Pumpkin Tres Leches Cake fail = Pumpkin Trifle Success!

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So here’s a story of trying to turn a negative into a positive.  I had this brilliant idea of making a pumpkin tres leches cake.  Turns out not so brilliant.  I found this recipe for a tres leches cake in one of my books and I wanted to autumnize it by adding some pumpkin.  Now after looking the recipe over, I had my reservations about the recipe since it called for reducing the soaking milk mixture by half.  I thought that would be extremely thick and would not get absorbed by the cake.

But let me backtrack a little bit for some folks that might be confused.  For those who aren’t familiar with a pastel de tres leches, it is the “Three Milks Cake”.  The cake used is a very dense sponge cake which is then soaked in a sweet mixture made of three milks.  The three milks used would include:  evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk (I could eat this crap right out of the can!), and whole milk / heavy cream.  Its origins can probably be traced to Latin America, either Nicaragua or Mexico.  From what I can tell, the recipe was part of a promotional campaign by a canning company to help drive sales of their milk products.  Clever marketing!

Fast forward now to a few days ago. . . The cake itself was perfect — very dense, the flavor was great, it should have done well maintaining its structural integrity despite the soaking liquid.  As I feared, the soaking liquid turned very thick, almost like a béchamel or a gravy.  But I soldiered on, thinking maybe it would work.  Letting something soak overnight could work. . . maybe. . . right?. . . It didn’t.  What I got was very dense, dry cake topped with a very wet frosting.  So, what to do, what to do?  Into the freezer it goes!  If I can’t figure out how to use it, I can at least turn it into cake crumbs which I can use to decorate cakes (I should do a quick post on how to make that)

What about a trifle?  It’s a nice way use up some cake that might not have turned out the way you wanted.  Now here’s a recent post from a fellow blogger with her very tasty version of a Pumpkin Trifle.  It sounds like this is the way to go.  I did have a lot of higher aspirations involving fresh cinnamon whipped cream and pumpkin butter and candied pepitas, but as the day wore on and errands started piling up, I took the easy way out and Sandra Lee’ed it.  I am so ashamed of myself, since I always seem to be on the “made-from-scratch-high-horse”.  Hopefully I don’t start turning to Rachel Ray for culinary advice.  Unless you like those two, then they’re lovely.  But to make up for it, I made some lavender pepita croquant to garnish a marbled pumpkin cheesecake.

Again, this is not a specific recipe since this is just cobbled together.  If you happen to have a spare cake lying around the kitchen, great!  If not, just pick one up at the store.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 9″-in. round pumpkin cakes
  • 2 3.4-oz. packages pumpkin spice pudding, prepared
  • 2 c. pepitas, raw and unsalted
  • 1 16-oz. container whipped topping
  • spiced rum, to taste

1.  Cut the cake into about 1″ cubes.  Toss the cubes with just enough rum to moisten the cake.  You could omit this if you like.

2.  Spread out a layer of the cake cubes.  Top with a layer of the whipped topping, followed with a sprinkling of pepitas.

3.  Now spread out another layer of cake cubes.  Top with a layer of the pudding, and again sprinkle with the pepitas.

4.  Alternate steps two and three until you get to the top of the dish.  Garnish with a dollop of whipped topping and sprinkling of pepitas.  You can serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Notes — I don’t have a dedicated trifle dish so I had to use my cake dish / punch bowl.  When I do make trifles, I usually make individual ones so I have no need for a large dish.  I think it did a sufficient job, but it was a little bit too wide. . . Since the cakes that I had used were dry, it was helpful in my case to let everything sit for a bit rather than serving immediately.

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6 thoughts on “Pumpkin Tres Leches Cake fail = Pumpkin Trifle Success!

    thehungryartist said:
    October 21, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Great idea to use the cake in a trifle! I’ll def. remember that trick. 🙂

    Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide said:
    October 21, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Looks wonderful!

    daisy said:
    October 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Nice save! Looks delicious.

    Denise @ GypsyWorldSpiceCafe.com said:
    November 20, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Trifles rock! Looks Delish…

    Edyth Miles said:
    December 1, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    What a great idea. It looks wonderful 🙂

    kathryningrid said:
    December 16, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    This must be an “I Meant to Do That” Dessert, or what I always refer to as a happy accident. Sometimes things go the way they’re *supposed to* rather than the way we *think* they’re supposed to go. And deliciousness of one sort or another ensues. Hooray for you!
    Kathryn

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