The Secret Pantry Ingredients That Star in Some of Martha's Favorite Desserts

Sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk are the darlings of the baking world.

cuatro leches cake martha bakes
Photo: Mike Krautter

How did a shelf-stable, inexpensive, buy-it-anywhere dairy product become an ingredient a beloved by home bakers and pastry chefs alike? Sweetened condensed milk is a key ingredient in some of Martha's favorite desserts, and here's why: its milk proteins take on a toasty note when baked, and its creaminess gives cakes the perfect consistency. Plus, it's sweet-and plays well with flavors both simple and sophisticated. Its partner in crime is evaporated milk, which is condensed milk without sugar added, and with the water content cooked off until it has a consistency similar to cream. The best part: Both have an extremely long shelf life.

The classic tres leches cake relies on both of these staples for its signature soft and indulgent texture and flavor, and while the third "leche" in traditional tres leches cake is whole milk, Martha goes a step further in her Cuatro Leches Cake, and adds nonfat milk powder to make the cake even creamier. Because the recipe features such powerhouse ingredients, it's easy to make. You prepare and bake the cake, then, when it comes out of the oven, poke the warm cake all over with a toothpick and pour a mixture of condensed milk, evaporated milk, and whole milk over the top, which makes the cake super moist-and super delicious.

Tune in to Martha Bakes this weekend to see Martha make this heavenly dessert, as well as two other treats that rely on pantry milks: Passion-Fruit Meringue Pie and Condensed Milk Pound Cake. Plus, dairy expert, Holley Grainger, shares her trade secrets.

Cuatro Leches Cake

The four leches in Martha's cake are evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, nonfat milk powder, and regular whole milk. Together, they transform a sponge cake into something sublime.

Get the Cuatro Leches Cake Recipe

passion fruit meringue martha bakes
Mike Krautter

Passion-Fruit Meringue Pie

The saltine cracker-crust is a fantastic counterpoint to a creamy and sweet-tart, custardy filling made with passion fruit purée. A dramatic meringue topping is the finishing touch on this beautiful pie.

Get the Passion-Fruit Meringue Pie Recipe

condensed milk poundcake martha bakes
Mike Krautter

Condensed-Milk Pound Cake

Here's a twist on pound cake you'll love. It's made with all the usual ingredients plus sweetened condensed milk. A glaze made from that same milk plus a splash of red-wine vinegar and lime zest and juice give it a wonderfully tangy taste.

Get the Condensed-Milk Pound Cake Recipe

Martha Bakes season 11 airs on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings).

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