Mom would approve: Mother’s Day Tres Leches is made from cake mix – InForum

FARGO — The one thing I’ve always liked about my mom is that she can rock a cooking shortcut.

Let’s be clear: Marge really knows how to make bread, pies and cakes from scratch. But as she got older — and less enthusiastic about spending all day in the kitchen — she learned to shamelessly embrace the time-saving beauty of Rhodes frozen bread dough or a Our Family pie crust.

One hack I learned from her is that a few homemade ingredients can cleverly camouflage any “cheating” mixes or shortcuts. No one even knows the cake is from Betty Crocker’s kitchen if you substitute vegetable oil for butter, add a sprinkle of pure vanilla extract to the batter, and finally frost it with homemade buttercream.

The devil’s food is in the details.

So I’m not embarrassed to admit that when I bake a cake for Mother’s Day this year, it will be baked with love with the Pillsbury Doughboy nodding approvingly over my shoulder. I found a recipe for the “shortcut” Tres Leches Cake, the ultra-moist, not-too-sweet cake soaked in three different types of milk.

Many sources link the cake’s origins to Nicaragua, although its delicious roots have also been traced to Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and even Albania (mainly because Albanians make a caramel version of the dessert called



It should be noted that early versions of the Albanian cake are said to have been made with goat’s milk, cow’s milk, and buffalo’s milk. As much as I love sweets, I’m glad today’s version no longer requires you to milk a 1,200-pound animal that comes in at 35 mph while brandishing horns that could eviscerate Thor.

No, for Mom’s big day, I’m perfectly content to rely on the more modern version of evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and cow’s milk (or coconut milk, if that’s more your jam).

This cake is incredibly easy, especially when

compared to the traditional version,

which requires creating a sponge cake by whisking egg whites, folding ingredients, and essentially filling the sink with dirty dishes.

It ticks all the boxes:

  • It’s baked in the 9 x 13-inch cake pan, which is the unassuming and ever-reliable Ford Focus of cake pans. No need to level cakes, prepare toppings, or methodically stack cakes. Anyone who’s ever attended a church potluck knows that a dessert served in a 9 by 13 is a badge of honor (extra points if it comes with a metal lid with your name engraved on it) .
  • It’s a “poke” cake, which means you can take out your frustrations by stabbing it all over with a skewer, then dunking it in milky goodness.
  • It’s not “too sweet,” which is one of my mom’s most common complaints about my more elaborate desserts.

Here is the recipe, because

adapted from the Taste of Home website.

I made a few changes, replacing the heavy cream suggested in the milk bath with whole milk, adding almond extract and

add cream of tartar to whipped cream frosting to stabilize it.

The Shortcut Tres Leches Cake is a “poke” cake, which means that you should generously prick the cake with skewers before pouring the milk mixture over it. Don’t be stingy: the more holes you create, the more the cake can soak up the mixture.

Tammy Swift / The Forum

Shortcut Tres Leches Cake

1 package golden cake recipe butter or yellow cake mix
3 large eggs, room temperature
⅔ cup of milk
½ cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 can 12 oz evaporated milk
1 cup whole milk (or coconut milk)
1 cup heavy whipped cream (for frosting)
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
2-3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan.

In large bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, milk, softened butter and vanilla; beat at low speed 30 seconds. Then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 20 minutes. (The cake should still be slightly warm for the next step.)

In a 4-cup measuring cup, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and 1 cup whole milk until well blended. Using a skewer, generously poke holes in the top of the cake. Slowly pour the milk mixture over the cake, filling in the holes and making sure to also dip the edges of the cake. Cool 30 minutes. Refrigerate, covered, 4 hours or overnight.

In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and cream of tartar. In a larger, chilled bowl, pour the cream and beat until it begins to thicken. Stir in sugar mixture and extracts; beat until stiff peaks begin to form. Spread over the cake. Keep refrigerated.

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