Tasting Tres Leches

On a recent rainy Saturday afternoon, an intrepid band of food adventurers tackled the ultimate challenge: tasting eight different tres leches cakes in one intensely sweet sitting

On a recent rainy Saturday afternoon, an intrepid band of food adventurers tackled the ultimate challenge: tasting eight different tres leches cakes in one intensely sweet sitting.

One caveat: Our tasting was just a selection of locally made tres leches cakes, a mere sampling of what's available out there (some of us exhibited symptoms of serious sugar overload, as it was). We know that many additional restaurants and bakeries around town offer this luscious dessert, so please don't beat us up because we didn't include your favorite. (And bear in mind that it's possible the one you like best is made by one of the wholesale companies who distribute their cakes to various area restaurants.)

This was a blind tasting, meaning that the slices of tres leches in front of us were not identified. We didn't learn 'til after we'd tasted and scored that the samples came from restaurants Habana, El Mercado, and Granite Cafe; wholesalers the Flan Company, Tres Leches y Mas, and Marta's Desserts; and retail bakeries Bread Alone and Fiesta Mart.

The results were interesting. It became clear that tres leches cakes come in a wide array of presentations and flavor profiles, and that different people prefer different styles. The cakes that some of the tasters liked best were others' least favorites. For some, the soupier the consistency, the better, but others went for a firmer texture. Some responded favorably to sophisticated garnishes and additional flavors like fresh fruit, coconut, caramel, nuts, and liquor; others preferred their tres leches straightforward and unadorned.

Because of this diversity of preference, none of the cakes was a runaway winner amassing a significant majority of the points awarded for flavor, mouthfeel, appearance, and creativity. The spread was particularly narrow in the flavor category, with only a few points between the highest and lowest scores. However, the tres leches cake from the Fiesta bakery received the highest overall score, with Granite Cafe's coming in a close second. You can't imagine two more different styles of the same dessert. Go figure.

But the good news is, no matter what style of tres leches you go for, it's a fairly safe bet that you can find it in Austin.


The Tres Leches Tasted

Bread Alone

218 S. Lamar (in Schlotzsky's), 477-5858

Fiesta Mart Bakery

3909 N. I-35 (at 381/2 Street), 406-3900

The Flan Company (available at area restaurants)

PO Box 6444, Round Rock, TX 78683, 512/244-6517 www.flancompany.com

The Granite Cafe

2905 San Gabriel, 472-6483www.thegranitecafe.com

Habana

2728 S. Congress, 443-4252 habana@austin.rr.com

Marta's Desserts (available at area restaurants)

3708 Woodbury, 476-4334www.martasdesserts.com

El Mercado Restaurant

1302 S. First, 447-7445

Tres Leches y Mas (available at area restaurants)

Jesse Cordova, 848-6988

The Tres Leches Tasters: Chronicle Food writers Wes Marshall, MM Pack, Mick Vann, and Virginia Wood; Austin food professionals Miguel Ravago, Maria Corbalan, Cathy Cochran-Lewis, and Pam Conlan; assistant: Chronicle Food intern Erin Mosow

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Habana, El Mercado, Tres Leches y Mas, Marta's Desserts, Granite Cafe, Flan Company, Fiesta, Bread Alone, Maria Corbalan, Cathy Cochran-Lewis, Pam Conlan

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