Coconut Tres Leches

By • May 14, 2013 • 95 Comments


1,241 Save

Author Notes: I started making tres leches because it is my neighbor's favorite thing and I like her. I started with Martha Stewart's recipe which is a great jumping off point -- but it is not as juicy as a traditional tres leches, which you will find resting in a shallow lake of sweet milk. So I adjusted up for that, and here I have swapped in some coconut, some lime (because it is one of coconut's BFFs) and I used Tahitian vanilla which is a bit more floral than Mexican (but if you can't find it, go with whatcha got). It's rich and milky and coconutty and good. Ask the neighbors.aargersi

Food52 Review: WHO: The same cook who brought us a knock-out Thanksgiving turkey also has dessert in the bag. We can't say we're surprised.
WHAT: A tropical, decadent take on a classic.
HOW: Make a simple batter, bake, pour a milk mixture over your cake, and watch as it drinks it all in.
WHY WE LOVE IT: How could we not love this? If you need any more convincing than the title, we'll say this: the day after we made this cake, a Food52 staffer had this for breakfast and lunch. And she wasn't the only one.
A&M

Serves one 9x13 cake

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), plus more for the pan
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3/4 cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • One 13 1/2 ounce can coconut milk
  • One ounces 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • Zest from 1 lime
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  1. Heat the oven to 350. Butter a 9x13 baking dish. Melt the butter and honey together and set aside.
  2. Whisk the flours, salt, and baking powder together in a medium bowl.
  3. Beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a larger bowl until everything lightens in color and is nice and smooth. Now on lower speed or with a gentler arm, beat in the flour in 2 additions until the batter is just smooth. Fold in the butter and mix until it is just fully incorporated. Pour the batter into the pan and bake 25-30 minutes, rotating cake once halfway through, until it is golden and a toothpick comes out clean. This is going to look like a sort of shallow cake. Don't worry.
  4. While the cake bakes, mix the three milks (tres leches) together and also spread the coconut out on a baking sheet. When the cake comes out, pop the coconut into the oven to toast. Check and stir every 3-4 minutes. It should only take 8-9 minutes to get golden brown.
  5. Use a toothpick to poke little holes all over the warm cake. Now pour the milk over it -- slowly. It is going to look like a LOT of milk and you are going to want to panic. Don't. My cake actually floated up like a raft briefly! But pour it all on and wait -- 95% of that milk is going to adsorb into the cake and the rest is that lake you are looking for. Allow the cake to cool completely, and the toasted coconut as well.
  6. Now whip the cream, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and lime zest together until stiff peaks form. Spread the cream over the cake, then sprinkle the coconut over top. You can dig in right now, our keep it in the fridge for 3-4 days, though I doubt it'll last that long.

Comments (95) Questions (4)

Default-small
Default-small
Ozoz_profile

about 12 hours ago Kitchen Butterfly

This will be the best one I've made and I'm not nearly done.

I just made it, split into two dishes. And for the first time, all the milk mixture was absorbed....by the minute. The cakes literally sucked up the liquid.

My observation - it is crucial not to over-bake the cake. This is my fourth time making it and this appears to be the major difference.

I watched carefully after the 20-minute mark (because I used 2 smaller dishes), turning it once and then checking on it every couple of minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre came up clean.

When poking the cake, I poked the centre and all around it but also worked my way around the rim of the dish. All the way around.

Thank you Abbie for convincing me to even look beyond this cake will make me a STAR. Stay well.

Default-small

5 days ago Lusty Dish

I made this cake for a party last Labor Day and it came incredible. It's a masterpiece to look at and the tast is just sublime. I made it with all the ingredients in an oval baker. You must POKE A LOT OF HOLES WITH A SKEWER IN THE CAKE. The cake will absorb all the milk, Let it sit overnight. I can't wait to make it again.

