Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Coconut tres leches cake is a coconut-flavored spin on tres leches cake, a classic Latin American dessert. This recipe starts with a light and airy coconut milk sponge cake. The recipe then instructs you to pour a combination of three different types of milk—coconut milk, evaporated milk, AND sweetened condensed milk—over the cake. Overnight, the cake soaks up the three milks, becoming super moist and flavorful. Finally, before serving, the recipe instructs you to top the milk with fluffy whipped cream and toasted coconut flakes.
What is Tres Leches Cake?
Okay, but hold the phone: what even is tres leches cake, anyway?
Tres leches cake is a super moist sponge cake soaked in a mixture of three different types of milks. Its name is Spanish and translates to “three milks” in English. The milks vary from recipe to recipe, but most recipes typically use a combination of sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and either fresh milk or heavy cream. After the sponge cake is soaked with the milks, it is typically topped with whipped cream for serving.
But wouldn’t all that milk make the tres leches cake soggy?
You’d think that all that milk in the recipe would lead to a dense, mushy cake. But when done right, the combination of the three milks create the right amount of sweetness and texture for a rich, moist, but still surprisingly light cake. Truthfully, it all comes down to the cake base. According to my research, most tres leches cake recipes have little to no fat in the cake base. Having little to no fat in the cake base allows the cake to absorb the milks without getting too heavy and soggy.
Where is Tres Leches Cake From?
Although tres leches cake is typically associated with Latin American countries, according to Wikipedia, the idea of a “soaked cake” is actually Medieval European in origin! Think: British trifles and rum cake, Italian tiramisu, and more. That being said, soaked-cake desserts were seen in Mexico as early as the 19th century. Patricia Quintana, an acclaimed Mexican chef and gastronomy expert, specifically states that tres leches cake came from Sinaloa, Mexico.
However, other Central and South American countries also claim tres leches cake as their own. This Food52 article talks about the cake’s popularity and extensive history in Nicaragua. The cake also is popular in the Caribbean and Canary Islands. There doesn’t seem to be a clear and definitively right answer about tres leches cake’s origins. Many food historians credit tres leches cake’s ubiquity in many different regions to Nestle. Recipes for tres leches cake began to appear on Nestle sweetened condensed milk cans in the 1930s and/or 1960s. These canned milk products were especially popular during the first and second world wars; so popular that Nestle opened production factories in places like Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, and Venezuela. These are also the countries where tres leches cake remains popular to this very day.
Why You Should Make This Coconut Tres Leches Cake Recipe
Let’s talk about all the reasons why you should try this coconut tres leches cake recipe:
This coconut tres leches cake recipe is a fun, new take on a classic tres leches recipe.
I’m always looking for ways to take classic recipes and make them my own! This coconut tres leches cake is based on a classic tres leches cake recipe by my friend Adrianna from A Cozy Kitchen. However, it also incorporates new ingredients like coconut milk and coconut extract.
This coconut tres leches cake recipe uses accessible ingredients.
Most folks already have the pantry items needed to make this cake: flour, eggs, milk, sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk. Other ingredients—like canned coconut milk, coconut extract, and coconut flakes—are easily accessible and/or substitutable. Learn more in the ingredients section below.
You can make different components of this coconut tres leches cake recipe ahead.
This cake can be made a few days before serving. In fact, doing so makes it better since it allows the cake to absorb the flavors more fully! Check out the section below on how to make this coconut tres leches cake recipe fit your schedule.
This coconut tres leches cake recipe makes a cake that stores well and gets more flavorful with time.
Unlike other sheet cakes, this coconut tres leches cake doesn’t go stale quickly. In fact, it gets better with time as it cake absorbs more of the tres leches soak! It becomes more flavorful and stays moist.
