Gluten-Free Tres Leches Cake
With Cinco de Mayo swiftly approaching, I decided to take on the task of finding or creating a gluten free tres leches cake. If you don't know, or haven't had the wonderful opportunity of having such a delicious creation, tres leches simply means "three milks." You essentially pour a combination of whole milk, condensed milk, and evaporated milk over a yellow cake poked with holes, and top it with whipped cream. Amazing, right?
I did quite a significant amount of research before landing on this recipe, which is inspired from many many different recipes. I recently bought Chef Marcela's new cookbook, Casa Marcela, which is where the original idea of making a tres leches cake came to me. She took a less traditional approach for the presentation by creating a two-layer cake filled with whipped cream and strawberries.
I decided to start off the recipe the easy way, by using a cake mix at the store, and then amping it up a little. If I had chosen to follow the box instructions of the cake, I'm sure it would have been absolutely delicious as well, but using the ingredients I chose will give it a more depth of flavor without all the work of a from-scratch cake.
I chose to use buttermilk instead of the 2/3 cup of water the cake mix called for. Using buttermilk will make the cake much more rich and creamy than the water that was called for would have. However, when you use buttermilk, you must increase the increments from water since it is much more thick. I increased by 1/3 cup and the cakes turned out perfectly. If you don't have buttermilk on hand, using regular milk will work as well, just use the original 2/3 cup suggested on the box if you choose to do this. My box instructions only called for two eggs, but adding a third egg will help contribute to the richness of the cake.
Rather than buying two box mixes to make the two layers, I chose to use one box and just create thinner layers since it was only 4 of us for dinner. I used two 8x8 cake pans, sprayed generously with non-stick cooking spray, and filled them each with even amounts of the batter. I baked for about 26 minutes per the box instructions until the edges began to pull away from the pan, and the toothpick came out clean.
I let the cake layers cool completely on a wire rack, then began the assembly process and preparing the rest of the ingredients.
Place one layer of the cakes top side down on a cake pan or whatever dish you plan to serve on. VIGOROUSLY poke with holes all over -- this will ensure the cake gets the tres leches in all spots. Pour half of the mixture of tres leches all over the cake poked with holes. Be sure to do this slowly and close to the cake, so it gives it ample time to absorb the mixture. Be prepared for some of the mixture to pool around the cake, this is OK -- just going to make your cake test better overall.
In a chilled metal or glass bowl, add the 2 cups of heavy cream and beat until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar once they do, and mix until combined.
Top the first layer with half of the whipped cream then scatter half of the strawberries. Then add the second layer (full of poked holes as well), with the bottom side up. Top with the rest of the whipped cream and strawberries.
SEE NOTE BELOW RECIPE ****
GLUTEN-FREE TRES LECHES CAKE
1 box gluten free yellow cake mix (I used Betty Crocker)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. pure almond extract
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 quart strawberries, sliced vertically with stems removed
1 cup whole milk
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 12. oz can evaporated milk
1. Combine all the cake ingredients in a large bowl. Beat with either a stand mixer fitted with attachment, or using hand held mixer until smooth.
2. Grease two 8x8 cake pans using non-stick cooking spray and evenly split the batter between the two pans. Cook per package instructions, about 26 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
3. Allow to cool in pan for at least 30 minutes, then allow to fully cool on a wire rack before beginning to assemble the cake.
4. Combine evaporated milk, whole milk, and condensed milk in a blender and blend until smooth, set aside.
5. Place a metal or glass bowl in the freezer for at least 10 minutes. Remove from the freezer and add the 2 cups of heavy whipping cream. Once the cream is thickened and soft peaks form, add the powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until combined.
6. To assemble place one of the cooled layers, top side down on a cake pan or what you plan to serve on. Poke holes all over the cake (trust me ALL OVER) and then gently pour half of the mixture over the cake. Be sure to go slow so the cake can absorb it all areas. It's okay if the juice begins to pool under the cake, this will only help it become more juicy.
7. Top with 1/2 of the whipped cream and spread evenly. Top with 1/2 of the strawberries and scatter them evenly over the whipped cream.
8. Poke holes all over the second layer of the cake, then gently place on top with the bottom side up this time. Pour the second half of the mixture carefully over the cake.
9. Top with the rest of the whipped cream and strawberries and enjoy!
NOTE: This cake is beautiful and the flavor is out of this world, but stacking two layers of a very moist cake can lead to it falling and losing it's structure. If I were to do this again, though less pretty, I might cook the entire cake in a 9x13 pan and pour the milk mixture over the cake while keeping it in the pan. Then I would top it with the whipped cream and strawberries. I believe it would hold it's shape better, but totally up to you!