchas Leches Cake with
Small amount of butter plus parchment paper for preparing pan
16 ounces (about 4 cups) blanched almonds
1¼ cups plus ½ cup granulated sugar, divided
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
14 large eggs, separated
¼ cup Dulce de Leche (see directions below)
½ cup whipping (heavy) cream
½ cup sweetened cream of coconut such as Coco Lopez, (not coconut milk) stirred well before using,
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
½ cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Whipped Cream Filling and Topping:
4 cups whipping (heavy) cream
1½ cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
4 cups sliced almonds
1 to 2 tablespoons confectioners (powdered) sugar, for dusting
Fresh fruit or berries
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare one 12x17x1 inch Jelly Roll pan; Line with parchment paper and lightly coat the top of the parchment paper with butter or cooking spray. Tip: Use a large enough piece of parchment paper to allow overhang to make easier to remove after baking. You can substitute three 9 inch round layer cake pans if you prefer.
- In a food processor, process the blanched almonds, ½ cup sugar, and cinnamon until the almonds are finely ground. Set aside.
- In a small size mixing bowl, combine flour and baking powder; sift or whisk together to mix. Set aside.
- In a large bowl of an electric mixer, add the egg yolks and beat on low speed about 1 minute or until blended, and then increase the mixer speed to high and beat for 5 to 8 minutes or until the mixture is very thick and drops in ribbons when the beater is lifted. Lower the speed to medium and slowly add the 1¼ cups sugar, continuing to beat another 2 to 3 minutes.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer. Using a balloon type whisk or large rubber spatula, gently fold in the ground almond mixture, one-third at a time. Then fold in the flour mixture. Set aside.
- In another very large mixing bowl and using clean beaters, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gently fold about ¼ of the beaten egg whites into the batter to lighten the batter, and then fold in the remaining egg whites.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with the back of a large spoon or large offset spatula. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when lightly touched. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then invert the cake onto a wire cooling rack that has been greased with a light coating of cooking spray or butter. Carefully peel off the parchment paper. Let cool completely.
- Dulce de Leche: I recommend making the Dulce de Leche one or several days beforehand and refrigerating until ready to use. Remove the paper wrapper from the can of sweetened condensed milk. Clean the top of the can, and use a can opener to make two small punctures on opposite sides of the top of the can. Set the can of milk in a medium size saucepan, puncture side up, and fill the saucepan with water to reach two-thirds up the sides of the can. Cover the pan and bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat until the water is simmering. A bit of milk will probably seep out of the small holes you made in the can. With the pan covered, simmer the milk about 1 hour and the milk pooled on top of the can has turned a deep golden brown. Add extra water to the pan if necessary while the water is simmering to keep the water level the same. When done simmering, carefully remove the can from the hot water and let set for several minutes to cool slightly, or just leave the can in the hot water until cooled before removing. Use a can opener to carefully open the can and use a rubber spatula to spoon the cooked milk into a bowl. The milk should have a pudding like consistency. Let cool completely then cover the bowl and refrigerate until ready to use. Tip: Do not simmer the can without first making the punctures in the top of the can. Otherwise the can may explode because the milk expands as it is heated.
- In a medium size bowl, combine cooled Dulce de Leche, whipping cream, cream of coconut, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and vanilla; stir to thoroughly combine. Set aside or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Whipped Cream Filling and Topping:
- In a very large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the whipping cream until soft mounds form; gradually add the sugar and vanilla, continue beating until thick and stiff. Tip: the cream will whip easier if the mixing bowl and beaters are first chilled; place in the refrigerator to chill until ready to whip the cream. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.
- Using a serrated kitchen knife carefully cut the cooled cake in half length-wise and then cut each half in half width-wise. You will have 4 rectangular pieces each about 6 inches x 8½ inches.
- Use a large metal spatula or cake lifter to invert one of the cake pieces onto a serving plate. Tip: Use a large flat serving plate, preferably rectangular, that will accommodate the finished cake of about 8 x 10 inches. Inverting the cake pieces will allow the soaking syrup to soak into the cake more easily as the bottom of the cake doesn’t form as hard a crust.
- Carefully pour about one-fourth of the soaking syrup over the cake piece, spreading with a pastry brush to evenly distribute the syrup. Tip: Use a fork or wooden skewer to poke several holes about ¼ inches apart in the top of each cake if necessary to allow the soaking syrup to soak into the cake, but don’t worry if it doesn’t all soak in before spreading the whipping cream as it will eventually soak in. Spread whipped cream over the top of this cake piece, using about one generous cup or about 1¼ cups of the whipped cream.
- Repeat with the next two layers, inverting each piece, pouring and spreading about one-fourth of the soaking syrup over each piece and then covering each piece with whipping cream. Place the fourth layer on top and pour the remaining soaking syrup over the top and let soak in. Spread top and sides of cake with remaining whipping cream.
- Gently press the sugared almonds around the sides and top of the cake, covering it completely.
- Refrigerate the cake at least one hour to stabilize the whipped cream before serving.
- Sugared Almonds: I recommend making the sugared almonds one or several days beforehand and putting in a covered container until ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a large baking pan or jelly roll pan with a non-stick baking mat or parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a medium size bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until foamy. Add the sugar and stir to mix with a rubber spatula. Add the almonds and stir until the almonds are completely coated.
- Spread the almonds evenly in the prepared pan and bake, stirring occasionally, 40 to 50 minutes or until the almonds are golden brown. Remove from oven and stir or break them up with your hands. Let cool completely then place in a covered bowl until ready to use. Tip: the almonds will seem very wet at first because the ratio of egg whites to almonds is high. As they bake they will begin to dry out and then turn golden brown.
- Before serving, use a fine-mesh sieve to dust top of cake with confectioner’s sugar. Serve with fresh fruit or berries. Refrigerate leftovers.
Adapted From: Rather, Rebecca, The Pastry Queen, Ten Speed Press, California, 2004
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