Coconut Tres Leches Cake Ingredients and Substitutions
Now that I’ve convinced you to make this coconut tres leches cake, here’s your shopping list for the recipe:
Shopping List for Coconut Tres Leches Cake Recipe
- all-purpose flour
- baking powder
- kosher salt
- canned coconut milk
- coconut extract
- large eggs
- granulated sugar
- sweetened condensed milk
- evaporated milk
- heavy cream
- confectioners’ sugar
- coconut flakes
And let’s talk about some of the recipe’s key ingredients and their substitutions:
This coconut tres leches cake recipe uses 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour to make the cake.
Does a 1-1 gluten-free all-purpose flour work in this coconut tres leches cake recipe?
I’m sorry, but I don’t know. I rarely bake with those types of flour replacements because they’re expensive and my household is fortunate not to have any gluten restrictions. However, if you replace the flour in this coconut tres leches recipe with any gluten-free alternatives, please leave a comment so I can update this post accordingly!
That being said, if you’ve made a genoise sponge cake with 1-1 gluten-free all-purpose flour replacer before and were happy with the results, go for it. Why? This coconut tres leches cake is made with a pretty standard genoise sponge. If it worked for you before, it’ll work here too!
Canned Coconut Milk
This coconut tres leches cake recipe uses ½ cup canned coconut milk to make the cake, and another ½ cup to make the tres leches soak.
What is coconut milk?
Coconut milk is made by pureeing shredded coconut flesh with water. The puree is then strained multiple times to create the rich and thick coconut milk.
That being said, there are many types of coconut milk available in grocery stores. You can buy shelf-stable coconut milk in cans, or perishable coconut milk in cartons in the refrigerated aisle. For baking and cooking, it’s best to stick with canned coconut milk—that’s usually what recipes mean when they call for “coconut milk”.
Where to buy canned coconut milk
Canned coconut milk is now available in most major grocery stores in the United States. Canned coconut milk is typically found in the “Asian” aisle. However, “fancier” grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods even offer their own generic versions of coconut milk! Look for them in either the baking or canned goods aisle.
What’s the best canned coconut milk?
While you can probably get away with using any brand of canned coconut milk you have on hand, it’s true. Not all canned coconut milks are created equal. Why? Some manufacturers add sweeteners and stabilizers to thicken the coconut milk and skimp on the real stuff. A quality can of coconut milk should o have only two ingredients (coconut and water), with have a layer of solid white stuff when unshaken. This layer is the “coconut cream” and naturally occurs as the fat and protein in the coconut milk separate from the water.
So what’s the best canned coconut milk? My personal favorite is Arroy-D coconut milk. But I highly encourage you to try different brands and figure out which you like best. Ashlae from Oh Lady Cakes wrote a wonderful guide comparing different coconut milks that’s worth checking out.
Can I use fresh coconut milk instead?
Sure, go for it! Especially if you live in a place like the Philippines where fresh coconut milk is cheap, abundant, and easy to get.
Is coconut cream the same as coconut milk? Can I use coconut cream instead of coconut milk instead?
No, coconut cream is NOT the same as coconut milk. Remember when I mentioned earlier that coconut milk separates into two layers of coconut cream and coconut water? A can of coconut cream is literally just a can full of that layer of white stuff!
Because coconut cream is a lot thicker and contains less water than coconut milk, you cannot easily substitute it for the coconut milk in this recipe. Doing so may result in a cake that might sink in the middle! Let’s avoid that, please. Similarly, if use use coconut cream for the tres leches soak, it may end up too thick. The cake will have a hard time absorbing the liquid.
What’s the difference between coconut water and coconut milk? Can I use coconut water instead?
Coconut water is coconut milk that’s been separated from the coconut cream. All that’s left is the water, which tastes slightly fatty and coconutty. While it’s delicious to drink on its own (in fact, it’s my post-workout drink of choice—I’m looking at you, Harmless Harvest!), do not use coconut water in this recipe.
Because coconut water lacks the fat and protein of coconut cream, it’s likely that using it in this recipe will result in a cake that has a hard time setting and holding its shape. Again, you may end up with a cake that sinks in the middle.
