Ramadan is undoubtedly, the busiest time on my blog. I have been lying low throughout the year but closer to Ramadan, I feel obliged to shoot and share recipes for my table and yours. I almost always start planning with dessert for the day of Eid and then work my way backwards. This year I made a Pistachio Milk cake for an Iftar I hosted for my cousins and was inundated with requests to share the recipe. There were a few ideas that didn’t make it beyond the testing stage on the blog and I felt I had to make it up for it with more dessert. Given that we’ve been blessed with the season of mangoes coinciding with the month of fasting, it made perfect sense to try my hand at making a refreshingly light milk cake that would make for a sweet ending after generous servings of celabratory Biriyani.
The Milk Cake is in essence a Tres Leche cake. This Latin American dessert starts with baking a Genoise sponge. Eggs are separated and while the yolks are whisked with sugar to a ribbony stage, the whites are beaten till glossy and five times its volumes. They're both gently folded with flour and baked just until golden. To get an idea of how airy and light is is, gently press the sides once it is out of the oven. It springs right back after contact and makes an animating squishy sound. There’s a reason why it should be this light so I would suggest keeping it away from toddler fingers that may want to have a bit too much fun making some noise and upsetting the delicate structure of the cake.
Tres Leche means ‘Three Milk’ and that’s what the cake was made for. The air bubbles entrapped accommodates the liquid generously without collapsing. Traditionally, It is usually a mixture of Evaporated Milk, Condensed Milk and either whole milk or heavy cream. Given I made this recipe before, I found combining the milk and heavy cream in equal amounts for the last component made the texture I was looking for. It is slightly thicker than the usual consistency which makes it ideal for tha addition below.
When I made Mango Tres Leche years ago, the recipe called for blended mango cubes to be added while whipping the cream. I’m not sure whether it was the extra liquid or my inability to recognize if the cream had been whipped to soft peaks, the result was mango cream that didn’t quite hold it’s shape. Mind you, it tasted indulgent especially after it was chilled. However it took away from the presentation you associate with a Tres Leches dessert. For this reason, while recipe testing I decided to add the pureed mangoes directly into the milk mixture. This way the genoise sponge would absorb and hold the flavor of Alphonso much better than it being combined to whipped cream.
It takes just a few firm whisks to incorporate the puree completely into the milk mixture. It does have to meld completely otherwise the lumps could create ‘drainage’ issues by preventing the liquid to be absorbed into the cake.
This is probably one cake where you don’t have to worry about bumps or cracks on the surface because you’re going to be punching tiny holes. Fair warning, it starts off quite satisfyingly while you badger the surface with a skewer and then slowly borders on cumbersome to make sure every inch has been punctured enough to make way of the liquid that will be poured and to initiate the absorption stage. This is imperative to the final texture of the milk cake. It’s a little fascinating to see how the genoise just about holds its shape when being cut despite being drenched in liquid. I actually like to pour the milk a little at a time to note how quickly the cake is absorbing the liquid. When I made Pistachio Milk cake, it was for a larger group and I baked it into a rectangular pan. The milk mixture soaked through completely in an hour and I was relieved I set aside some to pour more on top. The genoise for this cake was baked in a square ceramic dish. I noted that the liquid was absorbed relatively slower in terms of time and I had more milk mixture remaining. This isn’t a problem because you can refrigerate it and pour it directly into the serving bowl and place your cut cake in the middle. Alphonso is rich when it comes to flavor and it mellows the sweetness from the condensed milk. I help myself to any liquid remaining in the bowl and it’s precisely for this reason I added the puree directly to combined milk.
The reason why it is so important that the liquid drains into the cake completely is because of the next step. The cake will be chilled in the refrigerator over night and about an hour before it is served, it will be topped with heavy cream, sweetened and whipped to soft peaks . Should there be any liquid stagnant on the top of the cake, it makes it difficult for the whipping cream to adhere to the surface and there’s very chance it will slide off. There’s no need to fret should this be the case. You can drain any extra milk on the surface and then proceed to spreading the whipping cream. I like using my offset spatula to spread and smoothen it allover the cake but a silicon spatula or even a butter knife will do the job well. Take care to get the cream even to the edges and especially to make sure it is of the same height all over. The difference, if any, will become obvious when it is cut so it’s one more thing to take a little time to perfect.
