Regular Food Review: NYT’s Tres Leches Cake

Someone messed up

A slice of tres leches cake on a plate.
Jenny G. Zhang
Hole-y Dessert
Regular Food Reviews

In a concerted effort to use up a can of evaporated milk and a can of condensed milk before they expired, I set my baking ambitions higher than they have ever been: making a cake that would require me to separate, beat, and then recombine egg whites and yolks. This, a New York Times Cooking recipe for tres leches cake led me to believe, would create a light, fluffy cake to serve as a perfect vehicle for the eponymous three milks. It would be “soft and luscious,” the recipe headnote and the accompanying professional photo of a beautifully saturated cake promised me tantalizingly.

The resulting cake was not soft and luscious; it was oddly chewy, with hard lumps scattered throughout. My problem, I’m choosing to believe, was that I had followed the recipe exactly. Room-temperature eggs: check. Baking powder, salt, sugar: check. Flour: check — and that was my downfall. The recipe calls for “2 ¼ cups/285 grams all-purpose flour.” This appears to be a reasonable amount, until you attempt to combine the cement-like yolk/flour mixture and the whipped egg whites, and the two — like oil and water — do not mix. It wasn’t until after my cake was out of the oven and soaking in a bath of three milks that I opened the comments section and found much contention over how much flour was in the recipe.

“2 ¼ cups of flour turns this into a disaster,” the top-upvoted comment claimed. “To all of the people past, present or future who make this cake. Follow the directions,” said another. Yet another comment referred to the warring opinions as “flourgate.” Some commenters broke out math and metric conversions, which, no thanks.

So who is to blame? Me, with my pretty rudimentary practical baking skills, or the Times, with its army of experts? Chewing my lumpy cake, I think I know the answer, and it’s not the gal drinking tres leches out of the pan. 3/5 stars.