This is a time for indulgence, a time of why not. My indulgence? I want to eat cake every day. Baking for me provides Zen moments of calm and focus which are worth every calorie. And drinking cup after cup of good tea is a given at home – spending countless hours, from morning ‘til night, on Zoom speaking into a flat screen; But finding it a challenge to really connect. But I can connect with the fresh tea leaves kept in perpetual cool darkness in their tins in my tea cabinet. Cake tins, too, speak to me and almost beg me to be used. I obey and pull one out frequently during the week. Now, to fulfill my side of the bargain, I need to fill them with a simple batter. The most recent, a straightforward combination of only four main ingredients—butter, sugar, eggs, and flour—draws its inspiration from the tres leches cake: A yellow sponge-textured cake which is soaked in a mixture of three different milks – condensed, evaporated, and whole milk. Here I am adding a fourth element—strongly brewed tea—to the enriching soaking liquid poured over the cake when it first emerges buttery and hot from the oven. Here, I love to use a rich Assam-like Sessa: Something malty, pungent, and full bodied which will take well to the mellowing influence of condensed milk and the other dairy.
- 8 ounces soft butter
- 8 ounces sugar
- 5 large room-temperature eggs (approximately 8 ounces)
- 8 ounces all-purpose flour
Tea and Dairy Mixture Ingredients
- 1 cup strong tea
- ½ cup condensed milk
- 1 cup whole milk or cream
- Cream butter in a mixer, until lightened in texture and in color.
- Gradually add the sugar. Mix to blend well and lighten the texture. This mixture must be well aerated for the cake to have the proper texture. So don’t rush this process. Revel in it instead.
- Mix the eggs in a medium bowl, making sure that the yolks and whites are well combined. Now add them, one third at a time, streaming them into the butter and sugar mixture. Allow each third to be absorbed before adding more. Finally, mix the flour into the base by hand just until it disappears.
- Scrape the mixing bowl well and transfer the batter into a greased and parchment-lined 9-inch round cake pan and bake at 350 °F. for about 35-40 minutes, or just until the center tests done when pricked with a skewer or the point of a small knife.
- While the cake is baking, prepare the tea and dairy mixture. When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and invert it carefully onto a deep cake plate or a rimmed sheet pan. Prick the cake all over with a skewer to make small holes into which the tea liquid will flow and be absorbed.
- Now pour half of the tea liquid over the cake, using as much of it as will be absorbed. Give it a few minutes and now pour the rest of the liquid over the cake. Let it sit at room temperature until the cake cools. Then chill it covered until cold.
- Serve later in that day or the next day. It gets better as the tea and dairy are absorbed into the cake. You might wish to serve it with crisp slices of Asian pear, or perhaps some poached quince, apple, or ripe fragrant Bosc, Comice, or Bartlett pear and a dollop of unsweetened, softly-whipped cream.
- Pull out that tin of favorite tea to brew up the liquid accompaniment in your best china teacup.
Photo “Tres Leches Cake Glazed” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License to the photographer Kelly Sue DeConnick and is being posted unaltered (source)