This coconut tres leches cake recipe uses 1 ½ teaspoons coconut extract to make the cake.
What is coconut extract and where can I buy it?
Coconut extract is similar to vanilla extract; however, its primary flavor is coconut! Unlike vanilla extract, which can be artificially flavored or made from vanilla beans, most coconut extracts are artificially flavored. You can typically find a bottle of coconut extract in the baking aisles of most major grocery stores. The most commonly available brand is McCormick.
What coconut extract brand do you recommend?
I don’t want to buy coconut extract. What can I use instead?
No worries! You can substitute the coconut extract in the recipe with the same amount of pure vanilla extract. However, your coconut tres leches cake will likely taste less coconutty than mine.
Sweetened Condensed Milk
This coconut tres leches cake recipe uses one 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk to make the soak.
What is sweetened condensed milk?
Sweetened condensed milk is milk that’s been cooked down to remove water from it. Doing so gives the milk a thick, sticky, and densely creamy texture. Almost all condensed milks are sweetened. The sugar keeps the sweetened condensed milk shelf-stable for years, and gives the sweetened condensed milk a unique flavor. Sweetened condensed milk is often used in baking recipes where the final product is very creamy, but also firm. Think: key lime pie fillings, caramels, and more.
Sweetened condensed milk is hard to find where I’m from. Can I make it at home?
In theory, yes. But I haven’t done it myself, so I can’t personally vouch for it.However, there are many recipes online that teach you how to make sweetened condensed milk at home. This recipe by Bigger Bolder Baking and this one by Stella Parks at Serious Eats look the most legit to me. That being said, it’s a bit of a time-consuming process: both recipes instruct you to simmer the milk for a minimum of at least 35 minutes. So plan ahead if you’re planning on making your own sweetened condensed milk at home!
This coconut tres leches cake recipe uses one 12-ounce can of evaporated milk to make the soak.
What is evaporated milk?
Evaporated milk is milk that’s been cooked down to remove its water content. Doing so makes the milk more shelf-stable and last far longer than refrigerated milk. Additionally, this process gives evaporated milk its own distinct taste. Because it’s been cooked down, it is slightly heavier and has a very subtle toasted, caramelized flavor.
Can I use nonfat or low-fat/skim evaporated milk instead?
In theory, yes. But low- and nonfat milks will lead to a less flavorful coconut tres leches cake.
Do I have to use evaporated milk?
Technically, no, but I don’t recommend substituting it. In a pinch, you can get away with substituting the evaporated milk with the same amount of whole milk.
That being said, remember what I wrote above about evaporated milk having its own, distinct toasted and caramelized flavor? You’d be removing this delicious flavor from your coconut tres leches cake, making everything taste blander.
Evaporated milk is hard to find where I’m from. Can I make it at home?
In theory, yes. But I haven’t done it myself, so I can’t personally vouch for it.That being said, there are many recipes online that teach you how to make evaporated milk at home. This method by Extra Crispy looks particularly interesting—all you need to do is simmer the milk until some of its water evaporates. However, you’ll need to plan ahead if planning to use it in this cassava cake recipe. Simmering the milk can be a time-consuming process.
This coconut tres leches cake recipe uses coconut flakes for garnish.
What are coconut flakes?
Manufacturers make coconut flakes by boiling, grating, and drying coconut meat into large flakes. Home cooks like to use coconut flakes as a topping or mix-in for savory foods and.or breakfast dishes. Although coconut flakes typically come unsweetened, you can also occasionally find sweetened varieties sold as snacks.
Are coconut flakes different from sweetened flaked coconut or dessicated coconut?
Yes! First of all, sweetened flaked coconut and desiccated coconut are the same thing. And to make sweetened flaked coconut, manufacturers follow the exact same process I described above but with two key differences. The first is that manufacturers grate the coconut meat into smaller flakes. The second is that manufacturers then soak these flakes in a liquid sugar solution. This process results in coconut with a soft, chewy texture perfect for baking recipes like macaroons and these small batch magic cookie bars.
