Thursday, March 8, 2007

Happy Birthdays

Birthdays should be celebrated. At least this is what my mom tells me. Most of my life was spent with birthdays alone, especially in high school. This all changed this year with a wonderful outing with friends. With that experience and memory, I promised to share that with others on their birthday. And yesterday was no different.
Marcy has always given on her birthday and often not received. I told her that this is not how birthdays work. It is the birthday person who should receive. So I told her to come over Wednesday and I would cook dinner and dessert.
Was I in over my head? Yes.
I was to make Mexican fair. Ok not real Mexican, Tex-Mex. Enchiladas, Jicama Salad, and Tres Leches Cake.
A must stress the Tres Leches Cake. I'm not a fan. Sponge Cake of any kind to me have no flavor, but it was what Marcy requested and I was terrified. I was worried of the mess it would make with the liquid. However, I was determined to make it.
And the cake caused me problems on Tuesday night. One thing is it calls for soft peaked egg whites folded in. I had never made a light meringue before, but I know what it would look like from TV and my dad's lemon meringue pie. It didn't happen. No peaking. After 15 minutes, it was foaming, but nothing. What to do? Call the iron chef, my dad.
"Was the bowl clean?" he asked.
"Yes, Dad," I replied.
"Was there any yolk in the whites?" he asked, again.
I paused, thinking. 'Sure there was some.' I hesitantly replied, "Yes."
"Jerry, there can't be any yolk in the cake," he answered.
There were cuss words going off in my brain. He told me to toss out the whites, use hot water to clean the bowl, and try again.
I didn't. I was not wasting another 9 eggs for whites. No, no. So i folded the foaming whites into the cake, praying that it rose and didn't taste horribly. And if I failed there was always HEB.
But it rose and I was relieved. I cut it in half, poured the milk (which by the way makes a huge mess, make sure your using a large plate), covered the cake with whipping cream and let it set. I must say there is nothing better than icing a cake with whipping cream. (Then again, I could say that about chocolate mousse, lemon curd, raspberry sauce, ganache, etc.) My fears of a liquid mess in the fridge disappeared in the morning, when I saw that it solidified.
The evening came and everyone filed in. Before dinner, I mentioned the cake to Marcy. Her eyes got big and she asked if she could have it before dinner. I laughed and declined.
All in all it was a success. Was it the best cake? No. Will I try again? Yes. I haven't made great things this week. I promise Marcy to make you a better cake.

Tres Leches Cake From Cafe Central, El Paso (from Texas Monthly)


9 eggs (room temperature)
11/2cups sugar
12 tablespoons butter (softened)
2 cups all-purpose flour
11/2teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Separate egg yolks and whites, keeping whites at room temperature. (Make note - DO NOT GET ANY YOLK WITH THE EGG WHITES, THEY WILL NOT PEAK!) In bowl of an electric mixer, cream sugar and butter together until pale yellow and fluffy. Add egg yolks and beat until fluffy again, 2 to 3 minutes on medium-high speed. In a separate bowl combine flour and baking powder. In a third bowl mix milk and vanilla. Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the butter mixture (a fourth at a time) until all are combined. Beat until smooth after each addition.

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form and, using a large spatula, gently but thoroughly fold into flour-and-butter mixture. Grease bottom of a 9- by 13-inch metal baking pan. Pour in batter and bake for approximately 25 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool. (May also be baked in an 11.5- by 17.5-inch sheet pan for 20 minutes; this size rises very evenly, helpful for inexperienced cooks.)

Three Milks

2 cups heavy cream
1 five-ounce can (5/8cup) evaporated milk
1 fourteen-ounce can (7/8cup) sweetened condensed milk

Stir the milks together thoroughly; do not beat. Do not refrigerate canned milks before using.

Cream Icing

2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar

Whip cream and sugar together until stiff. When cake is cool, slice or peel off the thin top crust. Ice sides first, creating a small lip on top to catch milk mixture. Pour milk mixture evenly over top of cake (if necessary, poke holes in cake with a knife or toothpick to facilitate soaking; you will probably need only 3/4of mixture). Finish icing top. Refrigerate. (If using an 11.5- by 17.5-inch pan, cut cake in half to make 2 equal pieces. Soak first layer, ice top if desired, and place second layer on top of it. Proceed as above.) Serves 12.

*Suggestion: Caramel Sauce or syrup would be a great drizzle overtop.


Marcy said...

Mmm, very delicious tres leches cake!! And I can't believe you didn't let the birthday girl eat some cake first, hahah. :P

suntango said...

The cake looks wonderful. "I'll have to give a try!.