The longest season of the year is Ordinary Time. It is a time where the church, as a whole, is neither fasting nor feasting. Yet, it is still a time to celebrate. The season begins with the Festival of the Holy Trinity. This doctrinally-focused Sunday reminds the church who they worship. Christians say that God is Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These are three distinct and separate “persons” but they are of one “being.” The fact that this statement is hard to understand is part of the lesson.
God dwells in human mystery beyond our understanding, except for the ways that God revealed Godself to us in the God of Israel, Jesus Christ his Son, and in the Holy Spirit. God lives in the community of the Sacred Three. Latin American Theologian Justo Gonzales says that this is how we know that God’s very nature is love. The Church Mothers and Fathers taught that this love between the Three is like an eternal dance they called perichoresis. In creation and redemption, we are invited to join this cosmic dance.
Our recipe for Trinity Sunday is the Latin American Tres Leches Cake. Tres Leches Cake is a soaked sponge cake like tiramisu, trifle, and rum cake, its European cousins. However, this cake is soaked in three different kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream. While every illustration of the Trinity ends up falling short, this cake is a subtle reminder of the distinctiveness and unity of the Godhead. A great blessing before this feast may be, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you (2 Corinthians 13:14).
The Holy Trinity by Luca Rossetti da Orta; 1738; fresco; St. Gaudenzio Church at Ivrea (Torino), Italy
Tres Leches Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
6 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.
- Combine 2 cups all-purpose flour and 4 teaspoons baking powder in small bowl.
- In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat the whites from 6 eggs and 1 teaspoon salt on medium-low speed until whites begin to froth, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and beat whites until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly add the 2 cups sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add 6 egg yolks and beat just until combined. Decrease speed to low and add the flour/baking powder mixture in three additions, alternating with the 1/2 cup milk. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and beat just until combined.
- Scrape batter into an ungreased 13” by 9” baking dish. Bake until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer cake to cooling rack and cool completely in pan, 60 to 90 minutes.
- Once cooled, poke cake all over with fork. Combine 2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk, 2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk, and 1 1/2 cups heavy cream in large bowl. Pour mixture evenly all over cake. While cake soaks, make whipped cream.
- Combine 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin and 2 tablespoons water in small bowl. Microwave until gelatin dissolves, about 20 seconds. Cool to room temperature, about 5 minutes.
- In clean bowl of stand mixer, combine 1/4 cup cream cheese, 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, and the cooled gelatin with whisk attachment until soft and whisky, about 2 minutes. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups cream and beat to soft peaks, about 2 minutes.
- Spread whipped cream over cake and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours. Serve.