Coconut Tres Leches

By • May 14, 2013 127 Comments

1,592 + Save

If you like it, save it!

Save and organize all of the stuff you love in one place.

Got it!

If you like something…

Click the heart, it's called favoriting. Favorite the stuff you like.

Got it!


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.
The Editors

Serves one 9x13 cake

  • 1 1/4 cups 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 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • One 13 1/2 ounce can coconut milk
  • One ounce 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cups 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.
💬 View Comments ()

Comments (127) Questions (5)

Default-small
Default-small
F2303053-6c63-4972-9032-fea027a9ad90.fb_avatar

6 days ago Casey

I've made this a few times - it always comes out great!! A few substitutions...I have just upped the regular flour instead of purchasing coconut flour; skim milk in lieu of whole milk; and fresh cut fruit in lieu of the toasted coconut topping. I definitely recommend letting it soak the milk mixture overnight or longer...this cake only gets better with time. Add your topping of choice just before serving. Huge crowd pleaser, especially among people who "don't like cake".

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

2 months ago janet

Usually not a big fan of tres leche, but this was amazing! Coconut taste not too strong, but enough to give the cake more depth of flavor. I live in Central America where tres leche is on most menus. This is the first time I have not found it too sweet and have actually liked it. Thanks for posting this recipe. FYI my husband dug into it pretty quickly, but it really is better if it is allowed to rest for 6 hours or more.

5de355e4-dcd0-4899-b132-7a971c0c9519.ju_-_sky_eyes_-_jan_2012

2 months ago Transcendancing

This didn't work out exactly for me but I didn't have the right sized dish either. That said, it was so delicious even imperfect that I can't wait to make it again! Cake was delicious and even though it didn't soak up all the milk, the cake alone with that was still amazing. Next time I'll get to put the cream on top! Next time!

Cb49f935-bd1f-48de-ad66-94cdf069a038.dsc00061

2 months ago scko

Tarif Arnavutluk tatlısı olan Trileçe' ye çok benziyor. Bu tarif de oldukça güzel. Trileçe' yi de denemenizi tavsiye ederim.

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

5 months ago chankari

Amazing cake! Just to respond to the Canadian commenter below. I used a 400ml (approx 13.5 oz) can of coconut milk and the 300ml (approx 10 oz) can of condensed milk. I added a bit more whole milk to make up for the condensed milk difference (14 oz = 414ml) approx 114 ml difference. My cake turned out quite well with those proportions. Note that the cake took a while to drink up the liquid (I left it out for about 2 hours).

6492210a-4ec2-46c6-b308-a3c62d7101e8.my_catering_(2)

5 months ago Aliwaks

I want this RIGHT NOW!

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

6 months ago Sfnative718

Has anyone tried using this recipe as cupcakes?

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

9 months ago Jennifer

Growing up in Mexico in an area without fresh milk, we always made this using 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 1 can coconut milk, and one can condensed milk. Sometimes I put in cajeta instead of coconut milk - have to whisk it a lot to break up the caramel. Also, goats milk is wonderful in it.

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

10 months ago Lusty Dish

Making again tonight and I think I am going to add a tablespoon of dark rum to the milks... Its a Labor Day tradition that people look forward to..

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

10 months ago diana foggia

I live in Canada and our cans are metric...would a can of 396ml coconut milk and 1 can of 300ml sweetened condensed milk be equivalent to use in the recipe? I have tried to convert, but it does not come out to the same can measurements in the recipe.

0e10de5b-e961-49de-be85-7adb83d31460

about 1 year ago Luisa Ormonde Hancock

is the butter supposed to be melted or room temp please?

E7b6597b-db6e-4cae-b9f3-699b508f4ed3.036

about 1 year ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

the butter and the honey are melted together

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

about 1 year ago Amanda

What are the calories per serving?

E7b6597b-db6e-4cae-b9f3-699b508f4ed3.036

about 1 year ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

oh dear - just saw this - the answer is, a lot. I don't have an exact count but, well, a lot

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

about 1 year ago Lusty Dish

It has to be refrigerated just take it out a couple hours before serving, put cream and coconut on and serve.

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

about 1 year ago Lusty Dish

When I made this cake I soaked it the day before and put the coconut and whipped on it before serving.. This cake is a show stopper... make sure you poke lots of holes in it and put the milks over it while still warm.. I will be making many this summer.

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

about 1 year ago bmorecharmer

if i were to bake the cake about 24 hours before it will be eaten, should i go ahead and complete the cake, or just let it soak and add the topping at the last minute? also, is it imperative (for food safety reasons) that the cake be refrigerated? i prefer a room temperature cake over a cold one.

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

about 1 year ago rachel e-s

is the coconut flour critical? I don't have any in the house...

E7b6597b-db6e-4cae-b9f3-699b508f4ed3.036

about 1 year ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

no - you can use all AP flour!

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

about 1 year ago GullMom

I've always been tempted to try making this, but no recipe has ever really inspired me....until now! How long does it usually take for the milk to soak into the cake? I've got it on my counter now and can't wait to try it tonight!

E7b6597b-db6e-4cae-b9f3-699b508f4ed3.036

about 1 year ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Hi GullMom - have you eaten it yet? I usually bake / soak in the morning and let it cool completely (a couple of hours) then add the whipped cream and fridge it until cake-thirty. Another hour or so, up to a few hours.

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

about 1 year ago GullMom

OMG....so amazing! Served this last night and it was a huge hit! Gave some to friends and they loved it, too. Thanks for an amazing recipe!!

1b8d6e78-73f3-4c06-9119-61e8f06048f8.image

about 1 year ago Detrishious

I baked this today. I baked it gluten free. It absorbed the tres Leches perfectly! Yum!
Thank You!!

B57f0d84-e68a-4546-b0f1-0eab88646c5c.ozoz_profile

about 1 year ago Kitchen Butterfly

Another wonderful bake. It's currently chilling in the fridge. Will top it with chopped mangoes, tossed in lime zest and juice, and maybe some sugar. And maybe freshly ground cardamom. So looking forward to it. Thank you.

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

about 1 year ago Debbie

it has to be wrong to make another cake when there is still some left over in the fridge right??? On some level- clearly this one, I need to get better control of myself.

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

about 1 year ago Debbie

okay so I made this cake......... It's not the recipe at all, it is very good- so if you enjoy soggy cake, this is for you. I just can't get over the texture- and the....sogginess. It's been sitting in my stomach, it feels, since yesterday. I wouldn't make this again. The taste is good though.