It all started a few months ago with my online discovery of the renowned pastel de tres leches (three milks cake) when blogging friends told me they luuved this cake. Then as we wandered around the Gracia district of Barcelona a friend suggested we try Mexcla restaurant. With its delicious Mexican food and delightful service, I realised this was the place to try my first ever tres leches cake and I wasn’t disappointed! Baked lovingly by the restaurant’s Chef Ruben Boldo, it’s everything I imagine it should be: milky sponge that floats into your mouth with that little touch of spice in it. And not too sweet or heavy. My friend who had the chocolate cake swooned as she tried a bite of my tres leches and couldn’t help glancing over jealously as I tucked into my simple yet absolutely delicious dessert. I was so inspired I decided to create a Tres leches cake challenge and arrange an interview with this chef where he talked about his amazing recipe and tips handed down by his grandmother!
The manager Cristhian Valencia kindly made this interview possible and I’m very grateful to him and Chef Ruben Boldo for their time and help with this tres leches cake recipe and chef’s tips which can help us create a delicious dessert for our first Cake Challenge! It’s all very exciting!!!
The interview (translated from Spanish to English)
L: Chef Ruben Boldo, could you please tell us a little about your career in baking.
CRB: Well, I did a baking and pastries course in the USA but I learnt a lot from my grandmother, my mother and my aunts. You’d be there in the family and ask ‘How does aunt so-and-so make that cake?’ and so recipes have been passed down from generation to generation, with tips like sifting the flour many times. Grandmother would say, ‘no, you have to do it like this!’ but with a grandma’s love of course. And our grandmothers didn’t use stand mixers, it was all by hand.
L: And do you use a stand mixer now in the kitchen?
CRB: Well, yes I have to really for work. But for some cakes I don’t. I do the carrot cake all by hand.
L: Where do you get your inspiration for making cakes now?
CRB: My main influences are from Mexico, the USA and from here in Barcelona. In the States there’s an amazing place called Factory Cheesecake with maybe 200 cheesecakes! My favourite is pumpkin cheesecake.
I’m always trying to be innovative and add that extra special little touch to make my cakes different from other cakes. Sometimes I add a little whisky and honey! It’s important not to overdo it so I put a little of the ‘special ingredient’ (like nutmeg) then taste it, add a tiny bit more and check it again to make sure it’s not too much. I add brandy and a little nutmeg to my tres leches cake.
L: And do other chefs add a special ingredient to their tres leches cake?
CRB: That’s hard to say because many chefs won’t tell you about their ‘special ingredient’. They keep it to themselves, a closely guarded secret! (So true – a Mexican pastry shop here wouldn’t give the slightest hint about their secret recipe!)
L: But you don’t mind giving us your recipe for the tres leches cake, for our cake challenge?
CRB: No, there are many ways to make this cake but I’ll give you my recipe. It’s for a big cake of 16 portions. The chef explains the recipe in detail, which he obviously knows off by heart. The recipe will be up very soon on the Tres Leches Cake Challenge post. It will include the chef’s special ingredients and some techniques handed down from his grandmother!
L: That’s very kind of you. Thank you! And do you have any advice to give us so we can make a cake like yours?
CRB: Be careful draining the cake of surplus milk. Springform cake tins (with removable bottoms) are handy for this! I love springform cake tins. I even use them for apple pies because they come out so easily! There’s a way to do the draining without this kind of tin but it isn’t as easy.
L: And what should a tres leches cake be like?
CRB: A tres leches cake should have absorbed the milk, be spongy and not falling apart or melting underneath. Some tres leches cakes I’ve had tasted fine but were falling apart at the bottom and they shouldn’t be like that.
CRB: It could be too solid because of the sponge itself, which needs to be light. It should have a light spongy texture.
L: And do a lot of Mexicans come here looking for the tres leches cake?
CRB: Well people say ‘you must try the tres leches cake!’ in a lot of commentaries about Mexcla, which makes me feel happy of course!
L: I can understand why they do. It’s delicious, light, spongy and not too sweet. And that extra special taste!
CRB: I’ll get you a piece to try.
L: I’ve already tried it twice and it was delicious!
(the chef goes to the kitchen and kindly brings me a slice to eat)
L: Thank you! I’m not going to say no to a slice of your tres leches cake! (munch, munch) Are there any other Mexican cakes you can recommend?
CRB: The chocoflan, el pastel imposible (the impossible cake!) and the pastel de piña volteado (upside-down pineapple cake). The pineapple cake is delicious! And you can dress up the tres leches cake and fill it with whipped cream and strawberries. In Mexico we do this a lot and it’s delicious too.
It’s also great to be innovative with new ideas and flavours! I like to do that. And people do say yes that’s really good but then they ask for the ‘traditional’ cake! People like to go back to la versión de l’abuela (grandmother’s recipe) that they know and love.
L: That’s really interesting! (finishes the slice of cake). Thank you so much for your time and kindness! I’m really looking forward to making this cake! You must be busy, so …
CRB: Don’t worry, this is a quieter time of the day. Thank you! We’re here if you need any help!
Cristhian Valencia, the Manager: Yes, get in touch with us if you need anything else! We hope this was helpful for you!
It was a real pleasure to meet and interview Chef Ruben Boldo, a kind and modest man who generously shared his recipe, tips and ‘secrets’ with us though maybe not all of them?! 🙂 It’s inspiring to talk with someone so enthusiastic and passionate about both innovative and traditional recipes. Chef Ruben Boldo said his main focus was cooking but he obviously loves baking too and belongs to that breed of chefs who will happily experiment to lovingly create all manner of culinary delights in their kitchen.
Psst: I’d love another slice of that tres leches cake right now! Wouldn’t you?
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A little more about Chef Ruben Boldo and Mexcla
Chef Ruben Boldo, originally from Mexico City, has also spent time in the USA and is now preparing authentic and delicious Mexican sweet and savoury dishes at Mexcla restaurant which opened a few years ago in Barcelona.
His menu includes delicious ceviches and the extremely popular guacamole and tacos – I love the Chicken mole ones! There are fusion and ‘exotic’ dishes with ingredients imported from Mexico such as huitlacoche, a delicious fungus that grows on sweetcorn! Of course no-one should miss out on the pastel de tres leches, described in reviews as ‘amazing’ and ‘highly recommended’!
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TRES LECHES CAKE CHALLENGE
WHO: open to everyone – bakers, non-bakers, writers, artists, photographers, gardeners, bloggers, non-bloggers and supervised children!!! I see it as a few of us having a nice cosy informal gathering to make this cake and chat about it.
HOW: you can choose from 4 recipes, by Chef Ruben Boldo, me (an adaptation), Divine Spice Box and Lolita la pastelera or follow any other tres leches cake recipe that inspires you! Any version welcome! Photos and comments can be posted during the month, but publish your final recipe link or post from Friday 15th to Saturday 16th!
More details coming soon!
Here’s a peek at my efforts so far to make a tres leches cake (for an adaptated recipe in grams – for you!). They don’t taste as good as the chef’s but I’m working on it! 🙂
Finally, I hope you enjoyed that little interview! Let me know what you think and if you’d have any other questions for Chef Ruben Boldo about baking or the tres leches cake! Would you be interested in more chef or patissier interviews about cakes in future?
Hope you’re mentally getting your apron out and rolling your up sleeves to take up the challenge or read about it! Wishing you happy innovative or traditional baking and cooking, with many lovely moments sweet reader thinking about and planning your next cake and meal!!! Till next time! 🙂