In a pinch, you can use sweetened flaked coconut instead of coconut flakes in this coconut tres leches cake recipe.
How To Make Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Here are the basic steps to make coconut tres leches cake from scratch:
First, prep your ingredients:
- Prep your ingredients. (Prep Time: <10 minutes)
With every baking recipe, I recommend you start by prepping all the ingredients in the recipe by making sure they’re on hand and measuring them out. Most of my baking recipes usually require 5 minutes or less of Prep Time. However, because you’ll be separating 6 eggs into whites and yolks, this coconut tres leches cake requires slightly more prep. Be sure to check out the baker’s notes below on how to separate the eggs efficiently and save yourself a few dishes!
Next, make the cake batter:
- Whip the egg whites. (Work Time: 3 minutes)
Start by whipping the egg whites on medium-high until they reach stiff peaks. Check out the baker’s notes below on how to tell if something is whipped to “soft peaks” versus “firm peaks” versus “stiff peaks”.
- Whip the egg yolks, sugar, coconut milk, and coconut extract. (Work Time: 3 minutes)
After you whip the egg whites, transfer them to a new bowl and then whip the egg yolks. My take on the tres leches cake recipe below is unique in that I instruct you to whip your egg whites first. Many recipes instruct you to first whip the egg yolks, then clean and dry the bowl and whip the egg whites. Why? If you fail to clean the bowl after whipping the egg yolks, the egg whites don’t whip up (learn why in the Troubleshooting section below)! But this isn’t an issue if you whip up the egg yolks AFTER you whip up the egg whites. There’s no need to clean the bowl or whisk in between each whipping session, either!
- Fold in the dry ingredients. (Work Time: 3 minutes)
After whipping the egg yolks with the sugar and milk, you’ll need to fold in the flour, baking powder, and salt by hand with a spatula. Folding is distinct from mixing—it is a much gentler process, and enables you to mix in the ingredients without knocking all the air you whipped into them out. Watch this video to see a demonstration on how to best fold ingredients!
- Fold in the egg whites in two parts. (Work Time: 5 minutes)
Finally, you’ll need to do the same with the egg whites. It’s easiest if you work in two parts. Trying to fold the egg whites all in one go will be frustrating and hard to do!
Then, bake the cake:
- Bake the cake. (Bake Time: 22 minutes)
This tres leches cake recipe bakes up pretty fast! It only requires between 22 to 24 minutes in the oven.
- Cool the cake.
Before soaking the cake, you’ll need to cool it completely in its pan. Don’t soak the cake while it’s still warm! Doing so will result in a potentially soggy cake that doesn’t absorb the soak. Set the cake on a wire rack to make this process go by faster.
Now, soak the cake:
- Make the coconut tres leches soak. (Work Time: 1 minute)
Make the coconut tres leches soak by whisking together the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and coconut milk.
- Pour the coconut tres leches soak over the cake. (Work Time: 2 minutes)
Before soaking the cake, you’ll need to poke the cake with a fork several times. Doing so creates holes in the cake that allow the cake to absorb the soak more fully. Once the cake is hole-y (ha!), slowly pour the soak over it, ¼ at a time, to allow it to absorb the milks.
- Allow the cake to absorb the milk for 3 to 4 hours, preferably overnight.
Yes, you’ll need to plan ahead for this one! Because there is so much liquid in the coconut tres leches soak, it takes some time for the cake to absorb it all. It’s best if you let the cake soak overnight.
Finally, assemble the cake:
- Toast the coconut flakes. (Work Time: 5 minutes)
Toasting the coconut flakes releases oils that rejuvenates the coconut and makes the flakes more flavorful—learn more in the Recipe FAQ section below!
- Make the coconut whipped cream topping. (Work Time: 3 minutes)
Once you’re ready to serve the cake, make the whipped cream topping. Whip together the heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar, and coconut extract until light and fluffy.
