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Pastel de tres leches by Tartine Bakery

For a while we have heard about the delicious breakfast pastries, cakes, tarts, cookies and breads that are created everyday at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, CA. After reading some great reviews and also knowing that the book was honored for James Beard Foundation Award for Excellence, we decided to get it and add it to our growing collection of cooking books. It’s definitely a  handsome book, full of great recipes. You can get yours at Amazon.

The first recipe that caught our eye, was “Pastel de Tres Leches” recipe or three milks cake. This cake is very popular in Mexico and Central America, but its origin is unknown. The pastry chef and the co-author of Tartine, Elisabeth M. Prueitt described the cake as soft, moist and delicately flavored and a perfect dessert after a spicy meal.

I have to say the results were delicious, but definitely we have to practice more the Chiffon cake to get it more airy and soft.

Coconut Chiffon Cake Yield: One 10-inch cake (Split into 3 layers)
All-purpose flour 2 1/4 cups [ 11 1/4 oz – 315 g ]
Sugar 1 1/2 cups [ 10 1/2 oz – 300 g ]
Baking Powder 2 tsp [ 10 ml ]
Nutmeg, freshly grated 1/4 tsp [ 1 ml ]
Salt 1 tsp [ 5 ml ]
Vegetable oil such as safflower or sunflower 1/4 cup [ 2 oz – 60 ml ]
Large egg yolks 6 [ 4 oz/125 mil ]
Water 1/4 cup [ 2 oz /60 ml ]
Unsweetened coconut milk 3/4 cup [ 6 oz – 175 ml ]
Large egg whites at room temperature 10 [ 11 oz – 325 ml ]
Cream of tart 1/2 tsp [ 2 ml]


Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 1o-inch springform pan with 3-inch sides with parchment paper cut fit exactly. Do not grease the side of the pan.

Sift together the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 oz- 250 gr) of the sugar, nutmeg and the salt and whisk to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, unsweetened coconut milk, egg yolks, water, vanilla, and lemon zest. Make a well in the flour, add the yolk mixture, and then whisk thorougtly and quickly for about 1 minute until smooth.

Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl. Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat on medium speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar or lemon juice and beat on medium-high speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup ( 1 3/4 oz – 50 gr) sugar and beat on medium high-speed until the whites hold firm, shiny peaks. Using a rubber spatula, scoop about one-third of the whites onto the yolk mixture and fold in gently to lighten the batter. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with an offset spatula if necessary. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool in the pan (the side of the pan will help hold the structure of the cake as it cools) on a wire rack. To unmold, run a small thin knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake, peel off the parchment paper, and then use as directed. The cake will keep, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Unsweetened coconut milk  1 cup [ 8 oz- 250 ml ]
Sugar 6 tbsp [ 2 3/4 oz – 80 gr ]
Vanilla extract 1 tsp [ 5 ml ]
Salt pinch

To make the coconut syrup in a small bowl, stir together the coconut milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt and stir until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.

Unflavored gelatin 1 1/2 tsp [ 7 ml ]
Water 2 tbsp [ 30 ml ]
Pastry cream recipe 2 1/2 cups [ 20 oz -625 ml ]
Whole milk 2 cups [ 16 oz – 500 ml ]
Vanilla bean 1/2 bean
Salt 1/4 tsp [ 1 ml ]
Cornstarch 3 tbsp [ 45  ml ]
Sugar 1/2 cup+ 1tbsp [ 4 oz – 115 gr ]
Large eggs 2
Unsalted butter 4 tbsp [ 2 0z -55 gr ]

Have a bowl ready for cooling the pastry cream with a fine-mesh sieve resting in the rim.

Pour the milk into a heavy saucepan. Split the vanilla bean half lengthwise and use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape the seeds from the pod halves into the milk. Add the salt, place over medium-high heat, and bring to just under a boil. stirring occasionally and making sure that the milk solids are not sticking to the bottom of the pan. The larger the batch, the more careful you need to be.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and sugar. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth.

When the milk is ready, slowly ladle about one-third of the hot milk into to egg-milk whisking constantly. Pour the egg-milk mixture back into the hot milk and continue whisking over medium heat until the custard is a thick as lightly whipped cream, about 2 minutes. In order for the cornstarch to cook and thicken fully, the mixture must come just to the boiling point. You want to see a few slow bubbles. However, if the cream is allowed to boil vigorously, you will curdle the pastry cream. Remove from the heat and immediately pour through the sieve into the bowl. Let cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to release the heat and prevent a skim from forming on top.