Epietzsch

6 days ago borntobeworn

I made this cake tonight for my son's 23rd birthday tomorrow. I am totally dismayed at the smallness of the cake and the total soup on the top (and I left out the whole milk because it just seemed like way too much volume of liquid to absorb into a thin cake). I measured everything correctly (checked all measurements against the recipe 3 times). Since the picture is of an oval dish (that I guess is 9"x13"), I'm thinking that my mistake was in using a rectangular pan that is 9"x13" (which is the standard shape that most people have that is 9"x13"). However, there is no way that even the 2 leche liquid is going to disappear into this cake (and I left out 1.25 cups of milk). Even if I had used an oval baker, this still seems like way too much liquid. I'm going to have to pour some off before topping with whipped cream. Any ideas on how this went wrong for me??

036

5 days ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Good Morning - hmmm, I am not sure, I make mine in a rectangular pan and use the full volume of milk. Two things that are key - you have to poke a LOT of holes, and pour the milks on while it's warm. Remember you don't actually want every drop to absorb, and it does take a little time before most of it does. How long did the cake sit with the milks?

Epietzsch

5 days ago borntobeworn

I did poke lots of holes (fork poked in 1/4" from the next set of holes). I let the cake cool a little bit (I could touch the pan but it was too warm to hold comfortably) because when I've made this style of cake (using a box mix for the cake), if you try to poke the holes when it's too hot, it tears up the top of the cake. I let the liquid sit on top of it for 45 minutes before I poured some off and finished it off with whipped cream & coconut. I'm sure it's going to taste good but I've never had such a mysterious failure. I checked my baking powder's date (Jan 2015) even. Now that I have coconut flour, I'm going to have to make another one when this one is gone to see if I can get it to turn out correctly.

Img_0472

20 days ago darksideofthespoon

So, I made this last week. It was expletive amazing! I made less of the leches mixture but wish I hadn't because my cake didn't have the lake of milk underneath.

So, I'm writing this to tell you about my experiment. Today is my husband's champagne birthday and after he tried this cake (2 weeks ago for our daughters 2 year birthday), he wanted a chocolate one. You see, any time he has any kind of cake, it goes right in a bowl of milk. So the tres leches is his dream cake!

I'm thinking of replacing a portion of the AP and coconut flour with cocoa powder and making a whipped ganache or chocolate mousse to top it with. I will report back with how it goes!

036

5 days ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

how did it go?

Ozoz_profile

21 days ago Kitchen Butterfly

Thanks Abbie for making me a star. Twice in the last week, I've made this for parties. Everyone, I mean EVERYONE loves it.

I could have drunk the milk combination on its own. The lime in the whipped cream? Genius.

Thank you for a great recipe and for making me shine :-).

036

20 days ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Hi KB thanks so much for letting me know and I am thrilled that you enjoyed it so much!

Ozoz_profile

20 days ago Kitchen Butterfly

On take 3......

Split it into two small pans - to gift! Thank you.

Default-small

3 months ago Louise

Would it work to swap almond flour for the all purpose flour?

Img_2300

4 months ago CurioCook

I'm in the midst of making this for a NYE party. I'm in New Zealand, and they don't carry sweetened shredded coconut here, only the unsweetened desiccated variety. Any tips on process for toasting the coconut? Should I sweeten it somehow before, or just watch it extra carefully while toasting? Thanks!!

036

4 months ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I would toast carefully in a skillet and carry on! The cake will be plenty sweet.

462478_10201007846576410_474557637_o

4 months ago LeeLeeBee

I made this cake for a Mexican fiesta party just before Christmas. The response? "Best tres leches cake ever!" The addition of coconut milk is genius, and the touch of honey adds a lovely fragrance to the cake. However, I had the opposite problem of most people - my cake absorbed absolutely all of the liquid and there wasn't any puddle - still delicious, but I always love those spoonfuls from the bottom of the dish. I poked over a hundred holes with a wooden skewer when the cake was about five minutes out of the oven, and pour the milks over VERY slowly (it took over five minutes, as I waited for a small pour to absorb before pouring the next bit). Thanks so much for the recipe.

Default-small

7 months ago za'atar

I also had a problem getting the cake to absorb the liquid - it all ran to the bottom and didn't get soaked up, even after letting it sit overnight in the fridge. I was serving it for company so I was afraid to fiddle with it too much, but now that the guests have gone I will just dunk the cake in the milk and enjoy!