- Top the coconut tres leches cake with the whipped cream and serve! (Work Time: 1 minute)
Spoon the whipped cream over the tres leches cake. The cake is best when served immediately because the whipped cream loses some its fluffiness the longer it sits.
Make it Weeknight Baking: How to Make This Coconut Tres Leches Cake Recipe Fit Your Schedule
In case you somehow missed it, I wrote a cookbook about how to turn any baking project into a weeknight baking project. What does that mean, exactly? That means taking recipes that usually take all day in the kitchen (I’m looking at you, pie and layer cakes) and breaking them up into multi-day components where you’re only working in the kitchen for 30 to 60 minute segments.
This coconut tres leches cake recipe lends itself particularly well to that format. I recommend making the cake and soaking it the day before serving. On the day you’re planning to serve the cake, make the whipped cream and assemble the cake. Here’s what that looks like:
- Day One: Make the Cake, Make the Coconut Tres Leches Soak, and Soak the Cake!
This is where the lion’s share of the work will be. It takes about an hour to make the cake and soak (including Bake Time). Then, you’ll need to let the cake cool before soaking it.
- Day Two: Make the Coconut Whipped Cream, and Serve!
All in all, making the whipped cream and swooping it on the cake should take less than 10 minutes.
Coconut Tres Leches Cake Recipe Troubleshooting and FAQ
FAQ: Coconut Tres Leches Cake Results
Help! My egg whites wouldn’t whip to peaks. They stayed liquid even despite whipping for ages! What did I do wrong?
Did you start with a clean and dry mixer bowl? Egg whites won’t whip if your mixer bowl has any kind of liquid, fat, or soap residue leftover from an earlier step in the recipe or from storage. That’s why in the recipe, I instruct you to whip the egg whites first—this ensures that the bowl is clean and dry!
Help! The cake shrank. What did I do wrong?
Absolutely nothing. According to Adrianna, this is totally normal! The sides of my sponge cake pulled away from the pan once cooled and left about ¼-inch of space between the cake and the pan. Don’t worry about it!
Help! My cake wouldn’t absorb the tres leches soak. What did I do wrong?
First things first: did you overwhip the egg whites? The recipe instructs you to whip the egg whites to stiff peaks—check out the baker’s notes below on how to test if you’ve whipped them to the right consistency. However, if you go too far, the egg whites will eventually come out VERY stiff and almost clumpy. You can see what that looks like in this Martha Stewart YouTube video. Food52 also has a great article on how to diagnose overwhipped egg whites, and what to do if you’ve gone overboard. But for this recipe, you can tell you’ve overwhipped them if it takes you a long time to fold them into the rest of the ingredients (and despite all your work, you still have some stubborn lumps that won’t go away).
Second of all: did you wait until the cake was completely cooled before soaking? I mentioned above that you’ll need to cool the cake completely before soaking it in the tres leches soak. Doing so gives the cake a sponge-like quality that allows it to soak all the liquids completely. If you soaked the cake while it was still warm, there’s a chance that the structure hadn’t set fully and will never be able to because of the soak! Also, your cake might be too soggy and I’m sorry.
And third: how much leftover soak are we talking about here? If the cake absorbed 80% of the liquid and you’re only left with a thin layer of milk in the pan, don’t panic. That’s totally normal and is actually desirable in some tres leches cake recipes!
Help! Is coconut tres leches cake supposed to be soggy?
Er, not really. But what do you mean by soggy? Although this cake is pretty moist, it should still have a soft, cakey mouthfeel. It shouldn’t feel or taste like sludge in your mouth. If you find that it’s too thick or gluey, something went wrong.
The most likely culprit is that you soaked the cake while the cake was still warm. The cake needs to be cooled completely to allow it to develop a sponge-like texture. See my answer above about the cake absorbing the soak to learn more.
FAQ: Coconut Tres Leches Cake Storage
How long does tres leches cake last?
