Pumpkin Tres Leches or is it Cuatro Leches???

17 Nov

This recipe is the first one I made for the Spanish Recipe portal Qué Rica Vida to celebrate Fall and Thanksgiving season.

I have been meaning to develop a recipe for a Pumpkin Tres Leches for several years now.  After few failed attempts, I knew I needed to come up with a new recipe.  A cake that would soak up all the milks like a sponge…  a SPONGE!!!!  That was the key!!!  I needed to develop a sponge cake recipe without using eggs.

Chia Seeds were the key… they worked even better than my usual and trusted egg-replacer.  Chia seeds, as I have shared previously, are full of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, anti-oxidants and even calcium.  And they work perfectly to substitute eggs in recipes because they gelatinize when they come in contact with liquids so they rise the batter they’re added to.

And why call it a Pumpkin Cuatro Leches, or 4 milks, instead of the usual Tres Leches?  Because traditional Tres Leches cakes are soaked in a mixture of fresh milk, evaporated milk and condensed milk but have a meringue topping.  Our version still is filled with the sweet flavors of the traditional 3 milks, but used a whipped cream topping, making the heavy cream the 4th milk in the recipe.

I tested and tested this recipe and it now has a following among the taste testers… hope you also join the group.

Pumpkin Cuatro Leches Cake


1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp chia seeds
2 tbs butter, melted
2/3 cups milk, I use 2%
1/3 cup fresh pumpkin, steamed and mashed
½ tsp vanilla powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg

In addition:

6 oz fresh 2% milk
6 oz evaporated milk
6oz sweetened condensed milk

For the topping:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tbs condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla powder
½ tsp grown cinnamon, to decorate

It seems like a lot of ingredients… but it’s a really easy recipe to make.  I use a rectangular baking dish 8” x 6” x 2” or a round 8” cake pan.  And I also make this recipe in my toaster oven.  I believe this recipe is co chuck full of flavor and sweetness that a little bit goes a long way.  Although I do know a few that could easily eat a whole Pumpkin Cuatro Leches cake in one sitting… no problem, you all shall remain nameless.

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350F.
  2. Butter the baking pan in which you’ll make this.  This will be the same pan in which you’ll serve it.  After greasing pan, set it aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients – flour, sugar, baking powder and the chia seeds.  Whisk them well to make sure there are no lumps of flour or brown sugar in the mix.
  4. In a measuring cup measure and add the milk, melted butter and mashed pumpkin.  Mix it well to create a homogeneous mixture.
  5. Add it to the dry ingredients and whisk together until all ingredients are well incorporated.
  6. Season mixture with salt, vanilla powder and spices.
  7. Pour the mixture in the prepared greased pan.  It may seem like little batter for the size of the pan, but remember we’ll be adding later on 18 ounces of milks and they need a place to go.
  8. Bake in oven for 20 minutes until the cake has risen and it’s golden on top.  After 20 minutes have elapsed, turn the oven off but do not take the cake out.  Not even open the oven door!! Wait about 40 additional minutes for the cake to complete cooking with the residual heat already in the oven.  There’s nothing to see… but your patience will be rewarded.
  9. After those additional 40 minutes have elapsed, take the cake out of the oven and rest it on a cooling rack so it cools completely.
  10. When it’s completely cooled, pierce it using a toothpick, a skewer or even a fork.  The idea is to make perforations so the milks can seep and soak the cake all from the inside.  It will not matter if the cake looks kinda ugly, because later on we’ll cover all that with whipped cream.  No one will see this but you…
  11. Mix the 3 milks in equal parts in a large measuring cup or a small pitcher.  It helps that the vessel you use has a spout so it’ll be easier to pour over the cooled cake.
  12. Pour half of the milks’ mixture over the pierced cooled cake.  You’ll probably not be able to pour more because the milks might overflow the cake pan.  That’s not a problem… just wait out a few hours for that first half to be absorbed and then you’ll be able to pour in the remaining milks.
  13. If the temperature where you live is cool, you can leave the cake soaking over your kitchen counter at room temperature.  If it’s too warm, you can cover the cake and place in the fridge over night while the milks are absorbed by the cake.
  14. The next day, pour 1 cup of heavy whipping cream in a large bowl and whip using an electric hand mixer.  Make sure the heavy cream is cold and start at a low speed and increase speeds slowly.  When bubbles start to form, add the condensed milk and the vanilla.  Continue whipping until soft peaks form.
  15. With an offset spatula, spread the whipped cream over the cake, which should have absorbed all the milks by now.  Decorate with a light sprinkle of grown cinnamon using a very fine sieve.

3 Leches for Tres Leches Cake

If you want to double this recipe, you certainly can… and you can use a 9” x 13” baking dish.  By going larger on the pan, you’ll probably need a larger oven and to increase the cooking time to 30 minutes and allow the cake to rest inside the hot oven for an additional 30 minutes, for a total 1 hour in the oven.  For the 3 milk mixture you can just mix a can of evaporated milk a can of condensed milk and the same amount of one of those cans of fresh milk.  With that, you’ll have the perfect amount of milk to soak your cake.

I prefer to use evaporated and condensed milks that come in UHT packaging instead of cans, but I understand they’re difficult to come by.  So if you can find them near you, by all means use them.  Just make sure you have equal amounts of milks and the total amount should be between 18 and 20 ounces of liquid to soak the cake well.

Pumpkin Cuatro Leches Cake

One Response to “Pumpkin Tres Leches or is it Cuatro Leches???”

  1. duodishes December 2, 2014 at 12:46 am #

    Very smart to incorporate the chia seeds. Never would’ve made that connection in terms of their “leavening” ability, if you will. This has always been a fave cake, and you can’t go wrong by adding another dairy element!

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