One of the beautiful things about birthday cakes is that they appeal to everyone, adults and kids alike. This probably has something to do with the fact that birthday cakes are likely to be relatively plain affairs, and flavors like chocolate and vanilla are unlikely to offend anyone. But just because most cakes will fit into the “please everyone” category, doesn’t mean that every birthday cake has to be kid-appropriate. After all, grown-ups have birthdays, too.
This Chocolate Tres Leches Cake is a fantastic example of a “grown up” birthday cake, as well as a unique variation on a tres leches cake. The standard tres leches cake is a light single-layer cake soaked in a combination of three milks: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and cream/whole milk. This chocolate version is a layer cake, made with an intensely chocolate cake that sandwiches a flan-like custard filling. The whole thing gets soaked in a rum-spiked tres leches sauce before serving. I topped this one with Bailey’s Raspberries. This is the kind of cake that you’ll be talking about for weeks after the big day, in addition to being one that (thanks to the booze) fuels the festive atmosphere of a party.
The recipe for this cake comes from Godiva, although I made a few changes and didn’t end up using Godiva chocolate in the finished product. The cake is not one that comes together quickly because it must be prepared in stages. The advantage to this is that the cake can be made well in advance over the course of a day or two, leaving you plenty of time (and no prep work) on the actual day of the party/event/etc. The flan-like center must be pre-baked and frozen before the chocolate cake is made. Freezing the center makes the otherwise delicate custard easy to handle when it comes time for assembly. For the cake, I used a 72% dark Callebaut chocolate, which is deeply flavored but still sweet. Any kind of dark chocolate will do, but don’t go too far over the top into unsweetened territory; the cake should still be sweet. Aim for 65%-85%.
I like to think of this as a sophisticated ice cream cake and after making this, I would consider playing around with custard centers for other cakes in the future.
Chocolate Tres Leches Cake
Tres Leches Center
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups toasted, chopped pecans
9 large egg yolks
1 large egg
4-oz. dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup butter
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup cold coffee
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Tres Leches Rum Sauce
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup dark rum
Make the center:
Preheat oven to 300F. Generously butter the bottom and sides of 9-inch round cake pan and set aside.
Combine milk, cream, sugar and pecans in medium saucepan. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely (1-2 hours).
In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and whole egg. Strain milk mixture through a mesh sieve into the bowl and whisk until smooth. Discard pecans.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until set.
Transfer to wire rack and cool for 20 minutes. Place pan in freezer for 10 minutes.
Run a knife around the edge to loosen custard, then invert onto a large, plastic wrap-lined plate. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours, or overnight.
Make the chocolate cake:
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease top of parchmen paper.
Melt together chocolate and butter in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 45 second increments, stirring frequently until smooth. Set aside to cool.
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in large bowl.
In medium howl, whisk together coffee, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla extract. Gradually stir coffee mixture into dry ingredients, stirring until just blended. Stir in chocolate mixture.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Transfer cake to wire rack and cool for 15 minutes, then turn cake out, remove parchment paper and reinvert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the tres leches sauce:
In medium saucepan, combine condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream and cook over medium heat until warmed, but not boiling. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg, ginger and rum. Sauce should still be warm when ready to assemble cake.
Cut cake horizontally into 2 layers using a long, serrated knife. Place the ring from a 9-inch springform pan on a cake stand (or other serving platter) and place one layer of chocolate cake inside the ring. Top with a large spoonful of warm tres leches sauce.
Remove custard center from freezer and peel off plastic wrap (it may have to sit out for 5 minutes to enable you to do this if it is too firm). Invert onto the cake layer in the ring. Top with second cake layer.
Making sure the ring is tight, gradually pour the remaining warm tres leches sauce evenly over top cake layer. Work slowly to allow the cake to absorb the sauce. Refrigerate cake for at least 1-2 hours before serving to ensure that the tres leches sauce has soaked in.
Top with Bailey’s Raspberries and/or whipped cream before serving.