This coconut tres leches cake keeps for about 3 days in the refrigerator.
Can you freeze tres leches cake?
Yes, but only the cake. Specifically: you can make the sponge cake, cool it completely, tightly wrap it in plastic wrap, and freeze for up to 3 months. To serve, thaw the cake overnight in the refrigerator, then follow the recipe’s instructions for soaking the cake and topping with whipped cream.
DO NOT SOAK OR TOP THE CAKE BEFORE FREEZING—you’ll end up with a sad, soggy mess if you do.
Best Coconut Tres Leches Cake Recipe Tips
Best Ingredient Tip
- Canned coconut milk typically separates into two distinct layers: coconut cream and coconut water. So before using in this recipe, give your can of coconut milk a vigorous shake to incorporate the two layers. Don’t be afraid to do so vigorously! If the coconut milk is unincorporated, your tres leches soak might come out lumpy.
Best Technique Tips
- When making the cake, you’ll need to prep your eggs by separating them into whites and yolks. The most efficient way is to crack each egg one at a time into a bowl, separate the yolk from the egg white, and pour the egg white into the bowl of the stand mixer. Why? You’ll be whipping those egg whites in the recipe—might as well save yourself a bowl!
- You’ll notice that the recipe instructs you to whip the egg whites to “stiff peaks.” The best way to determine the egg whites’ texture is to do a test with the whisk attachment. Dip the tip of the whisk into the egg whites, remove it, and quickly turn it upside down. If the egg whites are too soft, they will slide off the whisk, and you’ll need to keep whisking. If the egg whites have a cloud-like structure but with peaks that lose their shape, you’re at the “soft peaks” stage. Continue whisking, then test again. If, the next time you turn the whisk upside down, the peaks hold, you’re at the “stiff peaks” stage. This is what you need for the cake! You can also apply this same test when making the whipped cream.
More Tres Leches Cake Recipes
More Coconut and Coconut Milk Recipes
- Cassava Cake
- Coconut Cream Crepe Cake
- Coconut Lemon Saffron Panna Cotta
- Hummingbird Bakery Coconut and Pineapple Cupcakes
- Pear, Date, and Coconut Cake
- Small Batch Magic Cookie Bars
More Sheet Cake Recipes
- Banana Sheet Cake with Dulcey Frosting
- Funfetti Sheet Cake (Small Batch)
- Potluck Chocolate Sheet Cake
- Sour Cherry Streusel Cake
- Strawberry Sheet Cake (Small Batch)
- White Chocolate and Raspberry Sheet Cake
Coconut Tres Leches Cake Recipe
For the Coconut Sponge Cake
- 1 ½ cups (6.75 ounces or 191 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) coconut milk
- 1 ½ teaspoons coconut extract
- 6 large eggs, separated into whites and yolks
- 1 cup (7 ounces or 198 grams) granulated sugar
For the Coconut Milk Tres Leches Soak
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
- ½ cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) coconut milk
For the Toasted Coconut and Whipped Cream Topping
- ½ cup (1 ounce or 28 grams) coconut flakes
- 1 ½ cups (12 ounces or 340 grams) cold heavy cream
- ¼ cup (1 ounce or 28 grams) confectioners' sugar
For the Coconut Tres Leches Cake:
- First, make the cake. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously spray a 9 x 13-inch cake pan with cooking spray.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a small liquid measuring cup or pitcher, whisk together the coconut milk and coconut extract.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites. Whisk on low speed for 1 minute, then turn the mixer up to medium-high. Whisk until stiff peaks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Use a wooden spoon or ladle to carefully scoop the egg whites into a medium bowl—be careful not to deflate them!
- Pour the egg yolks into the stand mixer bowl (there's no need to clean the bowl!) and add the sugar. Whisk on medium until pale yellow and doubled in volume, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the mixer to low and slowly pour in the milk mixture, whisking until just combined.
- Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the egg yolk mixture, then use a rubber spatula to fold in the ingredients until just combined. Scoop half of the egg whites over the mixture and fold them in with the spatula. Repeat with the remaining egg whites and fold them in until no major lumps of egg white remain and the mixture is just combined. At this point, it will be a very light and fluffy cake batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to smooth the top.
- Bake the cake. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes, or until the top of the cake bounces back when gently pressed and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few crumbs attached. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack completely before soaking. The cake will shrink as it cools—this is normal!
- Once the cake is cool, make the soak and assemble the cake. Use a fork to poke holes all over the top of the cake.
- In a large liquid measuring cup or pitcher, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and coconut milk. Slowly pour the milks over the cake, a quarter cup at a time, to allow the milks to soak fully between each pour. It's likely that the cake will stop absorbing liquid about two-thirds of the way through the mixture. This is normal! It will seem like too much liquid, but trust the recipe! Loosely cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, preferably overnight, to allow the cake to absorb the milks.
- Before serving, toast the coconut flakes. Spread the coconut flakes in a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, using a spatula to toss the flakes occasionally, until golden brown. Remove from heat and scrape the coconut flakes onto a plate to stop them from cooking further.
- Make the whipped cream. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the cream and confectioners' sugar. Whisk on medium-high speed soft peaks form, about 3 minutes.
- Serve and store. Serve immediately after garnishing with whipped cream. The coconut tres leches cake will keep, covered loosely in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Variation: Coconut Tres Leches Cake with Coconut Chantilly Cream
If you want to go the extra mile and make this cake even MORE coconut-forward, replace the whipped cream with coconut chantilly cream!
Wait, what is chantilly cream?
In theory, whipped cream is unsweetened whipped cream and chantilly cream is sweetened whipped cream. However, most whipped creams—especially store-bought whipped creams—in the United States come sweetened. So really, most whipped cream can be considered chantilly cream.
How do I make coconut chantilly cream?
Good question! If you read through the ingredients section above, you might remember that I mentioned coconut cream. Coconut cream contains less water than coconut milk, and has a much thicker consistency. This cream whips up wonderfully into a texture similar to whipped cream. The best part? It tastes like coconut milk!
To make chantilly cream, simply follow my recipe below. However, note that you’ll need coconut cream for the recipe. You can get coconut cream in two ways. The first is to buy a box or can of the stuff. Most Asian supermarkets offer several varieties of boxed or canned coconut cream, typically near where they sell canned coconut milk. The second is to “make” your own coconut cream with a can of coconut milk with the instructions below.
How To Get Coconut Cream From A Can Of Coconut Milk
To get coconut cream from canned coconut milk, you need to plan ahead. Chill a can of coconut milk overnight to encourage the coconut water and coconut cream to separate. Then, once it’s chilled, remove it from the refrigerator. Be careful not to jostle or shake the can too much! Because at this point, the coconut milk should have separated from the coconut cream. The can will now contain two distinct layers of coconut cream and coconut water. Carefully scoop the layer of thick white coconut cream out. That’s it!
Coconut Chantilly Cream Recipe Ingredients
- 1 cup (8 ounces or 227 grams) cold heavy cream
- ½ cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) coconut cream
- ¼ cup (1 ounce or 28 grams) confectioners’ sugar
- a pinch of kosher salt
Coconut Chantilly Cream Recipe Instructions
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, coconut cream, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. Whisk on medium-high speed soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the whipped cream over the coconut tres leches cake cake. Use an offset spatula to make large, sweeping motions across the whipped cream to spread it over the cake. Garnish with toasted coconut flakes.
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NO TIME TO BAKE?!
Over the past several years of running Hummingbird High, I kept a crucial aspect of my life hidden from my readers: I had a full-time, extremely demanding job in the tech world. In my debut cookbook, Weeknight Baking, I finally reveal the secrets to baking delicious desserts on a tight schedule.
This post was last updated 9/2/2020.