036

7 months ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

That's so odd! Mine drinks it up - the cake was warm when you soaked it? Maybe poke bigger holes if you try again - I use a cake tester thing and poke the dickens out of it but they are small holes ...

Default-small

7 months ago Morecookiesplease

I made this last week & it was really delicious. I think I may have cooked the cake itself a little too long as it didn't absorb the milks all the way throughout the cake, only on the bottom. But the taste was superb & people commented on the delicious taste.

Default-small

8 months ago luckygypsy

oops! never mind! just read below about the flour!

Default-small

8 months ago luckygypsy

where in the heck do you get coconut flour??

Default-small

8 months ago Lusty Dish

I have a question for the cook or anyone else that made this cake. Coconut milk do I buy unsweetened or sweetened or there's no such thing. I've never made anything with coconut milk not even a cocktail but I think it's very sweet. Making this weekend for a party and need to know. Thank you

Christinaconte_5535fw

8 months ago Christina @ Christina's Cucina

Hi Lusty Dish, I was planning on making this cake too, and although I haven't made it yet, I agree with you that it is very sweet, so I bought Trader Joe's Light Coconut Milk (contains Coconut Milk, Water). I have seen a lot of coconut milk which contains some questionable added ingredients, and I don't buy anything with preservatives. Hope this helps and your cake (and mine) turn out really well! PS If you like coconut and do have a Trader Joe's nearby, they just came out with an awesome Coconut Cranberry Granola that I cannot get enough of! :)

Img_0001

8 months ago Kukla

Hey Lusty! Coconut milk is unsweetened; it should be a full-fat not light coconut milk. I suggest making the cake at list a few hours in advance or even a day before and keeping it refrigerated. I am sure you and your guests will love this wonderful cake. I made it for parties twice already and everybody loved it!

Default-small

8 months ago Plazma

When do you incorporate the butter and honey?

036

8 months ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Step 3 - fold it into the batter after everything else is mixed. I hope you like it!!!

Default-small

9 months ago tonimmartin

I can absolutely see why this is a contest winner! I've made it twice in the last week with rave reviews. Perfect summer cake that is not too heavy or too rich (even though the ingredient list would lead you to think so). The whipped cream icing with lime is the perfect finishing touch. Easy to make and even easier to enjoy!

Default-small

9 months ago ChefFace

omg so excited to make this!!

Stringio

10 months ago Peter Gagnon

I just finished making this cake. We'll have it tomorrow for a birthday celebration. I haven't whipped the cream yet but....this cake smells incredible. I can't wait to taste this cake!!!!!!

Default-small

10 months ago JPJ

Great cake with some minor twists that take it from good to great. I wasn't sure of the directions concerning the sugar. Does the cake take 3/4 cups of sugar and the whip cream use 2 tablespooons? Or is the batter 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons for the batter and another 2 tablespoons sugar for the whip cream? The directions were not clear.

036

10 months ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

hi there - sorry for confusion - it's 3/4 c in the batter, and 2 tbs in the whipped cream

3-bizcard

10 months ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I made this cake and used 3/4 cup for the cake batter and 2 tbs for the whipped cream and it turned out perfectly. It's so delicious!!

Default-small

10 months ago LeslieF

I'm a coconut fan and am really looking forward to making this cake, but I've never heard of or seen "coconut flour". Is this a specialty item, and do you think I could replace it with regular flour? Thanks!

036

10 months ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Hi Leslie - if your grocery carrys Bob's Redmill flours you might see it there - but if not, yes, just use all AP flour - I do that for my other Tres Leches (the non coconut ones)

3-bizcard

10 months ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I forgot to let you know Abbie, my daughter made this cake for Fathers Day and it is beyond delicious!! She frequently makes tres leches cakes and said that this goes so far beyond anything she has ever tasted or made, it blows the mind. Delicious recipe that will be used over and over again. Everyone loved it!

036

10 months ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

What a great compliment! Thank you so much!