If you love the flavor of milk, this cake captures it like no other. A friend complained about the use of canned milk in tres leches cake, and I understand. Even though I always try to start with fresh, whole food, I think this cake somehow tastes milkier with the canned milk. The history of this cake is disputed, but it is widely believed that Nestle played a part in boosting its popularity during World War II.
Adapted from Saveur, issue #68
Preheat oven to 325°. Brush 8 4-ounce ramekins with butter and set aside. Alternatively, you can make this cake in an 8-inch square, glass baking dish for a family-style dessert.
Combine flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside. Beat the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add sugar, beating until whites are glossy, then beat in yolks, one at a time. Stir in the flour mixture a quarter at a time so no lumps remain, but be careful not to overmix. Add the milk and stir until smooth. Fill each ramekin about ¾ of the way and place ramekins on a half-sheet pan (or fill the glass baking dish). Bake until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Put aside to cool for about a half-hour, then pierce each cake 3 or 4 times with a toothpick.
Combine cream, condensed milk, and evaporated milk until homogeneous. Slowly pour over each warm cake until saturated. Let it sit for about 15 minutes to absorb the liquid, then repeat until all the milk mixture is soaked into the cake. It will probably take 3 times to completely saturate the cake, but if you’re using the glass dish, you will probably only have to do this once. Set aside to cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
For the topping:
-2 cups heavy cream
-3/4 cup sugar
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whisk the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla together on low until stiff peaks form. Change to medium speed and whisk until quite thick. You can either spread the cream over the cake like a frosting, or you can make quenelles for a fancier presentation. If you spread the topping, it can sit in the fridge for a few hours as is. If you choose to do quenelles, I’d wait to top the cake right before serving.