Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy new year and a (cuatro) leches cake

Happy new year everyone! I wanted to thank everyone for your readership this past year. I am so grateful for all of your support, comments, and interest.

I’ve had my little blog for about a year and a half now. I’ve learned so much and have had so much fun cooking, writing, and discovering. It’s been great meeting people through the blog and discovering new blogs to read. There are so many interesting and talented bloggers out there, it’s just amazing. Last year, I tried to up my food photography game. I joined flickr and have been participating in a number of food photography groups – a great experience. I learned how to use Photoshop (really there’s no end to the learning but I’ve at least gotten to a point where I can make use of a number of the truly amazing features it offers). I joined the Daring Bakers group, which has led to some wonderful new baking challenges. I started to participate in some of the many food and photography events in the blogosphere. It’s been a great year and I’m looking forward to more of the same next year.

Now, on to food. R and I had a lovely and low-key new years celebration with two of our friends last night. They cooked Nigerian food and we brought caviar and dessert. I decided to try something new rather than fall back on the tried and true and chose a recipe that intrigued me from this month’s Metropolitan Home (go figure). It’s a Colombian spin on a classic Mexican tres leches cake with one additional milk, a milky caramel-y dulce de leche sauce (making it a 4 leches cake!). I love tres leches cake and have been meaning to find a good recipe to try, so I decide this was the time. To add to the interest, the recipe for the dulce de leche sauce came with a warning that if not cooked properly, it might explode. After that type of a warning, I could not resist trying!

The cake was wonderful and very pretty. It was very dense and moist and the meringue frosting was silky and not stiff, as I would have expected. While delicious, we all thought the dulce de leche sauce was unnecessary – it made the cake sweeter than it needed to – the cake can easily stand on its own. I do, however, think the sauce would be lovely in another context – maybe on a dense chocolate cake or something where a little extra sweetness, moisture or a contrasting flavor would be nice.

Cuatro leches cake (from Chef Dunia Borga from La Duni Latin Café in Dallas as printed in Metropolitan Home, December 2007)
Serves 10

Vanilla 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:
¾ cup evaporated milk
¾ cup sweetened condensed milk
¾ cup whipping cream

2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup water
1 cup egg whites (from 7 large eggs)
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar, for decorating

1. To make cake, preheat oven to 350˚F and arrange an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Butter a 9-inch cake pan, line with a round of parchment paper, and butter the paper. Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt into a bowl. Cream the butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until very fluffy. Add the sugar, ½ cup at a time, beating after each addition, until blended. On low speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Finally, beat in the dry ingredients, alternating one with the milk: first, about one third of the dry ingredients, then ½ cup of the milk, another third of the dry ingredients, the remaining ½ cup milk, and finally the remaining dry ingredients. Beat until fully mixed, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Do not over beat.

Pour patter into the prepared cake pan and bake until the center of the cake springs back when touched an a tester inserted comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes and then turn it out on the rack to cool completely.

2. To make the arequipe sauce, place the unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a perforated insert such as a pasta pot) inside a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, and simmer for 2 hours, turning the can twice during cooking, once after 45 minutes, then again at 1 ½ hours. (Make sure the can is always covered by water, or it may explode.) Remove can from water and let cool before opening. Be careful when opening it, as the contents will squirt out; pour into a bowl, whisk in the milk, cover and refrigerated.

3. To make the meringue, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, undisturbed, until the syrup reaches 240˚F (soft ball stage) on a candy thermometer. When the thermometer registers 200˚F, begin beating the egg whites on medium speed in an electric mixer fitted with the wire whip until soft peaks form.

4. To assemble the cake, turn the cake out onto a cardboard round and remove the parchment. With a long serrated knife, cut the cake into 3 even layers. Remove the top 2 layers. Use a fork, to pierce the bottom layer all over; brush with about ¾ cup of the tres leches sauce, giving the sauce time to soak into the cake. Place the second layer on top, pierce with the fork, and brush with another ¾ cup of the sauce. Spread top and sides of the cake with about 1 inch of meringue, finishing the top with peaks. Use a blow torch (or run under a broiler, if possible) to caramelize the meringue. To serve, cut the cake into wedges, drizzle with the arequipe sauce, and sift confectioners’ sugar over it.


Peabody said...

That looks sensational.

Anonymous said...

The perfect dessert - sounds & looks delicious!
Beautiful photo !

Anonymous said...

I see the cuatro leches on the dessert bar every time I eat at La Duni (which is often!) and yours looks as good if not better. Impressive!

Anonymous said...

What a great start for the New year!
Can you send me the cake (rfeady to bake) by fed-ex.
Only for a special dad.

Happy new year to you, R, and the Blog.

All of us look forwar to new ideas in 2008.

Anonymous said...

What a beauty. Best wishes for a sweet '08! Keep the posts coming.

Deborah said...

What a gorgeous cake!!

Anonymous said...

After reading this, I promptly went down to my kitchen and ate about 500 calories worth of tres leches cake that I just happen to have in my fridge. YUM! This is your best picture yet. Happy New Year to you & R!

Annemarie said...

Happy new year to you - so pleased to have discovered your blog last year, and look forward to much more of the same in 2008!

Bea said...

A very happy new year to you too! Great looking treat to celebrate.

Katy said...

that looks absolutely beautiful, but i bet it tastes even better. future daring bakers challenge, perhaps?!?

Helene said...

Happy New Year! What a gorgeous cake!

Unknown said...

This looks and sounds absolutely scrumptious!

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