Reinventing a Classic: Marbled Tres Leches Cake


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During Hispanic Heritage Month—Sept. 15 to Oct. 15—National PTA celebrates the Hispanic child as part of its Every Child in Focus campaign. Here’s a classic dessert favorite from Latin America that you can bake at home. Enjoy!

It would seem that each and every single Latin American country claims the tres leches cake as its own. Not only does everyone absolutely love it, it is also deeply ingrained in that nation’s gastronomy and culture.

Tres leches is a classic; but a classic from where?

Ask an Argentinean: From Argentina, of course. Ask a Cuban: Sin duda from Cuba. Ask an Ecuadorian: Claro que from Ecuador. A Venezuelan? Por supuesto que es de Venezuela. Ask a Mexican: Of course, sin duda, claro que por supuesto que es Mexicano. No doubt, it is Mexican. ¡Si señor!

The traditional way to make it is to make a sturdy sponge cake and bathe it in a tres leches sauce. However, the cake lends itself to be played with, and as the decades have gone by, many variations have appeared in attempts to dress up and reinvent this classic.

The three milks in the sauce are the fresh tasting regular milk, the lightly savory evaporated milk and the charmingly sweet La Lechera sweetened condensed milk.


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They also are made with cajeta or dulce de leche, different kinds of nuts, coconut, spiked with rum, exotic fruits and coffee—just to name a few. The cake basic, it is easy and it can be easily transformed.

At home, we absolutely adore chocolate. And, since my boys have a hard time making up their minds as to when to make the tres leches cake vanilla and when to make it chocolate, one day I decided to go marble. That was it. Now we rarely go back.

In my marbled version, the vanilla cake has fudgy chocolate swirls that go wild when soaked in the tres leches sauce. I garnish with copious amounts of grated Mexican chocolate all over the top and a sprinkle of ground canela.

If you want to make it even more decadent, grab a squeeze bottle from La Lechera of dulce de leche and drizzle liberally over the top.

The tres leches cake can be made ahead of time, as it gets better and better as it soaks and chills bathed in the sauce. It is also perfect to bring along to your next gathering or party.

Pati Jinich was born and raised in Mexico. She’s now a successful cookbook author, TV chef and mother of three boys. To help National PTA celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Pati shares an amazing recipe that combines culture, history and family.

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