This cake is, in essence, a sheetpan version of tiramisu with superabundant soak. It’s also a travesty and is neither really a tiramisu or a tres leches cake.
For the uninitiated, tres leches cake, or pastel de tres leches, is a sponge cake soaked in a mixture of canned and fresh milk. I love it – it is the dream remedy to all dry cake nightmares! Origins of this cake can be linked to multiple Latin American countries, European influence, expansion of dairy farming and sales of canned milk. It’s perhaps a familiar story of food emerging from resilient local ingenuity under colonialism (with a touch of capitalism and wartime food preservation).
I also love tres leches cake because it is very tempting to mess with all the milk the cake is soaked in. (I will somewhat shamefully admit there is already a lemongrass coconut tres leches cake on the blog, along with an ode to my favourite neighbourhood Columbian grocer/cafe.)
And such a mess seems to have happened again, this time with inspiration taken from the coffee, marsala and mascarpone-rich tiramisu. I’ve added coffee and marsala to mimic the savoiardi soak, as well as mascarpone to the whipped cream spread overtop, and finished it with a dusting of cocoa powder. It IS a travesty, may I remind you.
I love my tres leches variants, but it’s true that these variants can’t compare to the perfect simplicity of the classic, for which I’d recommend a recipe such as this one from Ana Frias’s Muy Delish blog!
tiramisu tres leches
Sponge cake recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen. You can certainly assemble the milk mixture according to your own tastes! For instance, this makes a more minimally-sweetened cake, so be sure to taste and increase the condensed milk as per your own preferences. If you’d prefer a less alcoholic version, reduce the marsala.
- 4 eggs
- 50g sugar
- 85g flour
- pinch salt
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 300g evaporated milk
- 225g whole milk
- 100g condensed milk (or more to taste for sweetness)
- 2 tsp instant coffee powder (about 6g) dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
- 60g sweet marsala
- 150g mascarpone
- 1 tbsp sweet marsala
- 1 tbsp milk
- 180g heavy cream, whipped
- cocoa powder to dust
Preheat the oven to 350F. Very lightly butter an 8″ square pan – I buttered it, then wiped over the pan with a tissue to leave only a trace of butter. Line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper.
Place the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat until frothy, sprinkle in the sugar, and then continue whipping until very light and fluffy. They are done when you can draw a figure-eight with a ribbon of batter flowing from the whisk, and it stays on the surface of the batter for at least 10 seconds.
Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Sift a third of the flour over the egg whites and fold in until no streaks or lumps of flour remain. Repeat twice more until all the flour is incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out with a small offset spatula. Bake the cake for around 25 minutes or until browned and an inserted skewer is removed clean.
While the cake bakes, prepare the milk mixture by whisking together all the ingredients. (This can also be a chance to adjust the cake to your taste – if you like, start by mixing the evaporated milk and whole milk, then add condensed milk, marsala and instant coffee dissolved in a small amount of hot water to taste.) Transfer to a cup with a pouring spout.
Take the cake from the oven once baked and let cool around 15 minutes or until just warm. Poke the cake all over with a skewer right down to the bottom of the pan. Poke quite regularly – I poked about every 2cm.
Slowly pour over the milk mixture over the cake, being sure to get the sides and middle, adding more milk as it is absorbed. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next cream cream the mascarpone with the marsala and cream. Whisk in a dollop of whipped cream to lighten the mixture, then fold in the remaining. Spread overtop of the cake and dust with cocoa powder.
Update notes: recipe updated March 2022 – I’ve been thinking about adjusting the milk mixture for a bit, and I prefer the formula which I’ve updated the recipe to reflect! Originally I used straight coffee, but along with the marsala it did water down the milk soak a bit making it not quite as rich as it could be. I’ve since adjusted it to use instant coffee and lots of milk instead. If you don’t have instant coffee or don’t like to use it, you may replace the whole milk in the recipe with some very strong coffee.