A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from February 09, 2007
Tres Leches (three milks cake)

Tres leches (“three milks”) is a cake that most probably originated in Nicaragua. In recent years, the cake has been served in Tex-Mex restaurants.
Wikipedia: Tres leches cake
A Tres leches cake, or Pastel de Tres leches (literally: “cake of three milks”), is a cake or, rarely, a butter cake, soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and either whole milk or cream. Since butter is not often used, tres leches is a very light cake, with many air bubbles. This distinct texture is why, although it is soaked in a mixture of three types of milk, it does not have a soggy consistency.
Origin and Popularity
The origins of tres leches is thought by historians to have originated in Nicaragua. The cake is popular in different variations in Latin America. The Nestlé company also claims to have helped the tres leches recipe evolve, during World War II, in Mexico. The idea for creating a cake soaked in a liquid is probably of European origin, as similar cakes, such as rum cake, and tiramisu, use this method.
Austin Chronicle
Got Milk?™
On the trail of pastel de tres leches
Roberto Santibanez (currently the culinary director of the Rosa Mexicano restaurants in New York) provided the next clue. He remembered a dish that his grandmother had made, from the state of Tabasco. Torta de leche (milk cake) is cake batter poured into a pan of sweetened scalded milk, baked, and served floating in its milk sauce. This prompted me to hit the Mexican cookbooks again to seek out similar soaked-cake desserts that might have different names than tres leches.
And guess what I found. In The Mexican Gourmet, Maria Dolores Torres Yzabal says that antes (bread soaked in wine and layered with milk custard and fruit or nuts) came to Mexico in the 19th century. New York restaurateur and author Zarela Martínez documents Oaxacan recipes for Sopa Borracha and Ante de Almendra, two soaked cakes. In The Taste of Mexico, Patricia Quintana opines that tres leches comes from Sinaloa, and she provides a colonial-era recipe for Viceroy’s Cake: sherry-drenched layers of cake, custard, fruit, and meringue.
I am convinced. Pastel de tres leches surely is descended from a long and respectable tradition of desserts that extends back through colonial Mexican history to medieval Europe. Think of that the next time you take a sweet bite, redolent with condensed milk.
2 September 1984, Elyria (OH) Chronicle-Telegram, pg. B-11, col. 2:
Q: Do you have a recipe for Tres Leches, a dessert from Nicaragua?—S.I.K.

A: This is a recipe we get repeated requests for. It is served all over Latin America.
(Three Milk Puddiing)
1 15-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 15-ounce can evaporated milk
1 cup whole milk
8 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 cup water
Beat together the three types of milk, eggs and vanilla. Heat sugar and water over low heat in (Col. 3—ed.) a small skillet until it carmelizes.

Place the caramel in the top of a double boiler. Pour in the egg and milk mixture. Cover pan and simmer over hot but not boiling water for 1 hour, or until pudding is firm. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
7 November 1984, Elyria (OH) Chronicle-Telegram, pg. C6, cols. 1-3:
A READER recently asked for a recipe for a Nicaraguan cake known as tres leches. Marta Lopez kindly translated a recipe for us from a Nicaraguan cookbook, but warned, “This is a very good dessert, but extremely fattening.” She says the secret to a successful cake is to serve it very cold.
Renee Midence, whose husband is Nicaraguan, sent a similar recipe with an added touch: a layer of slivered almonds between the cake and the meringue.

“My family prefers it this way,” she said, “and I have received many compliments on this dessert from both Nicaraguans and Americans.”

Midence also says that since cream in Nicaragua is “thicker and slightly more acidic” than ours, she recommends using a mixture of half-sour cream for the cream in the filling.
2 cups sugar
9 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
9 egg whites
3 egg yolks
2 cans evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 pint cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon liqueur (optional)
1/2 cup water
1 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 egg whites

For cake: beat sugar and egg yolks until light. Add vanilla, flour, baking powder and milk. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into mixture. Pour into a greased 9-by-13-inch glass casserole dish (or two smaller oven-proof dishes) and bake in preheated, 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes for the large size, or 25 to 35 minutes for the smaller size. Let cool.
For filling: Beat egg yolks for 1 minute at high speed of mixer. Add the three kinds of milk—evaporated, condensed, and cream—and beat thoroughly. Add vanilla and liqueur if desired. When the cake has cooled, unmold it onto a serving dish. Pierce all over with a fork and pour the filling mixture over the cake so that it absorbs all the filling.
For meringue: Boil the water with the corn syrup and sugar until it will spin a thread. Beat this hot mixture in a slow stream into the egg whites, which have been stiffly beaten. Spread on top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
28 July 1985, New York Times, “Guide for a Costa Rican Visit,” pg. XX26:
Set in particularly scenic surroundings, El Rodeo steakhouse, close to the airport, serves hefyt steaks on wooden platters garnished with typical frijoles, or black beans (about $20 for two with wine). Their tres leches dessert, a confection of condensed milk in different guises, is very rich and betrays the Costa Ricans’ sweet tooth.
1 November 1987, St, Petersburg (FL) Times, “Miami, a little New York” by Lauire Hollman, pg. 1E:
But if the Contras aren’t there, another Nicaraguan specialty will be - tres-leches, the rich dessert Nicaraguans introduced to Miami. Hello calories.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Friday, February 09, 2007 • Permalink

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