1Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat bottom of large shallow baking pan with 1 tablespoon of the softened butter. Using only the center-cut bread slices, arrange bread in single layer on baking pan. Spread both sides of bread with 6 tablespoons of the remaining butter. Bake 20 minutes or until lightly toasted, turning bread halfway through. Cool slightly.
2Meanwhile, mix water, piloncillo, cinnamon sticks, star anise and cloves in heavy bottom 3-quart saucepan. Bring to boil on medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve piloncillo. Boil 20 minutes or until syrup is thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain syrup mixture; set aside.
3Grease 13x9-inch baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon softened butter. Arrange 12 of the toasted bread slices in single layer in bottom of baking dish. Slowly pour 1/2 of the warm syrup over bread slices, allowing some of syrup to be absorbed by the bread before adding more. Sprinkle half each of the raisins, almonds and Cotija over top. Repeat layers with remaining bread slices, warm syrup, raisins, almonds and cheese. Cover with foil.
4Bake 25 minutes or until bread is slightly softened and syrup is bubbly. Carefully remove foil. Bake 5 minutes longer until golden brown. Cool slightly and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar to serve.