When you look at milk cake versions available in Dubai, you’ll find almost always find some element resting on clouds of whipped cream to let you know what flavor you’ll be digging into. Strands of saffron, dried rose buds and biscoff sauce are a few of the many versions you’d find. So when I thought of making mango milk cake, how I would top the whipping cream to indicate so had me thinking. You wait an entire year for these sunshine yellow mangoes to start appearing in your supermarket aisles that it seems a shame not to literally squeeze all possible options to incorporate them in summery desserts. Given my poor knife skills and little patience, slivering the flesh to make roses was what I would have loved but I know that’s not happening.. That’s when I thought of testing a very simple Mango curd that’s going to come handy not just in this dessert but also great to have (literally) chilling in the refrigerator for sandwiching cake layers or filling cupcake cores. I know making any sort of fruit curd from scratch is a little tricky when eggs are involved. It also poses an issue about longevity and I didn’t know how long it would keep well. I looked up a few eggless curd versions and found one and adjusted it ever so slightly to make this velvety smooth Mango curd that would rest beautifully on top of the whipped cream.
Now if Mango is not something you fancy, I have a Pistachio Milk Cake you could try. I’m being completely honest, as much as I love my mangoes, Pistachios in dessert (gelato especially!) is my true weakness and that’s only if I am forced to choose. The Genoise sponge drenched in cool mango flavored milk with decadent layers of whipped cream and lush Mango curd makes for a beautiful dessert to end your celebratory Eid lunch. And if you’re baking it to take to your family gathering, cut yourself a slice and have it waiting for you at the end of the day. You will thank me later.
Mango Milk Cake
Cake recipe barely adapted from Yoga of Cooking.
Eggs - 5
Sugar - ¾ cup
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp
All Purpose Flour - 1 cup, sifted
Baking powder - 1 tsp
Salt - a pinch
Evaporated milk - 1 ½ cups
Condensed Milk - 1 ¾ cup
Fresh pureed Mango Pulp - ¾ cup
Heavy Cream - ½ cup
Full Fat Milk - ¾ cup
Mango Curd - optional. Click here for the recipe.
Heavy Cream OR Whipping Cream - 2 cups
Sugar - 3 Tbsp
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade.
Grease and flour an 9×13 inch sheet pan OR ceramic dish.
Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks.
Using a stand mixer OR hand held beater, whisk the egg yolks, vanilla extract and sugar until smooth and double in volume.
Transfer the mixture to a separate bowl.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.
Fold this sifted mixture into the whipped egg yolk mixture. Be gentle and make sure you do not over mix.
Clean and dry the stand mixer bowl OR a glass bowl.
Pour a drop of vinegar into this bowl and spread it with a kitchen towel.
Using the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites on high, until stiff peaks form and the mixture is glossy. This will take about 4-5 minutes,
Gently fold in the egg whites into the egg yolk and flour mixture.
Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake for 18-20 minutes or till the top is golden.
Let cool completely before proceeding with the milk mixture.
In a large bowl or jar, use a whisk to combine all the milk mixture ingredients together.
Add in the mango pulp and whisk again till it is smooth and no lumps remain.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
Using a skewer OR a fork, poke ( a million!) holes into the top of the cake.
Set aside 1 cup of milk mixture.
Gently pour a part the remaining milk mixture on top of the cake.
Make sure you don’t miss the corners of the cake.
Wait for the surface to absorb it briefly.
Once it looks a bit dry (2 minutes), pour a little more of the milk mixture.
Continue this process for the remaining milk mixture.
Refrigerate covered for at least 2 hours.
Check if the milk has been absorbed completely.
If it has, you will be able to see the cake surface. Pour half of the milk mixture that was set aside.
If it has not been absorbed completely, you will see the liquid on the surface. DO NOT pour any additional milk mixture.
Refrigerate the covered cake overnight OR at least 10 hours.
Whip the heavy cream and sugar in a clean, dry bowl till stiff peaks form.
Be careful not to over beat because the cream will curdle.
If you’re piping decorations, set aside a little whipped cream.
Using a silicone spatula, spread the whipped cream on the surface making sure it is smooth and even on all sides.
IF you’re topping with mango curd, keep a glass of hot water, a kitchen towel and a butter knife OR an offset spatula ready at hand.
Spoon the curd on top of the cake.
Dip the butter knife in the hot water, wipe it with the towel and smoothen the mango curd over the whipped cream. The heat from the knife will make smooth the curd, which is thicker in texture, across the whipped cream.
Repeat the above process, till the mango curd covers the whipping cream.
Fit an icing bag with desired nozzle and spoon the set aside whipped cream.
Pipe designs around the perimeter of the cake.
Cut the cake and gently transfer to serving bowls.
Divide and pour the remaining milk mixture into the bowls,
You can pipe more whipped cream designs if you’d like. Totally up to you.
If you’re halving the recipe, you must use 3 eggs. The remaining ingredients can be halved exactly.
The amount of milk the cake absorbs depends completely on the baking pan the cake is made in. When I used a rectangular one, it absorbed better in comparison to the cake made using halved ingredients recipe in a square pan.
If the milk does not absorb, it will be difficult to spread the whipping cream on top.
Should there be excess liquid for whatever reason after refrigerating overnight, tilt the pan slightly and drain the milk that is on top of the surface.