Tag Archives: vanilla

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

Pear Spread

3 Apr

Pears have been on sale for the longest time every time I visit the grocery store.  So I decided to buy some the other day to make my roasted pears for the French Dinner.  I love these roasted pears, but it was time for some diversity…  so I decided to make butter – Pear Butter.

I am not going to question how the name came to be… especially after my previous post about a punch called a “bull”.  If I were to name this in Spanish it would probably be something like “Compota de Peras” or Pear Compote.  However, I believe the name Pear Spread is truer to the final application.

Here’s how I made it…



2 ripe Bartlet Pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup water
2 tbs white balsamic vinegar
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla powder
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch of salt


  1. Combine pears, water, vinegar and lemon juice in a medium heavy saucepan.  Cover and simmer until pears are soft, stirring occasionally, about 20-25 minutes.
  2. Puree the mixture using a hand blender or in a food processor.  If using the food processor, be careful transferring the mixture to the food processor and back into the saucepan again, because the liquid is very hot.
  3. Add the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt to the pureed mixture.  Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves.
  4. Increase the heat to medium and boil gently uncovered until mixture reduces and thickens, about 1 hour.  Stir occasionally to prevent any scorching in the bottom.
  5. Discard the cinnamon stick.  Spoon the spread into canning jars if canning.  I do not know how to do that, so I just waited for the mixture to cool down some and transferred to a plastic container and ate it all within a week.


Vanilla Powder

11 Feb

Vanilla – one of the most versatile spices there are…  it works in desserts, beverages, milkshakes, side dishes, main dishes…  I use it all the time. 

A few years ago it was brought to my attention that most vanilla extracts are mostly made with alcohol, and in the yoga center I attend and cook for some times a month, we are not supposed to use anything with alcohol as an ingredient.  So, we need to buy some alcohol-free vanilla syrups or some locally made vanilla extracts, which many times are difficult to find.  I have used fresh vanilla pods, but I can’t find them here in Puerto Rico easily… I have to buy them when I travel to the US or online, when I can find a provider that will ship here… 


But last year I found this great product – VANILLA POWDER.  Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder from Nielsen-Massey .  It’s a sugar-free and alcohol-free dry product which can replace vanilla extract in any recipe.  It extracts the essence of vanilla beans and is infused in a natural, dry base.  And the smell is…  AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS!!!!!!

I bought my initial bottle in Indiana, when I visited my sister last year… but I was very pleasantly surprised to find it now in the spices section of my local Freshmart supermarket.

To me, this powder is far superior than any McCormick product out there… go out and look for it.  You’ll never go back to alcohol-based or vanilla flavored products.  Mark my words…

Sweet Potato Flan

26 Nov

This is a recipe to dissipate any myths that good desserts can only be made with eggs.  This is an egg-less flan full of flavor and smooth texture.

 I use the sweet potato with an orange-colored flesh, which are also called yams.  In Spanish, or at least in Puerto Rico, we call these “batata mameya”.  I included some pictures for reassurance.  These, I find, are tad less sweet than the white sweet potato. 

 Sweet Potato - Batata Mameya            sweet-potato-2.jpg


1 medium sweet potato, baked – about 1 cup of baked flesh
1 carton evaporated milk
1 can condensed milk
1 pack of cream cheese – you can use 1/3 less fat version
2 tablespoons vanilla extract or vanilla powder
3 tablespoons cornstarch
strip of lemon rind or grated lemon zest
3/4 cup brown sugar – for caramel
  1. Bake the sweet potato in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes.  I encourage you to do this ahead of time.  Just cut the ends of the potato, pierce it with a fork all around and bake.
  2. After baking, remove the flesh from the skin and mash it well with a fork.
  3. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees. 
  4. Place brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Mix a bit of water and  carmelize about 10 -12 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, mix in a blender or food processor the baked sweet potato flesh, milks, cream cheese, vanilla and cornstarch.  You’ll also mix in the grated lemon zest, if using.  If using a piece of lemon rind, don’t put it in yet.  If you feel the blender is too full, just mix the milks first.  Take some out, blend the sweet potato with the remaining milks and then put it all together.  It will fit.
  6. Drizzle the caramel in a glass dish and twirl making sure you cover the whole bottom of the dish with caramel.  Careful if using a metal baking dish… the caramel is hot and heats the metal FAST.
  7. Pour flan mixture on top of the caramel.
  8. Drop in the piece of lemon peel.
  9. Place baking dish in a water bath. 
  10. Bake in oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  You’ll know it’s done when the top is browned and a knife or wooden skewer comes out clean.
  11. Take out of the water bath and chill in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.
  12. When ready to serve… Release over a dish  so the caramel side is on top.

If you rather make a traditional vanilla flan, just omit the sweet potato and only use 2 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

Cinnamon Vanilla Baked Plantains

17 Nov


Cinnamon Vanilla Baked Plantains

4 ripe plantains**
cinnamon powder
vanilla powder
Liquid margarine

**If ripe plantains are not available, use IQF plantains.  King Crown is an excellent brand. 

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. In a baking dish, smear some liquid margarine.
  3. Cut the plantains in diagonal slices and arrange on the baking dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon and vanilla powder.
  4. Drizzle some additional liquid margarine on top.
  5. Bake in oven for 30-45 minutes, until plantains are done. (If using IQF plantains, you only need to bake until the plantains are defrosted completely, about 20 minutes)

I made these plantains together with my Eggplant Parmesan and Pasta with Marinated Tomatoes.  Look them up.

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