Place the butter in room temperature to soften it.
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C or 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour a baking dish. (Roughly 9×13 inches or 20×30 cm is recommended.)
Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl until it’s light and fluffy.
Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. You will use both in this recipe.
Add the egg yolks to the bowl one at a time, beating in each egg well before you add a new one.
Stir in the vanilla.
In another bowl, sift together flour and baking powder.
Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, beating well after each addition.
Place the eggs whites in a glass or metallic bowl and beat them with cream of tartar or vinegar until stiff peaks form.
Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the egg whites into the butter batter.
Spread out the mixture evenly in the baking dish.
Bake in the oven until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out dry. This will normally take 25-30 minutes.
Leave the cake to cool off.
Stir together the 2 cups of heavy whipping cream with evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk in a small bowl.
Pour the milk blend over the cake until it is completely drenched and can’t absorb anymore. Don’t just pour all milk over the cake without checking how much it actually absorbs because this can lead to an overly soggy cake.
Whip the other 2 cups of whipping cream and blend in sugar.
Spread the whipped cream over the cake.
Place the cake in the refrigerator.
Tres Leches means ”three milks” and is a reference to the three types of diary used to make this dessert: condensed milk, evaporated milk, and cream. The origin of this cake is disputed, with culinary historians being divided between Mexico and Nicaragua. Today, the cake is eaten all over Central America and has begun to appear in United States bakeries as well.
The use of evaporated and condensed milk is a firmly rooted part of Latin American culture even though condensed milk wasn’t around until the 1850s and evaporated milk arrived on the scene even later. However, once these milk products saw the day of light they caught on very quickly in Latin America and for good reasons. Unlike fresh milk, canned milk can be stored and transported without going bad; a highly desirable trait in a part of the world where vast areas of land experience tropical temperatures year round. Even in present day Nicaragua, many families live without modern amenities like refrigerators.
This recipe is dedicated to Matty Morales, my grandchildren's "Abuelita", my daughter's ex-husband's mother, who turns 90 this year, and to the memory of her husband, Dr. Flavio Morales, "Abuelito", who passed away in 2007 from cancer, both wonderful people, and Nicaraguans of course, whom we are proud to have as part of our extended familia!
Pure milk was indigestible for many and historically contaminated with dangerous micro-organisms. Milk "processed" into Cheese or Yogurt was more digestible and safer. Gail Borden patented his vacuum pan for producing concentrated milk in vacuo in 1856. Milk could be kept pure, stored without benefit of refrigeration and be sold in close or distant markets. Later Pasteurization "processed" milk making it safe to drink - a much maligned "processed food".
Industrial production and processing made sugar - with its so-called empty calories - for the first time in human history, a commodity that could be consumed by calorically deficient commoners in Europe. "In England, the annual per capita consumption of sugar increased by 20-fold between 1663 and 1775 and increased a further five-fold between 1835 and 1935 providing a cheap and easy source of calories for the growing urban working class in Europe" (Nathan Nunn and Nancy Qian). Robert Fogel has shown that without sugar calorically deficient industrial and farm workers would not have had sufficient energy beyond basal metabolism for the productive work that created our modern world.