Cut the butter into 1-tablespoon (15 ml) pieces. When the pastry cream is ready (it should be about 140°F). whisk the butter into the pastry cream 1 tablespoon at the time, always whisking until smooth before adding the next tablespoons.

To cool the cream, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the top of the cream. To cool it very quickly, place it in a shallow dish and press plastic wrap directly on top. Be careful whisking the cream once it is cold. Pastry cream will keep, well covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Heavy cream, very cold 1 cup [ 8 oz – 250 ml]
Caramel (optional) 1/2 cup [ 4 oz – 125 ml ]
This recipe is for 1 1/2 cups (12 fluid oz – 375 mil ]
Heavy cream 2/3 cup [ 5 1/2 oz – 150 ml ]
Vanilla bean 1/4 bean
Sugar 1 1/4 cup [8 1/2 oz – 240 gr ]
Water 1/4 cup [ 2 oz – 60 ml ]
Salt 1/4 tsp [ 1 ml ]
Light corn syrup 2 tbsp [ 30 ml ]
Lemon juice 3/4 tsp [ 4  ml ]
Unsalted butter 4 tbsp [ 2 oz – 55 gr ]

Pour the cream into a small, heavy saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and use the tip of a sharp knife to scrap the seeds from the pod halves into the cream. Place over medium-high heat and bring to just under boil. stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low to keep the cream warm.

In a medium, heavy sauce pan, combine sugar, water, salt, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring to dissolve the sugar. Then cook without stirring, until the mixture is amber colored, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat.

The mixture will continue to cook off the heat and become darker, so make sure to have your cream close by. Carefully and slowly add the cream to the sugar syrup. The mixture will boil vigorously at first. Let the mixture simmer down, and then whisk until smooth. Add the lemon juice. Let cool for about 10 minutes.

Cut the butter into 1-inch chunks and add them to the caramel one at a time, whisking constantly after each addition. Then whisk the caramel periodically as it continues to cool.

The caramel will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

To make the filling, sprinkle the gelatin over the water in small dish and let stand for a few minutes to soften. If using freshly made pastry cream and it still hot, whisk the gelatin into the entire amount, then place the bowl in an ice bath ( a large bowl filled with ice cubes and water) and the pastry cream cool before continuing. If using pastry cream that is cold, pour water to a depth of about 2 inches into a saucepan, place over medium heat, and bring to a simmer. Place 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces -125 ml) of the pastry cream in a stainless-steel bowl that will rest securely in the rim of a sauce pan over, not touching, the water. Heat the pastry cream, whisking often, until it is very hot to touch, 4 to 5 minutes. Whisk half of the remaining cold pastry cream into the hot mixture, then whisk the rest.

Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a whisk, whip the cream until it holds medium-soft peaks. Working quickly, gently fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream mixture with a rubber spatula. The cold cream will make the gelatin begin to set up at this point, so be sure you have all your cake components–moistening syrup, caramel (if using), and cake layers–and tools ready.

Place 1 cake layer in the bottom of the prepared springform pan. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer evenly with one-third of the coconut syrup. If using caramel, drizzle half of it over the cake layer. Pour half of the filling over the layer and spread it evenly. Place the second layer over the filling pressing down gently with even pressure. Moisten this layer with half of the remaining syrup, and then drizzle over the remaining caramel (if using). Pour the remaining filling over the second layer. Place the third cake layer on top and moisten it with the rest of the coconut syrup. The top layer should come right up to the rim of the cake pan. Fold the over hanging plastic wrap over the top of the cake, covering completely. Place something flat, such as a flat plate or a baking sheet, over the cake, and press down gently to level the cake layers. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.

When you are ready to finish the cake, release and lift off the pan sides and peel away the plastic wrap. Using a wide  metal spatula, transfer the cake to a serving plate, if using, or leave it on the cake pan base.

Heavy cream, very cold 1 1/4 cup [ 10 oz – 300 ml ]
Sugar 4 tsp [ 20 ml ]

To make the topping, suing a mixer or a whisk, whip the cream until thickened. Add the sugar and whip until the cream holds soft peaks. Using an offset spatula, frost the top of the cake. The cake can be served immediately or kept cold in the refrigerator until ready to serve. It will keep for up to 5 days.


Claudia Sandoval

In our quest to learn low-impact food, bread-making, fermenting, natural wines, herbalism, food as medicine, and regenerative agriculture. We are aiming to collaborate with small farmers, cooks, and artisans.

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