Banned For Life

There are certain food items that Jenny has banned from the house forever. Most are desserts. Actually, all are desserts. There were the Mallomars when we were first married, which we stashed in the refrigerator and ate by the box until she turned, viper-like, upon them. There were those sugar-coated, citrus-y gum drops from T Joe’s, which she loved dearly for many months, right up to the day when, in the middle of eating a few of them after dinner, she turned to me and said, “Ugh, god, why am I eating these? What is my problem? I think we need to do ‘Turn Over a New Leaf’ month on the blog.” There was the bag of peanut butter chips that she ate by the handful — paired with alternating handfuls of dark chocolate chips — and that she loved so much that she had to throw them away, or risk eating every one of them. (It was hard to watch, as if the chips, by merely existing, had done her wrong.) There my personal favorite, the batch of snickerdoodles that she first saw as a revelation but then grew so disgusted by that she actually poured water over them before throwing them away to ensure that she wouldn’t, upon reflection, dive back into the garbage for more.

And then there was the tres leches cake that Abby and I made last week.

My struggles with baking have been well-chronicled on this particuar weblog — Jenny loves to say that baking is not my “thing” and she’s right — but Abby had been after me for a month to make this with her, ever since she’d tried it in school on some kind of end-of-year, Spanish celebration day. Abby is nothing if not determined, and had been dying to recreate it for us at home. So I finally relented, busted out the dreaded mixer, and pulled a recipe from Bon Appetit. To my amazement, what we made resembled a cake and tasted… boy, did it ever taste good. Like, seriously, seriously good, and I am not a huge lover of cake. The best part of the process came at the end, after the cake was cooked, when we put it on a baking sheet and Abby poked tiny holes all over the top of it, and then slowly, over the course of several minutes, drizzled seemingly endless quantities of various milk products over the top of it. “Where does all that milk go?” Abby asked, as the liquid disappeared. Then she tried to lift it off the counter, and understood.

Baking may not be my thing, but Jenny didn’t exactly turn up her nose at this creation. She loaded a canister of Reddi Whip and downed two slices, and then cursed her powers of self-restraint, and then had another piece, and then got angry and threatened to throw the rest away. Good sense prevailed, however, and the cake lived to see another day. But that was all. After night two, with about a quarter of it left, Jenny dumped it into the trash and banned it for life. “Don’t bring that into the house again,” she said. “It’s too good.” — Andy

Tres Leches Cake
Adapted only very slightly from Bon Appetit 

1 tablespon unsalted butter (for pan)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup evaporated skim milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon good dark rum

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter bottom and sides of cake pan (I used a spring-form pan, but not sure that was necessary). Set aside. In large bowl, whisk your flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until firm peaks form, about 7-8 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating to blend between additions. Beat in 2 tsp. of the vanilla and the lemon zest. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Pour batter into pan; smooth top.

Bake for 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 325° and continue baking until cake is golden brown and middle springs back when pressed, 20-25 minutes more. Let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes. Invert cake onto a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet.

Whisk 1/2 tsp. vanilla, evaporated milk, and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Poke holes all over top of cake (we used a wooden skewer). Drizzle half of sauce over cake, letting liquid soak in before adding more. Let cake sit for 10 minutes.

Invert a plate on top of cake. Lift rack and gently invert cake onto plate. Drizzle remaining sauce over. Dust with powdered sugar.

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Jenny, I feel your pain. I too have zero self-restraint against sweets! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought a bag of chocolate chips with the goal of making some treat for the family to enjoy and ended up just eating the whole bag by the handful over the course of a week.


Can you clarify what milk goes into the batter and which goes on top of the cake? It’s not clear to me from reading the recipe. Thanks!

domonique @ a bowl full of simple

great post andy. love baking with my kids. it’s a delicious science experiment every.time. too be clear though, jenny is not alone. fabulous wives and mothers have poured water on deliciousness to keep themselves from digging in the garbage. it happens.


I am constantly pitching things that have power over me and swear to never buy them again. This cake though, is a keeper.


Oof, my work pants feel snug just looking at those ingredients. My husband is the one who bans certain desserts since I apparently have better self control than he does. Whenever I make brownies and he is helping himself to his 12th ‘sliver slice’ he says “you’re going to bring these into the office tomorrow, right?” Sigh.


Jennifer — the whole milk goes in the batter. The rest — cream, condensed, and evaporated — is what you pour over the top.


Can you specify the size of the cake pan? Also, the recipe says, “In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, until firm peaks form, about 7-8 minutes.” I think you meant to say, beat egg whites? The Pioneer Woman’s tres leches has always been my go to recipe but, would love to try this for a tres leches throwdown.


We visited Costa Rica in February and stayed at an eco-lodge where some local ladies did all the cooking. They made a tres leches cake to die for! I tried a recipe when I got home, I think it was from the Food Network, and it was just meh. I’m going to try yours and see if it rivals what I remember eating in CR!

