Thursday’s Dish: Rum-Soaked Tres Leches Cake

I made this recently and got rave reviews, especially from men for some reason. Maybe it was the rum, which adds a kick that melds perfectly with the mildness of all the milk. And maybe it was the specific rum I used, a new product distilled nearby in Pflugerville called Pecan Street Rum, which is made by adding pecans, producing a mellow, nutty flavor.

I contacted the guys behind Pecan Street Rum, Jason Malik, Brad Haden and Shaun Siems (L-to-R in photo below), to find out more about this curious combination. They all met when working at Samsung. I spoke with Brad Haden, a local father of four who had prior experience with home-brewing.

Photo courtesy Lime Fly Photography.

Why rum?
We really got into the business to improve on all existing liquors. We wanted to do premium aged products, but also needed revenue. Rum is a natural solution in that it can be aged, but doesn’t have any two-year mandatory requirements. We thought Pecan Street Rum was going to take much longer to hit the right flavor, but it worked in a much shorter time frame than expected.

Why pecans?
We were flirting with all kinds of different aging techniques and formulas. When my business partner suggested pecans, a light went off. What an amazing idea! The more we thought about it the more it made sense. State Tree of Texas, wonderful recipe potential, so many positives.

Why Pflugerville?
There are a few factors. One of the business owners is from Pflugerville. We started working with the city, and they seemed very open to working with us. The availability of spaces to work in and also grow in the future all made it work out. Since we opened, we have received lots of positive feedback from the local community, and it reinforces what a wonderful decision we made.

Photo courtesy Lime Fly Photography.

How long did it take to develop the right recipe and process for the rum?
It took about six months to develop the right recipe. We started with a very premium molasses and used many, many different yeasts and fermentation temperatures to develop an aroma and flavor of the base distillate that sings. After that, we had to work on the amount of oak and pecans in the aging process to create a perfect balance of flavor and smoothness. The process itself still changes with the seasons. The natural variation from batch to batch of pecans, oak and outside temperature changes the way we have to age and blend each bottling run to make sure we have the same smooth, consistent flavor.

Did you make any awful stuff or big mistakes when working on it?
There were a few yeasts in the testing runs that made some pretty strange tasting rum. I’m glad I’ve been working with fermentation techniques for a long time and knew all the right conditions to vary to quickly dial in a recipe. The biggest mistake so far is walking away from a 53-gallon drum pouring molasses into a 5-gallon bucket. Cleaning up 100 pound of molasses spilled on a concrete floor takes hours and hours!

What’s your favorite way to drink the rum?
Our motto is “Nice on ice, and mixes with everything.” If I don’t drink it straight, my next favorite is a traditional Rum and Coke with a splash of Amaretto on top. The amazing thing about our rum is that is has a dual flavor profile. With dark sodas (i.e., Coke, Dr Pepper), you definitely pick up the pecan flavor and the oak stays more in the background. With light sodas (i.e., Sprite, 7-Up), you pick up the oak and vanillas, and the pecans stay in the background.

Have you cooked with it? If so, what do you like to do with it?
Several people have made cakes with it and had wonderful results. Rum cakes with rum glazes are amazing. I heard someone made a bbq sauce with it that turned out really well.

What plans do you have down the road? More spirits?
Down the road we do plan on releasing more spirits. We are set to release Spirit of Texas Rum in June. Spirit of Texas Rum will be a classic silver rum with a slightly sweet aroma and smooth rum flavor. Once we settle in with our first two products we plan on making a gin. After that we can start the premium aged products. Brandy, Whiskey, Bourbon are all things we are going to get going.

This recipe for Tres Leches Cake is from my friend Alison Bradburn Sturge, a wonderful baker (you may remember her Pear-Pecan Scones recipe). It was my first time making Tres Leches, and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it is, even though it looks like a lot of steps. Much of it is done in the mixer, so the cleanup is easy, too.

Rum-Soaked Tres Leches Cake
6 eggs, separated
2 cups sugarAdvertisement
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Lightly grease and flour a 9×13-inch pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, sift together flour and baking powder; set aside. In cup, mix milk with vanilla; set aside.

Using a mixer, beat egg whites to soft peaks, then gradually add sugar while beating to stiff peaks. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Do the next part quickly so the batter doesn’t lose much volume: Add flour mixture and milk mixture (from above) to eggs, alternating each addition.

Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake 25 minutes, or until the whole top is lightly browned and middle isn’t jiggly. A toothpick stuck in the center should come out clean.

Leave in pan and cool for at least an hour. When cool, pierce top of cake with a fork 20 times and pour syrup over all.

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
Fill sweetened condensed can with whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup rum

Mix all ingredients together and pour over cake. Let sit for at least an hour (up to overnight). Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream and fruit before serving. Store in fridge.

Lightly sweetened whipped cream:
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar

With mixer, beat whipping cream until soft peaks form. Slowly pour in sugar and beat to hard peaks.

Top cake with blueberries or strawberries, or slices of fresh pineapple or peaches.

Written by: Shannon Oelrich


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