Is it deliriously sweet? Is it dripping with the requisite three milks (cream or whole milk plus sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk)? If the answer is yes—and it is at lively, pastel-painted El Chile —you have the best tres leches cake in the city. A close runner-up, the no-froufrou tres leches at lovely, quiet Las Palomas positively oozes milk and is sweet enough to cause a serious sugar rush. At Curra’s jolly converted-convenience-store digs, two layers of coarse cake—the better for soaking up milk—are topped with caramel sauce and drifts of whipped cream.
When Dunia Borga and her husband, Espartaco, opened the original, elegantly comfortable La Duni, on McKinney Avenue, her cuatro leches cake made headlines across the country. A phenomenal confection, it features layers of sponge cake that are soaked in a three-milk sauce and topped with caramelized meringue and arequipe, a milk-and-sugar reduction. The triple-layered threat at Gloria’s, a neighborhood hangout in Oak Cliff, is an especially rich, moist finish to a meal. Completing the pretty picture are strawberries, whipped cream, and swirls of chocolate syrup.
Lovely and sophisticated Café Central serves only a few Mexican dishes, but its version of this rich, creamy dessert is so decadent it should probably be illegal.
Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen, a cheerful place adorned with family photographs, makes everything from scratch, including the city’s best tres leches cake. A glorious mountain of dense, coarse-textured cake, it is soaked in a balanced, chilled sauce of whole, evaporated, and sweetened condensed milks, shot through with pure Mexican vanilla flavor, enveloped in snowy whipped cream, and topped with a cherry. Taste a different style at tranquil Otilia’s, where a petite, single-layer cake with real vanilla flavor is moistened with cuatro leches —evaporated, whole, and sweetened condensed milks, plus a secret fourth one—topped with whipped cream, and served on a cinnamon-sprinkled plate. Rich, sweet, and spongy, the tres leches cake at modest La Guadalupana Bakery and Café, made with whole eggs and topped with a sugar-cream icing, offers a big bang for the buck. The ribbon for showiest, biggest, and sweetest tres leches cake goes to festive Little Pappasito’s. A triple-layer vanilla pound cake sitting in a puddle of cream sauce, this beauty is adorned with strawberries, bright strawberry sauce, towering meringue, and strips of white chocolate.
A sugar fantasy topped with caramel sauce and whipped cream, the tres leches cake at Guajillo’s is the best in town and far more elaborate than the simple restaurant itself. (The owner’s mother had a bakery in Mexico City, and this is her recipe.) Classy La Fonda ’s tres leches cake is a piece of pure sin, milky-moist and shingled in slivered almonds. Top off an evening at arty, cushy Paloma Blanca with coffee and its sumptuous tres leches, covered with finely ground pecans and sitting in a glorious puddle of milk. (By the way, the restaurant’s classic flan is fantastic.)
See the Directorio for directions to any of these restaurants.