Brazilians Really Got Milk
The finished product: gorgeous and luscious. Leticia Schwartz/JW
Don't hold back on Shavuot, the only holiday that celebrates dairy over meat.
Sweetened condensed milk. Coconut milk. Evaporated milk. All of these ingredients used to be considered exotic; now you can find them in any supermarket because of the popularity of Latin cuisine, where they are common in everyday cooking.
Who better, then, to consult for a Shavuot recipe? Tradition tells us that Jews did not eat any meat during the time they were waiting for Moses to bring the Torah, but lots of cheese and milk. This is probably the only holiday where Jews play in the kitchen with a bonanza of dairy foods. This recipe for the tropical classic, Tres Leches Cake, gives you ample permission to play.
It was always present on the Shavuot tables of my childhood in Rio through the Moroccan side of my family, who were from Tangier. Most traditional Latin cakes come from the sponge cake family, and are direct descendants of a very old Spanish recipe called pan di españa, which is also typical of Sephardic Jewish cooking. Tres Leches is no exception.
This cake is a wonder: simple to make, impressive to serve and full of harmonious flavors that seduce the palate. The basic premise of the recipe is that a sponge cake is soaked in 3 different types of milk: sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and coconut milk, hence the name.
I like to prepare a whipped cream to top the cake, but you don’t have to. You can serve with dusted powder sugar, or some berries or some caramel ice cream. More dairy to celebrate Shavuot! More!