Hey! Halloween is over, but pumpkin season is still going strong over in this corner of the world. Today, let’s talk about pumpkin tres leches!
A little while ago, I was talking with one of my Instagram buddies, @hungrytravelingmama (check her out, her page is so much fun!) about tres leches. She was eating some raspberry tres leches, and boy, was I so jealous. Tres leches is hands down one of my favorite desserts. We were talking about all the different flavor possibilities you can have with tres leches, and she mentioned pumpkin tres leches.
Since then, a little seed started in my mind to make it. I tried last year but kept failing. I tried to put the pumpkin in the soaking liquid but it would make it too thick, and it wouldn’t soak into the sponge. Then #pievember happened, and I moved on to other seasonal baking. But making pumpkin tres leches was still in the back of my mind and I was determined to do it this year.
I knew I would have to face reality and add pumpkin to the sponge. But after browsing a few recipes and tinkering a lot, I think I have come up with an excellent pumpkin sponge that soaks up the soaking liquid really well!
Can I use a box mix to make tres leches?
Let’s talk the cake part of tres leches for a minute. I’ve seen recipes online for tres leches that just pour the soaking liquid over a boxed cake mix. Please don’t do this, and I will tell you why.
First, cake mix is made from cake flour. When the cake is prepared as directed on the box, you have a moist, tender crumb. It’s awesome of course, but doesn’t hold up well when it’s soaked with something. The low protein content of cake flour is not ideal for tres leches because when it soaks up the milk, it just gets soggy instead of spongy.
What you really need for a good tres leches is a sponge cake with higher ratios of egg. I always used to be leery of using a lot of eggs in my desserts since I was a little (I’ve tried wayyy too many brownie recipes that used a lot of eggs–yuck). But with sponge cake, the eggs add the extra protein and structure you need for soaking up the liquid without getting mushy or soggy. And don’t worry, it doesn’t taste eggy.
So with this sponge, you’re going to whip the eggs and sugar together until thick and frothy. Then you add the pumpkin and fold in the dry ingredients. Spread it into a well-greased baking pan, and that’s it! This really is an easy fall dessert that is perfect for any fall celebration. Maybe you’ll want to make it this year for Thanksgiving? Think of all the possibilities! Heck, even if you wanted to make it on a Sunday night. That’s perfect, too.
I hope you enjoy this pumpkin tres leches as much as I do!
Pumpkin Tres Leches
This is a fun twist on a Mexican classic dessert. It's perfect for fall!
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/3 cup canned pumpkin purée
For the soaking liquid:
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
For the whipped cream topping:
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Biscoff cookie crumbs (optional, for garnish)
Start by preheating your oven to 350 F and move the baking rack to the middle. Grease a 9x13 cake pan really well and set it aside.
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt together in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip together the eggs and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture looks light, frothy, and you can see clear trails in the mixture from the whisk. Add in the pumpkin and mix until well combined. Remove bowl from mixer and gently fold in the dry ingredients. Try to remove as many flour clumps as you can but don't deflate the mixture.
Pour the mixture into the greased baking dish and bake for 33-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on a baking rack. Once completely cool, invert the cake out of the pan. At this point, you can place the cake on a serving platter or place it back upside down inside the original pan, which is what I do. When the cake is inverted and the bottom is on the top, it soaks up the liquid much better.
In a bowl, mix together the ingredients for the soaking liquid until well combined. Pour evenly over the cake and place in the fridge for at least an hour to overnight to allow the cake to soak up the liquid.
When you're ready to serve the cake, place the two cups of heavy cream in the stand mixer and whip to soft peaks. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and whip until stiff peaks. Spread or pipe the whipped cream evenly over the cake and garnish with the Biscoff crumbs (if using). Store any leftovers in the fridge and eat within a day or two. Enjoy!