Thursday, September 10, 2015

Tres Leches Cake Revisited "For the Love of Sophie June"

My buddy Mia Ross and I have a duet coming out soon...

And I went back to write a Kirkwood Lake story that's been floating around my head for two years. The story of a little girl, beloved, and in the middle of a strange love triangle... And we all know that these days, not all adults put the child's needs/hopes/dreams ahead of their own.

In this book, I wanted them to. I wanted them to realize what a miracle they have before them, in this delightful, almost six-year-old girl named Sophie June Sullivan.

And during the book, our old friend Rainey Campbell (she married one of those hunky Campbell boys, Luke...) stopped by with tres leches cake for Sophie and her mother. That made me realize it was time to talk Tres Leches again. Cooler nights, fog-filled mornings and gold-tinged leaves.

Oh, yeah.

It's time!

Tres Leches Cake For Kirkwood Lake Series


I'd never made one of these babies before, and you know how it is: Someone has to take one for the team... go the distance... try this, try that, check out flavors, toppings, etcetera!  :)

Well, my Hispanic heroine in "The Lawman's Holiday Wish" (December 2013 Love Inspired Books) is a former bad girl come home to help get things on an even keel...

And she's got a heart of gold, but like so many kids these days, she resented just about everything and everyone around her as a teen. Now all grown up, and after paying her price in multiple ways, she's home...

And not everyone in town is happy about it. BUT.... she'd determined to win them over or at the very least, quiet them down! When she decides to staff the farm's dairy store booth at the bicentennial kick-off festival in October, tongues wag... eyebrows are raised... and some won't even have their booth near hers, but cake is an amazing thing...

You thought I was gonna say "faith" was an amazing thing, didn't youse????

Well, it is, but cake has its own share of followers on God's green Earth so when Rainey sees the hero's reaction to her Tres Leches Cake from Abuela's Mexican recipe, she gets the idea to serve the cake at the festival... Now for RAINEY to do this, it meant that RUTHY had to come up with a great Tres Leches recipe... Sure, I could have pretended to know how to make one and fudged it with readers, but what fun is that???


I went to facebook and pleaded....


I searched online and found some recipes, then decided to experiment by combining elements.

Back to facebook, pleading once again, frankly BEGGING.... Lame, right?

But I got a couple of great ideas, one from our fresh pioneer......

And one from an old high school buddy!

Mandy and I went to work. Mandy loves to work in the kitchen and she and Paul are not afraid to TRY THINGS.

So we did. And then I got my husband's family in on the voting:

One cake was dense.

One was light.

One topping included coconut and coconut milk

One topping was plain and just used sweetened milk.

So I sent out samples. No goats/cows/or inlaws were hurt in the making of this cake.

No one died.

I'm just sharing that disclaimer because YOU NEVER KNOW.

Once the votes were in we checked out the results through Price Waterhouse Coopers.

(We didn't really but finance boy works there so I wanted to give PWC a shout out.)

We adjusted the recipe.... to a slightly denser cake than the light one...

We came up with three variations for the book:

Coconut pineapple

I'm going to give you the regular one here and we'll do the other renditions as the year goes on, and GUESS WHAT??????

Not only are they doing this as a CHRISTMAS BOOK, YAY!!!!!

But they're including the recipe!!!!!


Rainey Cabrera McKinney’s Tres Leches Cake (Three-Milk Cake)

Sponge cake:
1 cup all purpose flour
6 eggs (3 will be separated, but not permanently! No lawyers needed!)
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons almond flavoring, if desired. (We love almond sponge so we add it.)

2 large mixing bowls

In one bowl, put three eggs and 3 egg yolks. Add the sugar and beat with mixer until pale yellow in color. This may take several minutes. In second bowl (making sure there’s no grease on/in bowl) beat the 3 egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold the whipped egg whites into the beaten egg/sugar mixture. Sift the 1 cup of flour over the mix and fold in with spatula, just until flour streaks disappear. Don’t overmix… We want the cake spongy and light, ready to receive the milk syrup later… Oh, yum…. 

Using spatula, gently put cake batter into buttered 13” x 9” pan.

Bake at 325° on center rack until cake is puffed and golden. Sides should pull away from pan slightly.  Once cake is removed from oven, allow to cool a few minutes, then flip cake onto large tray or plate with sides to prevent sauce from spilling over. Using a large fork or a steel knife sharpener (this is what I prefer, those rounded steel rods that come with knife sets… perfect for poking holes!) poke holes at ½” intervals throughout cake. No, you don’t need to measure the distance… “guesstimate”, okay?  Nothing goes wrong if holes are closer… you want that milk sauce to penetrate throughout the cake.

Milk Sauce:

*Mix together in medium saucepan:
½ cup corn syrup
¾ cup evaporated milk
¾ cup sugar
Heat to boiling over medium heat, and then simmer about five minutes, until pale caramel/gold in color.  Mix in:
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
2/3 cup coconut milk (for coconut variety) or 2/3 cup half-and-half or light cream
Mix together, then spoon over cake slowly, allowing syrup to drench cake.

