When it comes to celebrating birthdays, Carla Spuri thinks Latin Americans do it best – try this sugar and rum cake.
By Carla Spuri – Photo by Sarah Kreczmer
My very own 30-something birthday is approaching and I have been spending my evenings dreaming of birthday cakes and, in particular, the ones covered in garish meringues, heavy in sugar and filled with caramel I enjoyed when growing up in Panamá. The birthdays of my Latin American childhood were filled with colour, food, clowns, magicians, presents wrapped in pastel-coloured birthday paper and those decadent cakes; cakes that took me many years after we moved to Europe to recreate. A soft sponge, heavy with eggs, soaked in cream, filled with dulce de leche and topped with soft meringue peaks – Which kid (and sugar-loving sentient being) would not love such a treat?
Tres Leches is the cake of all Latin American celebrations; one that I make time and time again for myself and friends and these individual portions are perfect to feel that little bit less guilty and that little bit more grown-up (or of age if you want to look at it like that) with the added touch of rum. Note that the Dulce de Leche can obviously be made from scratch using milk and sugar and a lot of elbow grease but the one made with tins of condensed milk is as good and quicker to make in this age where we are all in a rush.
- For the sponge
- 6 eggs (whites and yolks separated)
- ½ cup (100gr) caster sugar
- 1 cup (120gr) plain flour
- 1 cup (250ml) condensed milk
- 1 cup (250ml) double cream
- 1 cup (250ml) evaporated milk
- ½ cup (125ml) dark rum
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 1tsp baking powder
- For the Dulce de leche
- 1 cup (250ml) condensed milk
- Place the condensed milk tin in a big pan of boiling water and leave it simmering for 2 hours (check regularly to make sure the tin is always covered with water) – This will make you a 1oz jar of dulce de leche that will keep up to a month in the fridge.
- Heat up the oven to 200C (gas mark 6) and grease a standard cupcake tin.
- Whip the egg whites and half of the sugar in a big bowl until you have soft meringue peaks.
- Mix the yolks and remaining sugar in a smaller bowl and then mix in with the whites.
- Keep mixing and add the vanilla, baking powder and flour little by little until it’s all incorporated.
- Fill each mould for no more than ¾ and bake for 15 minutes.
- Take out of the oven and let cool for at least half hour.
- In the meanwhile mix the other tin of condensed milk, the cream, the rum and the evaporated milk in a big bowl that can contain the sponge bites too.
- Prick the sponge bites with a toothpick all over and place in the bowl with the 3 milks mix making sure they’re all perfectly covered.
- Cover with a lid or cling film and leave to rest overnight.
- The only thing you will need to do the next day will be plate up nestling the cake bites on as much dulce de leche as you want and top with glazed cherries or toasted almond flakes.
Carla is a half-Panamanian half-Italian 30-something, with a passion for tuna and onion pizza, pork tacos with limejuice, guava jam, [decaf] café con leche and rice and peas based in the UK. She is practical, allergic to caffeine and records memories and recipes of life in Latin America and Italy at Can Be Bribed With Food.