For Mother's Day this year, we decided to combine Cinco De Mayo and celebrating motherhood. I mean, seriously folks, what mother do you know couldn't use a little cerveza and fun in her life? I was definitely excited that they landed close together so we could combine the festivities!
This recipe is a twist on a more traditional Tres Leches cake. Tres Leches means "3 Milks" and since this recipe uses 5 milks, it is now "Muchas Leches," or many milks. :) In both versions, vanilla-cinnamon sponge cake is brushed with a milk mixture that soaks in and saturates the cake. It becomes rich, creamy, and incredibly moist.
I also really liked the addition of the sugared almonds in this recipe. It gives a really good crunch that pair nicely with the creaminess of the cake. Without them, I think the cake would be too soft on it's own. One suggestion for the almonds is to make sure that you keep a good eye on them (not letting them burn) and stir them throughout their cooking time to break them up and help them cook more evenly and quickly.
Cinnamon Leches Cake with Sugared Almonds
Yield: About 16 servings
For the cake:
2 cups (8 oz.) blanched almonds
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
7 large eggs, separated
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
For the soaking liquid:
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp. dulce de leche **See Note/recipe below
1/4 cup cream of coconut (usually found in the liquor section although it contains no alcohol)
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
For the sugared almonds:
2 large egg whites
2 cups slivered almonds
1/2 cup sugar
For the whipped cream frosting:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
Splash of vanilla extract
Fresh berries, for garnish (optional)
To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line the bottom of a 9 x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper, and butter and flour the edges of the pan. Place the almonds in the bowl of a food processor with 1/4 cup of sugar and the cinnamon. Process until finely ground. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Transfer the beaten egg whites to a different bowl and set aside. Wipe out the mixer bowl. In the now-empty mixer bowl, combine the egg yolks and the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Fold in the flour and the baking powder with a spatula. Fold in the ground almond mixture. Mix in a third of the beaten egg whites to lighten the batter. Fold in the remainder of the egg whites until evenly incorporated and no streaks remain.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth with a spatula. Bake approximately 26 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
To make the soaking liquid, combine the whipping cream, dulce de leche, cream of coconut, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and vanilla in a bowl or liquid measuring cup. Whisk together until smooth.
To make the sugared almonds, place the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl and whip on high speed until frothy. Stir in the almonds and sugar until evenly incorporated. Spread the mixture in a thin, even layer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Bake at 325˚ F until golden brown and crisp, approximately 20 minutes (let cool a minute or two before touching). Allow to cool and then break apart into small chunks.
To make the frosting, place the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Mix in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Blend in the vanilla.
Using a serrated knife, cut the cooled cake into thirds width-wise so that you have three pieces of cake about 4 1/3 x 9 inches each. Place one of the segments of cake on a rectangular serving platter and brush with a third of the soaking liquid. (You may want to poke the cake with the tines of a fork to help it absorb the liquid.) Frost with a layer of the whipped cream. Top with another layer of cake, brush with half of the remaining soaking liquid, and frost again with whipped cream. Top with the final layer of cake and brush with the remaining liquid. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the whipped cream. Press the sugared almonds into the top and sides of the cake to cover evenly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Before serving, dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar and top with fresh berries, if desired.
Source: adapted from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather
**Note: I couldn't find dulce de leche at my grocery store. Rather than hunt it down, I decided to have fun making my own. If you're not feeling up to it or don't have time, just substitute an additional 2 Tbs. of sweetened condensed milk.
If you do want to try making your own, I have listed the recipe as well. This uses a whole (small) can of sweetened condensed milk, so you can definitely use the extra over ice cream, cupcakes, or other desserts!
Dulce de Leche
Preheat the oven to 425° F.
Pour one can (14 ounces) of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk) into a glass pie plate or shallow baking dish. Stir in a few flecks of sea or kosher salt.
Set the pie plate within a larger pan, such as a roasting pan, and add hot water until it reaches halfway up the side of the pie plate.
Cover the pie plate snugly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours. (Check a few times during baking and add more water to the roasting pan as necessary).
Once the Dulce de Leche is nicely browned and caramelized, remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool, whisk until smooth.
Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Warm gently in a warm water bath or microwave oven before using.
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz