Blueberry tres leches cake: An alternative to chocolate or a happy (or cruel) Valentine’s Day for Wife?February 13, 2007
Under doctor’s orders to avoid sweets, my wife is spared the cruelty of commenting on this delicious dessert. (Sadly, she could only look longingly at it and poke it forlornly with a fork. It fell to me to do all the tasting.) So, for a change of pace, you’ll be treated to just the Husband’s thoughts on this recipe. (But fear not, dear readers, I promise to make this cake for her as soon as the doctor lifts the restriction on sweets.)
For the first time in a long time, Valentine’s Day vexed me. Was it that I couldn’t find the right gift? Or decide what to make for dinner? Or find flowers pretty enough to make my wife swoon? No, I was vexed by this this blog.
I was trying to think of ways to reflect romance on a plate. I wanted to create something that is Valentine’s Day. To me, that means dessert; specifically, getting out my bakeware and working with chocolate. Trouble is, when you look out at the universe of yummy Valentine’s Day offerings, the chocolate genre is well covered. Furthermore, my wife likes chocolate, but it’s not her favorite. As we’ve pointed out in previous posts, she’s all about the blueberry.
And what is more romantic: A box of chocolates? Or giving someone something that shows you know them? So, I offer up an alternative to chocolate… I give you “Blueberry Tres Leches Cake.” For those not familiar with tres leches cake, it’s a milk-soaked cake common to Latin American cuisine. Tres leches translates literally as “three milks.” So it’s actually soaked in a combination of evaporated milk, condensed milk and whole milk or cream.
Here, we put a twist on it by blending in some blueberries with our soaking milk. We also add a blueberry coulis (fancy word for strained purée sauce) to reintroduce the acidity and brightness of the blueberries. The coulis also has the benefit of playing down the gray coloring of a cake soaked in blueberry milk. And finally, we top it all with some fresh whipped cream and more blueberries. In essence, we are creating a blueberry-palooza in a cool cake.
Some technical notes before I’m done. First, you can use frozen blueberries in this dish. Aside from the garnish, there isn’t any reason you couldn’t. I actually used fresh here because I keep so many in our fridge to keep the wife and her passenger happy.
Second, this cake can be topped with whipped cream in the pan and cut out. In fact, most recipes use that technique. I don’t do that here strictly for presentation reasons. I wanted the brightness of the coulis to cover up the purple-blue gray of the cake. If I had coated the cake with whipped cream first, I would drizzle the coulis on the plate and/or over top of the whipped cream for the same effect.
Finally, not to get “Semi-Homemade” with you, but I see lots of ways to cut the time and effort on this recipe. For example, you could use your favorite boxed cake recipe and likely turn out an even better version than mine. Or, you could buy a pound cake or similar boxed cake from the grocery and start by soaking that cake. A lot of shortcuts seem available, and you shouldn’t be afraid to grab them!
If this cake reminds you more of summertime then Valentine’s Day, well that’s to be expected. But my valentine would give up chocolate forever if I promised her blueberries every day. Since, I can’t do that for her, I made this. I hope you all have a good time with your special someone tomorrow.
Blueberry Tres Leches Cake
Yield: 6-10 servings
1 1/2 cups cake flour (but all-purpose can be used)
5 large eggs (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
Tres leches (three milks)
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)
2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 lemon (zest and juice)
Whipped Cream (2 cups heavy cream + 1/2 cup sugar + 1 tsp vanilla)
13 x 9 baking dish (preferably non-stick, if not then greased and floured)
1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the sugar and butter. Cream together until the butter is light yellow, smooth and fluffy. (About 3-4 min on medium). Add the eggs to the mixer one at a time, waiting for each one to be fully integrated before adding the next. Once all the eggs are integrated, add the salt, vanilla and baking powder. Add the flour to the mixer 1/2 cup at time. You do not need to wait for it to be smooth, you just want the new flour wet. After adding the last bit of flour allow the batter to mix just until the last of the flour is integrated — then stop immediately. You don’t want to overmix; the cake will get tough.
3. Pour the batter out onto your greased and floured 13 x 9 pan. Place in the oven and bake for 30-40 min. You are looking for light browning; the cake is done when a toothpick inserted in its center comes out clean. I would begin checking at 25 min and calibrate time based on that.
4. Once the cake is complete, use a fork to poke several holes over the surface of the cake. Let cool completely.
5. In a blender, or a large bowl if you have a stick blender, add the evaporated milk, condensed milk, cream and blueberries. Blend (“blitz,” for you Brits and Aussies) the mixture together until the berries are broken. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the stem, skins and seeds from the mix.
6. Pour the mixture over the cake about ½ cup at a time. Let the milk be completely absorbed before adding more. This should take 10 minutes or so and may leave you with extra soaking liquid. The goal is to soak the cake, but not make it too soggy. Once the cake has taken enough liquid, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour (three hours would be better).
7. Now we need to make the coulis. In a medium-sized pan over medium heat, add the blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar. Using a spoon or potato masher, begin to break up the berries as you cook. Cook for about 10-12 min or until the sugar is completely absorbed and has come together as a syrup. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain out the skin, seeds and stems. Let the liquid cool.
8. Time to dress up! Once the cake has rested in the fridge, cut a slice from the hunk and place on a plate. Lightly drizzle the couilis across the plate and slice of cake. Top the cake with a large dollop of whipped cream. Add fresh blueberries to garnish. Serve. Enjoy!