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Boozy Berry-Topped Tres Leches Cake


Serves 12 to 16

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 117

This take on the classic Mexican tres leches cake is generously topped with tequila-spiked whipped cream and sweet, juicy summer berries.

For the cake:
  • Unsalted butter, softened, for the pan
  • 4-1/2 oz. (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
For the soaking liquid:
  • 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Pinch kosher salt
For the topping:
  • 2-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 Tbs. gin or tequila
  • 2 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups raspberries
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon or lime zest
Bake the cake:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch Pyrex baking dish or a nonreactive metal pan. Line the bottom of the baking dish or pan with parchment and lightly butter the parchment.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a medium bowl and the yolks in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, beat the yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar on medium speed until the mixture is pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the milk and vanilla and beat until combined, 1 minute more.

Clean and dry the beaters and then beat the egg whites, gradually increasing the speed to high, until they reach soft peaks, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a stream, continuing to beat on high, until you reach firm but not dry peaks, 1 to 2 minutes more. Whisk a third of the dry ingredients into the yolk mixture until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in a third of the egg whites with a rubber spatula. Fold in the remaining dry ingredients and egg whites, alternately, in two more batches each, until fully incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared dish or pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack, remove the parchment, and let cool completely.

Return the cake to the baking dish or pan (the cake will soak up more of the liquid if returned to the pan it was baked in), or invert it onto a rimmed platter.

Soak the cake:

In a 2-quart saucepan, stir together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, and salt until the condensed milk is well blended. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring to avoid scorching, until it begins to bubble around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into a heatproof 4-cup measuring cup.

With a toothpick, prick the cake to the bottom in 1/2-inch intervals. Pour the soaking liquid slowly over the cake, starting at the edges and pausing to let it soak in before adding more. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the cake is well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Top the cake:

In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer on medium speed. When it begins to thicken, slowly add the gin or tequila, sugar and vanilla and continue to beat just until it holds firm peaks, 3 to 4 minutes (be careful not to over-beat). Spread the whipped cream all over the top of the cake. In a medium bowl, toss the raspberries, strawberries, and lemon or lime zest. Spoon the berries over the whipped cream and serve.

Make Ahead Tips

You can soak the cake in the milk mixture up to a day ahead and top it up to 2 hours ahead.

Photo: Scott Phillips

I made this cake without the booze and slightly less soaking liquid than called for. Having never made or tasted tres leche cake before, I didn't know what to expect. I'm pretty sure it came out perfectly (looked just like the picture, anyway!), and the flavor was great, but it was way too soggy for my taste. I'm going to try again with maybe, 2/3 or 3/4 of the soaking liquid. I heartily agree with the other posters: do be sure to make it the day before you need it. I made mine in the afternoon and served it in the evening, and it was much better on the second day.

Great recipe, made as is, but I've also made it with raspberries and Grand Marnier with good results.

Made this cake for our family Easter celebration. Did not add any alcohol (because of the kiddies) but definetely will try it with maybe amaretto! This was amazingly delicious and I must say that making it 24 hours ahead and letting it sit for that long in the fridge was the best tip ever, cake soaked up the liquid portion real well! East step by step instructions! Although instead of taking it assembled to our gathering, I left the 3 items, cake part, whipped cream and strawberries separate and had everyone put as much whip cream and straberries as they desired. Also made the cake not becoming too soggy from the berries. So left overs can be put in fridge and eaten next day! Really good recipe! Will definitely be making it again! ;-)

This is the first time I've written a review, but boy is this the best summer cake ever. I did the strawberry/raspberry and added Grand Marnier to the whipped cream. Yum!

This is ABSOLUTELY delicious. I've made it for a small group and for a crowd at a party. It has been a winner every single time. I started making with both berries, but because strawberries are in season as I write this, I'm only using strawberries right now. The alcohol is take it or leave it in the whip cream. It adds a very light flavor to the whip cream, but is DEFINITELY not necessary.

Delicious! A hit in my family. I just used fresh strawberries, though. It was simply great. Thanks a lot.

Best recipe ever! Made it without the alcohol...just used fresh strawberries and it was wonderful!!!

Best recipe ever! Made it without the alcohol...just used fresh strawberries and it was wonderful!!!

This is amazing!!! Tasted like a strawberry shortcake crossed with tres leches cake (duh). I did add a mix of tequila and UV cake vodka to the whipped cream. Definitely a hit and will be made again and again :D

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