In the first quarter of 2014 I asked our online community of any interest in a super Tres Leches dessert. Response…amazing!


As I had many scheduling hurdles in 2014, my focus was drawn away from the goal of developing a modified version of what we had been using at the Occupational Center to serve over 1000 people on our International Days before the end of 2014!

Instead, I am celebrating Tres Leches success for 2015!

My challenge was that I had already developed a delicious formula for the Tres Leches syrup—it needed a cake to match its excellence.

I was looking for a type of sponge cake that absorbed more syrup and simpler to make than the one we had been using. My research took me to Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum which turned out to be from a former chef employer, Mary Sue Milliken. The class turned this recipe into a sheet version using 18 eggs, which normally yields an appropriate amount of batter. The results were not what I was looking for exactly—too dry and lumpy for some reason—could have been a student error-who knows-and no time to try again.

As still not happy with the experiment at school as I wanted to make a smaller round dessert- size as per Beranbaum. The book references a 3-inch high version which I made and not happy with the shape-I continued….

My next experiment yielded a Happy Day!

My thoughts lead me to refer back to my own upscale dessert business before I began my current career as the Director of the Culinary Arts Department at “West Valley Occupational Center in the San Fernando Valley.

Back then I had baked many a genoise in 10 x 2 inch round pans and all of them contained 6 large eggs as does Beranbaum’s /Millikens’s recipe.

Why not, I thought, try a tried and true size pan for this search as well!

In addition to the book’s ingredients, I added ¼ teaspoon baking powder sifted with the all- purpose flour as the book’s sponge seemed so unusually delicate even when baking principles were followed perfectly by yours truly.

It worked! And no sinking and pulling from the side of the pan this time!

I offer some handy hints for success:

1. Once completed, this cake must be refrigerated at least overnight. I would caramelize the sweetened condensed milk 4-5 hours before you want to make the syrup.

2. The unbaked foam batter is fragile despite using room temperature eggs (a must for best volume), and heating the eggs over a hot water bath (baine marie) to 109 degrees F.
(The correct consistency of the eggs and sugar and vanilla once the mixture is whipped for at least 5 minutes after warming to 109 degrees F.)

3. I use my hand to constantly stir the egg sugar mixture while the mixing bowl is over the simmering water bath. I use my hand so as to feel the warmth of the egg and make sure that all of the sugar is dissolved by feeling the mixture as it warms. A baker’ technique.
 (Sugar and egg that must be mixed immediately after adding the sugar to room temperature eggs.)

 (Using hand to mix the eggs and sugar over the bain marie)

 (Bowl on top of saucepan which shows the bain marie)

4. Once the heated eggs are beaten to the ribbon stage, scrape this batter into the 10 x 2 inch round cake pan, use a bowl scraper with a generous sweeping motion—not little swipes-so as to quickly though gingerly allowing the batter to fall in large quantity. I do this as the side of the cake pan rather than the middle so as to not to cause deflation of the foam in the middle of the pan—destruction of the air cells. The batter will flow and fill the entire pan

.(genoise batter in cake pan ready to immediately into the oven)

5. Bake immediately in a preheated and calibrated oven. The oven is set at 350 degrees F and bake for 30 minutes.

6. I use two thermometers in my oven to calibrate. I actually have to set my oven to 320 which allows the oven to actually bake at 350 degrees! You must know this for success—my oven was off this many degrees even when it was brand new!

7. Let the cake cool in the pan 5 minutes as it should still be “attached” to the pan sides and perfectly level.

8. After 5 minutes of cooling down time, loosen the cake from the side with a straight  metal spatula, sprinkle the top with about 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar all over and flip the cake onto a piece of parchment covered cake board. The sugar prevents sticking.

(Sugar on top of cake before turning out of pan)

9. Keep the parchment paper that lined the bottom of the pan  (which is now on top) on the cake!! So you have parchment on the top and bottom.

10. Cool the cake.

11. Wash the cake pan. Line the cake pan with plastic wrap so as to come up the sides and over to the outside of the pan.

12. Lift the cake from the parchment paper that is under the sugar coated cake top and place the cake into the pan flipping the cake so as the top is now the top again.

b31fea76-5209-48ae-91af-b3caf56c80ec(Bake cake flipped out of pan to cool)

13. I do not remove the golden brown crust from the top as it has a delicious curarized flavor!

14. Now you poke holes in the cake top with a thin wooden skewer all over including all around the cake edge about ¼ inch inside the perimeter of the cake. The holes facilitate the delicious syrup to disperse throughout the cake layer better than if not poked.

15. Make the syrup according to the directions following this overview, and apply the syrup that has cooled 5 minutes. I use a ladle and you make sure that all of the syrup is added being careful to make sure that the edges of the cake are included!

16. I ladle enough syrup to cover the cake and let it sink in and then ladle some more. Use all!

17. Let the syrup filled cake cool 45 minutes or until just cool.

18. Cover with parchment paper and then plastic wrap.

19. Refrigerate 8-12 hours.

20. When cool, I uncover the cake and flip the cake onto a cake board of equal diameter (10 inches).

(Refrigerated cake that contains the syrup ready to take out for decorating using a cake board)

 (Cake onto cake board and ready to have parchment paper that was used in the baking removed for icing.)