*1 can sweetened condensed milk can be used instead of first three ingredients, but if you don’t have it on hand, the mix of sugar, corn syrup and evaporated milk makes an amazing milk sauce and only takes minutes on top of the stove. It does bubble, so make sure pan is big enough so you don’t overflow. If using the canned variety, no need to heat.

Refrigerate cake, then top with Whipped Cream:

Whip 2 cups heavy whipping cream and ½ cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread over cooled cake. May be garnished with fruit, nuts, coconut, etc. Whatever you like! This great recipe has become a family favorite for the Hernes… and now the McKinney’s of Kirkwood Lake!


  1. Must get adventurous and try this cake. I was watching a documentary on great bakeries in the states and they highlighted a bakery known for its Tres Leches Cakes. Of course, being the well-read individual I am, I knew exactly what they were talking about! Love it when fiction broadens my intellectual horizons!

    Excited to hear there's another Ruthy book coming out -- and uber excited that you teamed up with Mia Ross! How cool is that????? Very cool!!!!!!!

    1. Kav, we didn't have any bakeries around here that did Tres Leches that I knew of, but I love great sponge cake, and with a great sponge cake recipe (and this freezes PERFECTLY, I mean if you double wrap it, no one will ever know it's been frozen. And it thaws quickly. Double WIN!!!)
      you can build so many awesome recipes. Cakes, trifles, Tiramisu... the list is huge.

      And it was so fun to re-visit Kirkwood Lake again and Mrs. Thurgood's packed-to-the-rafters house! Oh, the thought of a house full of treasures.... SO FUN!!!! Once you get past the mice! :)

  2. I can't wait to read the Ribbons and Roses set, now all I need to know is WHEN it's coming out. I've never made a Tres Leches cake but I remember Rainey making it. Anything with almond flavoring and coconut in it is a winner to me. Must try this!

    1. Tracey, this cake is so stinkin' good! It should be outlawed, I'm not even kidding!

      We're looking at a 9/20 release date, but it might hit the Kindle shelves a day or two earlier... and yes, we're crazy excited, too!

  3. I still want to make this!! It sounds amazing. Must put it on the calendar so I don't forget again. LOL

    1. Missy this is a perfect recipe for a church chat, or a gathering, or when the kids come home! And it's so versatile. I'm doing an apple version this weekend for our Sunday family dinner. Gotta love family dinners on Sunday!

    2. Oh, I can't wait to hear about the apple version. That sounds amazing!

  4. Hi Ruthy, Wow another book also. You are amazing. The cake sounds delicious but I have to confess--way too much work for me. I'll come visit and have a piece of yours. smile

    Happy dancing for all the releases today.

    1. Sandra, you know me. I love baking. I love creating. I am so tempted to open a farm bakery and just have SO MUCH FUN!!!!!

    2. Or let your characters do it and live it out vicariously.

  5. I'm going to have to try this. Thanks for the reminder on the recipe!

    And I just loved Rainey's character in her first appearance. So great that she gets to hang out for a bit in a new story :)

    But seriously, you're going to have to slow down on the writing. I can't keep up! I have three Ruthy books/novellas in my TBR stack already, and you're adding another one!

    Happy dancing for you in the west :)

    1. Oh my stars, it's been a year, hasn't it??? And I'm looking at all those 2016 releases... most of which are written already.... and I'm just stinkin' amazed at how blessed I am.

      Doing these novellas, and putting out some fun indie books, gosh, that's a dream come true, right there. I love delving into the past and seeing how the paths to the future were laid, torn up and re-laid.

      We are so blessed to be here!

  6. On my last birthday, my husband ordered a tres leches from the bakery down the street. So funny... usually they do baptisms and weddings... so my cake was a giant book (usually the Bible, I guess) and they wrote the name of my last book on it! It was so cool! LOL Hubby got points for knowing the name of the latest release, too.
    A big part of the tres leches cake here is the frosting, which is not really frosting, but whipped heavy cream. MMMMMM.....

    1. I always use heavy whipped cream on these, it's so fitting. And fattening! And Dave would have NO IDEA what title to write, but he's smart enough to call Beth and ask her, LOL! I love that Cruz did that!!!

      And these are novellas, only mine was going to be a book... and so it ended up being a 35,000 word novella. I couldn't shave the arc because in my head and heart, this was a book, so it's charming and l-o-n-g for a novella, but I love it! And little Sophie June is kind of a combination of Mary Ruth and MacKenzie, two granddaughters who (like their grandmother) Love To Talk and Giggle and Spin and Twirl and they pepper their convos with lots of EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! So Sophie June is dear to my heart, LOL! And very real here in upstate. :)

  7. And beautiful boxed set! Are they novellas or full size? Love the cover!

    1. I love Kim Killion's work. You're the one who first told me about her, remember? She's so nice to work with, her whole team, and I love that they keep crazy hours, just like me. That means a lot, when I'm filling every moment I can, the idea of my "team" having really limited hours wasn't appealing. Kim's gals work whenever they can and I love that.