Actress Chelsea Peretti’s preferred technique of eating cake—by carefully avoiding the frosting in favor of an all-sponge experience—garnered much discussion on Twitter over the weekend.
Here at The Takeout, we were debating whether we had anything to add to this conversation. Was Peretti’s method justifiable? Is it perfectly within bounds of cake-consuming etiquette? Our conclusion: We don’t care. Eat what you want, how you want. The larger debate it spurred was which, in fact, is the best cake? Now this was a discussion worth pulling out the gloves for.
A brief description of this cake for the uninitiated: tres leches is a Mexican dessert in which a spongey piece of vanilla cake is soaked in a mixture of sweet milks so that each bite releases a bit of cream along with the cake. It’s absolutely the best cake on earth. Tres leches might be a bit of a misnomer, though, because some recipes actually call for four types of milk: evaporated, sweetened condensed, whole milk, and heavy cream to be whipped as a frosting/topping. I’ll let this technicality slide though, because I am never mad about more dairy on my plate.
Okay, so what I love about tres leches is multifold. First, the texture—why do we call it sponge cake if we never use it to soak up anything? Actually allowing the cake to absorb some sweet milk creates a soft, squishy bite that’s even richer than cake on its own. Sure you can drink a glass of milk alongside a slice of cake, but tres leches is truly greater than the sum of its cake-and-milk parts. Secondly, the flavor—for any vanilla and heavy cream lover, it’s the ultimate. I’ve had versions that incorporated dark rum and lime into the mix, which I also found delightful. The flavor is so rich but the texture isn’t such that you’re chewing through massive hunks of frosting flowers or gobs of sugar.
Other cakes, especially frosted ones, can begin to feel dry after the third forkful. By the end, you’ve downed the better part of a glass of milk or water just trying to swallow all that saccharine frosting. Not so with our velvety, scrumptious amigo, tres leches. I’d continue to wax poetic about my favorite cake, but I’m going to put that on hold in favor of baking one right this instant.
I get why some people love cake, especially cake with frosting, (especially chocolate cake with frosting). But I usually find the whole cake enterprise rather sweet for my tastes, I’m afraid. I would never wrestle anyone for the slice with the sugar flower on it, let’s put it that way. So far and away, my favorite cake (that’s not cheesecake), is carrot cake with cream cheese icing. The tangy savoriness of the cream cheese helps temper the cloying sweetness of most cakes, and the shredded (or shaved) carrots add a welcome texture. Plus with the carrots, I almost feel like I’m eating something healthy. You know, for cake.
The mighty Black Forest cake takes an otherwise ho-hum chocolate cake and blasts its appeal and deliciousness into the stratosphere. It’s not even the integration of chocolate sponge with jellied cherry hunks and cherry liqueur—a dynamite combination—that’s the best part. The best part, in this writer’s humble opinion, is the chocolate shavings covering the cake like fresh moss on a dessert log. A dessert with chocolate two-ways and cherries two-ways is a winning cake all-the-way.
All right, Takeout commenteriat, have at it: What in your opinion is the best cake?