Keeley @ My Life on a Plate

So I saw this post in my reader and IMMEDIATELY knew you were talking about tres leches! It’s my husband’s favorite and I made it this week for his birthday. I’m ashamed to admit that I doubt they’ll be more than 2 slices left for the celebration tonight. I love that cake! Emeril’s recipe from is great.


I. Feel. Your. Pain. Sweets do not last long in our house not because I do not like them, but because the other forces that I share the house with (husband, daughter) do not care for sweets. I fear that my love of sweets my even be leaving my body. Sigh.


Sometimes, you really have to believe that the universe is telling you something, and lately, it seems to be telling me “eat a tres leches cake.” This is the third time it’s come up this week

It seems like such a crime to throw out homemade baked goods. I know that there are times it must be done, but I truly lack the willpower.


I agree with Zelda. While I am usually a big fan of this blog, this post disturbed me. I can’t imagine banning any food from my house nor can I imagine throwing away perfectly good food (especially food that my children helped to make). I’m truly just saddened and befuddled by this whole post.


I hope the stories of Jenny throwing out food is hyperbolic. Kind of wasteful, no? Aren’t her parents supposed to be the ones that never let a scrap of food go to waste?

I get it, we’ve all been there, but come on.


To those complaining that Jenny was being wasteful, my mom said that some foods are “better in the trash than in your stomach.” Maybe it would be different if this was fresh vegetables, but an unhealthy cake need not be savored so much.


totally making this.
maybe if i make 1/2 a recipe,
i won’t need to exercise any self restraint.
it just looks so homey and lovely.

let’s all try to find our sense of humor when it comes to jenny throwing out sweets. if she throws out YOUR sweets, then go ahead and get pissed.


Wonderful post and I identify strongly, having had to stop buying candy and making cakes because sugar is just too hard to resist. A lot of people do have a very complicated relationship with food and it helps to know we’re not alone. And the truth (for me) is that after you take away the sugar it gets way less complicated.


I have a feeling this was done in good fun. Let’s try to be respectful of that.
Love the sound of that cake!

Liza in Ann Arbor

I literally laughed out loud when Jenny poured water over the cookies to make sure she wouldn’t retrieve them from the trash! I contemplated doing the same to a bag of kettle cooked barbecue chips last week, before I managed to give them away. Tres leches cake? Don’t think I could ever trash that fortunately (or not).


You. Wasted. Cake???! I’m crying at my desk. Most of my weight problems, I swear, stem from the fact that I cannot “waste” things. I’m working on throwing out hole-ridden cut-offs. You’ve inspired me to aspire to that which would make me incapable of fitting into said cut-offs. Cheers!


Such a funny post (funny ha-ha, not funny odd). While I’m not sure I would go so far as to throw out food (I prefer the dump on unsuspecting co-workers approach), there are plenty of things that I also refuse to bring into my home, because it is easier than trying to practice self-restraint! If it’s what you need to do, so what? Better than many other crazy practices.


I haven’t commented here in a loooong time, but today I couldn’t resist.
The last line kills me. “Don’t bring that into the house again.”
I’m the same way.
Also, the image of Jenny pouring water on some cookies makes me think of Paul Rudd eating that cupcake out of the sink in “This is 40…” So funny.

Angelique Jennifer

I have zero self-restraint when it comes to my favourite foods, but I have learnt to accept it. So if I buy a pint of ice-cream I accept the fact that I’ll down it in one sitting, if I can’t accept it before I reach the till then I don’t buy it…In any case, I don’t feel guilty and I certainly don’t throw it away (I hate wasting food) after I’ve bought it.


Ha! Love it. For me: Chicago Mix popcorn. They’ve had it at Costco lately, in massive bags, and I have eaten it until I’ve gotten ill.

Banned. For. Life.

Susan S.

Please put the cake pan size in the recipe. Perhaps because you don’t bake much you don’t realize how important this is in the success vs failure of a recipe. 🙂


Big thanks for the honesty in this post. I think it’s great that you’ve found a way to make light of Jenny’s struggle with sweets. I’m someone that has battled with food my whole life and sometimes ditching it is the only way to keep from devouring the whole thing in one sitting. Judging for throwing the cake out is a little harsh. On princple alone, I feel compelled to make this cake and hope I have the strength to know when it’s time to dump it!


This is exactly what I feel about Nutella. I have banned it from the house as it only takes a few days for us to finish a bottle!


I found the post humurous, truthful and so honest. Reading back on the comments, I cant believe some people find it offensive! Ayayay!

Angela A

When there are such things that I want to make and eat, I just make them when people are coming over. Less leftovers for me to inhale and other people get to share in the yumminess with us!


Andy, what cake pan size did you use?

I don’t want an overflowing cake… Looks delish!