26
Feb
09

Cuatro Leches with Arequipe sauce

Last week I asked my small group members if they had any baking requests, and someone suggested Tres Leches.  For those of you who have not had the fortune to eat good tres leches cakes, they are basically sponge cake soaked overnight in 3 (or more) milks, usually consisting of evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream, whole milk, and/or half&half.  They are then topped with either whipped cream or, more traditionally, a meringue.  I’ve made tres leches before, but find the basic recipe far too simple (really it’s just a simple cake in a casserole dish soaked with milk!), so I decided to try my hand at something with a bit more flair to it.

Enter La Duni’s Cuatro Leches cake, as created by pastry chef Dunia Borga for her latin cafe in Dallas.  This cake was one of the “Best Desserts in Dallas”, so I figured it was worth a shot!    I especially liked the fact that I hadn’t made many of the components before (a lemon meringue, homemade dulce de leche sauce) and that the tres leches sauce was poured onto the cake layer by layer, so the entire cake would have a moist texture and flavor to it.  The meringue gave the cake a sweetness while not being overpoweringly sweet, the cake itself was the perfect texture (dense and moist without being TOO soggy), and the homemade arequipe (or dulce de leche) sauce brought the dessert to a whole other level 🙂

Cuatro Leches

Cuatro Leches

I’m a bit confused why this is called Cuatro Leches though… since it uses five milks (evap milk, condensed milk, dulce de leche, heavy cream, whole milk), shouldn’t it be cinco de leches?  Well whatever, no need to focus on the name 🙂  The cake was actually a lot simpler to make than I thought, and since you can multitask the different components, it took about the same time as the birthday cake I made last weekend.  The dulce de leches took a while to make, but the process was simple.  Also known as “milk caramel”, the reaction is actually different than caramelization (Maillard reaction vs pyrolisis), but the result is extremely similar… it even tastes like caramel!

I don’t think I can go back to traditional tres leches ever again!

Cuatro Leches cake

from Chef Dunia Borga from La Duni Latin Café in Dallas as printed in Metropolitan Home, December 2007

Ingredients

Vanilla Mantecada Cake (sponge cake):

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for buttering pan
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk

Arequipe (dulce de leche sauce):

  • 1 (14 oz) unopened can sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ cup whole milk, warmed

Tres leches sauce:

  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup whipping cream

Lemon Meringue:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup egg whites (from 7 large eggs)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 350 deg F.  Butter a 9 inch cake pan or 2 8 inch cake pans (I used 2 8″ pans).  Set a can of unopened sweetened condensed milk in a pot of boiling water and keep it there for at least two hours.  Make sure that the water always covers at least 2/3 of the can or it may explode!  Carefully flip the can over every 45 minutes or so.

Boil condensed milk for 2+ hours

Boil condensed milk for 2+ hours

2.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside.  Cream the butter in your mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed until very fluffy.  Gradually add the sugar until blended, then beat for another minute to fully incorporate.  On low speed, add the eggs one by one, beating after each mixture to fully aerate the addition.  Beat in the vanilla extract.

3.  Add the dry ingredients and milk on low speed, alternating between the two in this manner: 1/3 of dry ingredients, then 1/2 cup whole milk, then another 1/3 of dry ingredients, then another 1/2 cup milk, and finally the remaining dry ingredients.  Beat until fully mixed (up to a minute, do not over mix).

cake batter

cake batter

4.  Pour batter into the prepared cake pan(s) and bake on the 3rd rack of your oven for 55-70 minutes, or until the cake is springy to the touch and the sides come apart from the pan.  Let the cake cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then turn it out on the rack to cool completely.

Pour batter into pans

Pour batter into pans

5.  When the condensed milk has finished boiling for at least 2 hours, remove the can from the heat and allow to cool.  When you open it, the dulce de leche should look like caramel with the texture of peanut butter.

dulce de leche

dulce de leche

6.  To make the arequipe sauce more manageable, mix with the 1/2 cup of warmed milk and chill before using.

arequipe sauce

arequipe sauce

7.  To prepare the tres leches sauce, simply mix the three ingredients together.  I actually added a 1/4 cup whole milk to make the sauce slightly thinner, but that is entirely optional.  This might seem like too much sauce (the original recipe called for less), but you don’t have to use it all!  This allows you to determine just how moist you want your cake to be.

tres leches sauce

tres leches sauce

8.  To prepare the meringue, begin by bringing the water and sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan.  Simmer over medium heat and cook, undisturbed, until the syrup reaches 240 deg F (soft ball stage) on a candy thermometer.

sugar syrup

sugar syrup

9.  Beat the cup of egg whites until soft peaks form.

7 eggs, separated

7 eggs, separated

Beat egg whites to soft peaks

Beat egg whites to soft peaks

10.  Gradually add the sugar syrup while continually beating (be careful not to pour the syrup on the beaters themselves).  Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract and beat until stiff peaks form.

beat meringue to stiff peaks

beat meringue to stiff peaks

11. To assemble cake, slice each cake layer in two to get four total layers.  Place one layer on a cake tray and poke vigorously with a fork.  Pour/brush as much as the tres leches sauce as you desire until you get the moistness you desire (generally about 3/4 cup of the sauce), giving the sauce time to soak into the cake.  Repeat with all the other layers.

cake layer

cake layer

soak each layer with tres leches sauce

soak each layer with tres leches sauce

12.  Spread the top and sides of the cake with about 1 inch of meringue, finishing the top with peaks or swirls.

spread meringue

spread meringue

13.  Use a blow torch to caramelize the meringue until golden brown.

caramelize the meringue

caramelize the meringue

14.  Finally, drizzle the arequipe sauce over the finished cake.  The recipe also calls for additional powdered sugar, but I didn’t want the cake to become too sweet so I skipped that 🙂

cross section

cross section

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4 Responses to “Cuatro Leches with Arequipe sauce”


  1. February 26, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Will there be any leftovers? We went to La Duni when we were in Dallas for State Fair last year… it’s yummy!

  2. 2 Patrick
    February 26, 2009 at 9:20 am

    lols there is nothing left

  3. 3 Megan J
    July 6, 2009 at 10:11 am

    I made this same recipe ; it’s DELICIOUS!
    Does anyone happen to know the nutritional information for one serving of this recipe however?

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