Ch. 42: Leche, Chocolate Tres Leches Cake


I’m always looking for new cake recipes. Unlike most desserts, cakes seem to be pretty simple to put together but tend to have good results. I mean other than the cake falling apart or being dry, there’s not much you can do to a cake to make it taste bad. I’ve been doing a lot of layer cakes lately for family gatherings and wanted to find a recipe that was more straightforward- aka not involving turntables, crumb coats or piping bags. I ventured to Emma’s Goodies- an up and coming Youtube Channel that’s packed to the brim with some impressive cakes that not only look great, but seem pretty simple in their steps. Emma’s a trained pastry chef with a bakery background that does a pretty great job of breaking down recipes so you understand why things are done and what results they yield. I’ve followed her for a few months and wanted to finally try one of her recipes- starting off with her Chocolate Tres Leches Cake. Now I’ve made traditional Tres Leches before, and the result was good, but I found that recipe to be overly sweet for my taste. Emma does it a little differently, and I hope that the addition of chocolate would make for a match made in heaven. 

The recipe starts off by making a chocolate sponge cake. Some semisweet chocolate and butter get melted together in the microwave and set aside to cool. We then get onto the meringue portion which will give the cake a nice lightness that’ll balance out the soak later on. Egg whites are beaten together with sugar until the meringue is stiff and glossy. In a separate bowl, the cocoa powder is mixed with some hot milk until smooth. This “blooms” the cocoa powder which will intensify the flavor before the chocolate-butter mix is added in, followed by the egg yolks. Next come the dry ingredients- flour, baking powder and salt- which are sifted in and carefully mixed until well combined. The meringue is then folded in, lightening up the cake base and giving it that final spongy texture. The cake gets baked until a toothpick comes out clean after which it’s cooled for a few minutes then inverted onto a rack to cool completely. Now you’re probably thinking- where’s the leche? Emma takes it up a notch, making a chocolate milk mix consisting of some melted chocolate, cocoa powder, whole milk, sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream. I actually opted for evaporated milk in place of heavy cream because I had some extra on hand- which is actually more traditional anyway. The cooled cake gets placed back into the pan with parchment and then poked all over with a toothpick or fork to crease holes. The chocolate milk is then poured all over the cake and let to sit in the fridge for about an hour to soak. After which, I transferred the cake to a serving plate and let it chill in the fridge. We then make the chocolate whipped cream topping. In a microwave safe bowl, I placed in the chocolate and half of the heavy cream, letting it heat up in 30 second increments until smooth. Once our quick ganache was made, we add in the rest of the cream and let that sit in the fridge until very cold. The chocolate cream is whipped until medium peaks, after which it gets spread out on top of the cake. I smoothed it out with a bench scraper just as Emma did to get that nice top. After a few hours in the fridge, I trimmed the edges to get those clean sides and cut up into perfect squares. 

The flavor of this cake is amazing. There’s a deep chocolate flavor in the cake that’s just in the middle of a scale between bitter and sweet. The texture is what really threw me as the cake appeared to be dry when I sliced it up. Emma recommended an hour soak, after which there was still a good amount of liquid that ended up on the counter when I tried to flip it. Maybe I hadn’t soaked it up enough? I know that traditional tres leches is served in the container it’s baked in, however I didn’t want to end up with an overlay wet and soggy cake. Still, it wasn’t bad at all, with the texture resembling a dense brownie. The topping is something I’d definitely steal for future recipes. It’s light and airy, with a great chocolate flavor. Note that I had to chill mine a little longer than expected in order to get it to whip up properly. So if yours is still quite loose, a stint in the fridge is all you need. Overall, I was quite impressed at how neat the finished cake turned out and would definitely make it again. 

Full Recipe | Method by Emma Fontanella of Emma’s Goodies:

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