21. I ice and decorate the cake photographed here with stabilized whipped cream so the cake has a shelf life of several days covered in the refrigerator—if it lasts! And great if you own a restaurant or deli!

4075de62-964e-4895-8f2e-1e8c7a0da9b9(Iced and decorated with stabilized whipped cream flowers)

f4170428-481d-424b-8896-c1dfeb77ad89(Cut slice ready to serve and enjoy!)


You can find the formula for stabilized Whipped Cream on my YouTube channel video link.

This cake is loved by all who tasted it so far—even those who do not like Tres Leches dessert!

Enjoy and please let me know of your efforts on our Facebook Page or here on the blog posts!!

Best regards and Happy New Year 2015!

Chef Susan
Bake America Stronger!

P.S. I use the leftover caramelized milk for my recipe of Alfajores which will be included and shared in a future email! CS

(Be sure to read the previous hints before preparing the dessert.)

Tres Leches-The Sponge

Yields:  one ten inch round cake.

Number of Servings: 8-10 or more or less depending on slice size
Large eggs (room temperature)      11 ounces
Superfine Sugar (Bakers’)               7 ounces
Vanilla Extract                                  ¾ teaspoon 
Salt                                                   ¼ teaspoon
All-purpose Flour (bleached)            7 ounces
Baking Powder                                 ¼ teaspoon

Crisco to coat the pan
All-purpose flour to coat the pan
Equipment: Parchment paper, scissors, 10 inch x 2 inch round aluminum cake pan (I use Magic Line pans), 5 quart stand mixer, whip attachment, mixer bowl, saucepan (2-3 quart), bowl scraper, rubber scraper, measuring spoons, 1 bowl to crack eggs one at a time into the mixer bowl, hand or brush to spread Crisco onto inside cake pan, sifter or sieve, thermometer, timer, scale. 


  1. Completely coat the pan with thin coat of shortening. Flour the pan and tap excess off of the shortening.
  2. Preheat the calibrated oven to 350 degrees F
  3. Line the bottom of the cake pan with parchment that fits exactly.
  4. Put water into the saucepan so as to not allow the mixer bowl to touch the water.
  5. Heat the water to simmering not boiling.
  6. Place the mixer bowl with eggs and sugar over the water bath (baine marie) and with your hand stir the mixture rapidly so to prevent the eggs from cooking-you just want them pretty warm—and the sugar dissolved; 109 degrees F is fine.
  7. Put the bowl immediately onto the mixer and fit with whip and whip on high speed until the eggs are at the ribbon stage, rather a soft-definite peak—5-6 minutes.
  8. I sift the flour and baking powder twice before adding to the eggs at this time.
  9. Once the eggs are cool and whipped as described above, I add using a sieve about ½ of the flour/baking powder to the eggs and use my hand to fold this into the eggs rapidly but gently opening my hand to gain surface area. When I can see that most of the flour has disappeared, I add the rest and do the same thing as gently and as rapidly as I can so as to not deflate the eggs.
  10. Then as in number #4 hint above rapidly with large swift motions with my bowl scraper I want to dispense the batter into the cake pan near the side.
  11. Bake as directed above in #5.
  12. Follow the hints 6-11 above.


Chef Susan’s Tres Leches Syrup
Hint: You need to caramelize the sweetened condensed milk using the brands recommended in the photographs. I do not use the brands that are already caramelized as the flavor of the cake would not be the same.

Yield: one 10 inch x 2 inch round cake

Approximately (2 pounds plus 11 ounces)

Caramelized sweetened condensed milk      1.75 ounces
Evaporated milk                                            2.25 ounces
Sweetened condensed milk                         14 ounces
Evaporated milk                                            3.25 ounces
Heavy whipping cream                                 1 pound 1 ounce
Light corn syrup                                            4.5 ounces
Vanilla Extract                                                2 plus ¼ teaspoons
Brandy                                                          1.25 ounces

Equipment Needed: Saucepan- 3 quart size, stainless steel whisk, measuring spoons, scale, ladle, hot pads.

  1. Once the sweetened condensed milk has been caramelized and the cake baked then proceeds.
  2. Measure 1.75 ounces caramelized milk and 3.25 ounces evaporated milk into the saucepan. Heat at medium while whisking constantly until the caramel melts into the evaporated milk (5 minutes or less just do not turn up the heat too high or the mixture will burn.)
  3. Add and bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk  the 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk, 3.25 ounces evaporated milk, 1 pound plus 1 ounce heavy whipping cream(preferably not ultra-pasteurized), 4.5 ounces light corn syrup, 2 and ¼  teaspoons vanilla extract.
  4. Remove from heat once the mixture boils, let cool 5 minutes and add brandy.
  5. Use hints 10-21 to add the syrup and finish the cake.

Chef Susan's 52 Secrets of Perfect Baking & Cake Decorating


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