Season creep is creepier than ever. And no, it’s not my imagination. I say this because Publix had pumpkin beer out on the hay bales on Aug. 6.
Aug. 6! It’s downright extreme.
Now, the most sensible of the food-holiday folk dumped all the pumpkin-related days of honor in October, which makes sense, but even my cravings start to activate earlier than that.
Come mid-September, by which time Michael’s has the 40 percent off signs out beneath all the Halloween wreaths, lights and craft kits, I am more than ready for that handful of candy corn that reminds me why it only takes one handful of candy corn to decide I can wait a year to have it again. I’m ready to light the Halloween tree and plan the costume. I’m ready to bake pumpkin stuff.
I’m also ready to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
Now, imagine if there was one super-recipe that would allow me to scratch both itches simultaneously?
Enter my Instagram heroine, Domestic Rebel, Hayley Parker, whose incredible concoctions are as addictive as the other kind. But in a much healthier way.
I had bookmarked her pumpkin snickerdoodles as a possible contender for this year’s pumpkinpalooza, but then, just days ago, came a charming, rambling post about fall sweaters and wearing too many layers and how hot it can get in Sacramento that culminated in pumpkin spice tres leches cake, featuring a tantalizing photo of a squishy-wet square of autumnal color with literal cream on top.
I knew I had to make it. And I did. But first, a little about this cake that’s popular in myriad nations from Nicaragua to Puerto Rico, Cuba to the Canary Islands. The Caribbean is no stranger to soaked cakes, the rum cake being the most obvious. Nor is the American South where poke cake, which is literally poked full of holes into which sweet, syrupy and even gelatinous things can be poured, is a varied and popular dessert option
Tres leches translates to “three milks.” In the case of this recipe, that’s evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and heavy whipping cream. The loveliness of this sweet concoction cannot be underestimated, and when it sets into what is a beautifully spiced and not-overly-sweet cake, it becomes something greater than the sum of its parts.
Texturally, the creamy soak gives the lower part of the cake a density that balances with its airier top half — as well as the light, homemade whipped cream. As its author notes, the most difficult part is waiting overnight (or a minimum of eight hours) for the soaked cake to set and allow the flavors to meld.
Offset your impatience with the knowledge that you’ll have batter beaters to lick on Day One with whipped cream to follow on Day Two.
Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, which means there’s still plenty of kitchen time for things like celebrity chef Roberto Treviño’s Tortilla Española or Orlando’s own chef Wendy Lopez’s stunning Veracruz-style fish if you’re feeling more than mere fall fondness, but after this two-holiday knockout, you’d do worse than pairing your PSL with a square of what I’ll call a PSLLL.
Pumpkin Spice Tres Leches Cake
Recipe courtesy The Domestic Rebel
For the Cake:
11/2 cups granulated white sugar
15 ounces (1 can) pure pumpkin puree (do not use pumpkin pie filling)
3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
11/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
For the Tres Leches filling
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
12 ounces evaporated milk (one can)
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk (one can)
For the Whipped Cream frosting:
11/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
Ground cinnamon, for dusting the top, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Liberally grease a 13-by-9-inch light metal rectangular baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
In the large bowl of a stand mixer, cream together granulated sugar, pumpkin puree, oil, eggs and vanilla extract with the paddle attachment on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Gradually add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture until fully combined and batter is smooth and cohesive. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan and smooth out the top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool 15 minutes. While cake is cooling, in a medium bowl, whisk together the heavy whipping cream, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk until combined. Set aside.
Poke holes all over the warm cake using a skewer or dowel, or if you don’t have either, the handle of a wooden spoon or a knife’s tip (Note: I used a chopstick). Pour the milk mixture evenly over the cake, using all of the milk mixture. It will seem like a lot of milk, but bear in mind that the cake will gradually soak up the mixture overnight in the fridge. Cover the cake and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
Just before serving, make the whipped cream frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip together the heavy whipping cream and confectioners’ sugar until stiff peaks form, about 5-7 minutes. Spread the whipped cream evenly over the cake. Dust with ground cinnamon, if using. Store the cake in the fridge, covered.