Banana, caramel and rum tres leches cake

Danielle Alvarez's milk-soaked cake decorated with soft Swiss meringue and dulce de leche.
Danielle Alvarez's milk-soaked cake decorated with soft Swiss meringue and dulce de leche. Photo: William Meppem
Dietary
Nut-free

Tres leches, meaning three milks, gets its name from the mixture of whole milk, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk poured over the spongy cake. The topping of bananas, silky toasted Swiss meringue and dulce de leche makes this a real show-stopper. Although the rum cuts through the sweetness, leave it out if you're making this for children.

Ingredients

For the cake

285g plain flour

2½ tsp baking powder

¾ tsp fine sea salt

2 tsp cinnamon

6 eggs, separated and at room temperature

225g (1 cup) castor sugar

125ml (1 cup) milk

For the rum-spiked milk

375ml evaporated milk

1 x 395g can sweetened condensed milk

125ml (½ cup) milk

125ml (½ cup) pouring cream

1½ tsp vanilla essence

4 tbsp dark rum (optional)

For the Swiss meringue

6 egg whites at room temperature

pinch of salt

340g (1½ cups) castor sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

To finish

2-3 ripe bananas

80g-100g dulce de leche

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan-forced). Prepare a cake tin (about 22cm x 33cm) by greasing the base, not the sides.

2. To make the cake, combine dry ingredients in one bowl, whisk to combine and set aside.

3. Place the yolks and 112g of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk. Whip until aerated and light yellow, about 3 minutes. Pour in the milk and mix.

4. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. It will look quite dry.

5. Whisk the remaining sugar and the egg whites together in a clean bowl until soft to medium peaks form and the mixture looks glossy. Mix half of the egg white mixture into the batter to loosen it, then fold the remaining egg white mix into the bowl by gently running your spatula through the centre of the bowl and folding the mix over itself from the bottom to the top.

6. Pour batter into prepared tin, place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool slightly, then poke holes about 2cm apart into the cake using a fork or skewer.

7. To make the rum-spiked milk, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir. Reserve 200ml in the fridge. Pour the remaining mixture over the slightly warm cake, cover and refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

8. Just before making the meringue, mash the bananas using a fork and spread over the cake.

9. To make the Swiss meringue, combine the egg whites, salt and sugar in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and use a spatula to stir the ingredients until a thermometer inserted into the mixture reads 70C and the sugar has melted, about 10 minutes. Transfer the bowl to a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip at high speed until the mixture becomes thick and glossy (about 5 minutes), then add the vanilla essence.

10. Transfer the meringue to a piping (icing) bag and pipe onto the cake in whatever pattern you fancy. Alternatively, spread it over the cake. Use a torch or the grill function of your oven to toast the top of the meringue. You can do this well before serving and keep in the fridge.

11. At the last minute, drizzle the top of the cake with dulce de leche, cut into slices and serve with some of the reserved rum-spiced milk.

Serve after my tacos al pastor and guacamole for a Mexican fiesta.

If you like this recipe, try Helen Goh's chai-spiced tres leche cake.