This is a mashup of a classic Mexican cake and the Vietnamese ice coffee I am so addicted to. The connection is the sweetened condensed milk that is the foundation for both. Tres Leches (three milks) is a cake soaked with cream, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk. Vietnamese ice coffee is made with the strongest coffee on earth mixed with sweetened condensed milk and poured over ice.
I made a coffee caramel milk syrup to soak the cake with and then topped it with a coffee whipped cream. Tres Leches by nature can be a bit sweet, but the coffee cream toned down the sugar and added a slight bitterness, which I found to be perfection. My family ate half the coffee caramel Tres Leches cake while I was at pottery class and then polished it off for breakfast the next morning, which just happened to me Cinco de Mayo.
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla (homemade recipe here)
3/4 cup evaporated milk
Coffee Caramel Milk Syrup:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup evaporated milk
2 teaspoons espresso or coffee powder
Topping (this is best made the day before):
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup lightly crushed coffee beans (not ground)
1 tablespoon sugar
To make the cake:
preheat oven to 350°F
Butter and line a 8-inch square cake pan with parchment paper.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together, set aside.
Cream together the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla. Alternate adding the flour and evaporated milk until you have a smooth batter, but don’t over mix.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake for about 35 minutes or until tester comes out clean.
Cool on a rack until room temperature.
While the cake is cooling make the Coffee Caramel Milk Syrup:
In a medium-sized, heavy bottomed pan, heat the sugar and water over medium heat. Make sure the sugar doesn’t go up the sides of the pan.
Don’t stir or move the pot until the caramelization starts. (If you stir or move the pan it can cause the sugar to recrystallize and harden.) Once it has started to caramelize you can swirl the sugar around in the pan to help it caramelize evenly. Once it starts to smoke, you are ready to add the milk.
The caramel will bubble, steam and sputter when you add the milk and coffee, so do it carefully.
Using a large skewer poke dozens of holes in the cake. You want to make sure to do it about every 1/2 inch, so the cake is well soaked at the end.
Drizzle the caramel over the cake. I do it slowly, so it has time to make it into the holes more evenly.
Let the cake sit for at least 15 minutes, but an hour+ is better.
To make the coffee whip cream: In a saucepan, heat the cream and add the coffee. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. (It is best to let it sit in the refrigerator overnight and strain the next day to get the strongest flavor.)
Strain the cream and whip to medium peak.
Invert the cake onto a serving plate.
Cover with cream.
Serve any leftovers for breakfast, add sliced bananas if you feel guilty about eating cake in the morning.