About This Coffee Tres Leches Cake
This coffee tres leches cake is a coffee-flavored spin on tres leches cake, a classic Latin American dessert. The tres leches cake starts with a light-and-airy sponge cake; you then pour a combination of three different types of milk and cold-brewed coffee over the cake to soak it up. Finally, top the cake off with a topping made from the fluffy dalgona coffee cream that took the world by the storm during these last few months.
How I Came Up With This Coffee Tres Leches Cake Recipe
Truthfully, this coffee tres leches cake recipe is from a very informal “collaboration” between two blogger friends of mine, Amy from Constellation Inspiration and Adrianna from A Cozy Kitchen. The idea for the coffee flavored tres leches cake came from a conversation between me and Amy. After I’d complimented her on her delicious looking Dalgona Coffee Boba Cream Puffs, she challenged me to come up with a similar dalgona coffee flavored dessert. I had already planned to make a tres leches cake for Cinco de Mayo this year and figured: why not make it a coffee flavored one? I love my coffees with lots of milk, so I figured that the coffee with pair well with the milky cake.
Authentic Tres Leches Cake
The only problem is that I’m not that well-versed in making tres leches cake. There are only two tres leches cakes on my blog—this layer cake version and this banana flavored one. While both make tasty cakes and fun in their own way, neither recipe is particularly authentic. I wanted this coffee tres leches cake to be classic. Enter Adrianna’s help: Adrianna fielded all my all my questions about making tres leches cake with her expertise. She’s a tres leches cake making pro, with recipes like Horchata Tres Leches and Pumpkin Tres Leches cakes on her blog. In the end, I used her Best and Easiest Tres Leches Cake recipe as the base for this coffee tres leches cake.
What Does Coffee Tres Leches Cake Taste Like?
Really, really good. If you’re a fan of coffee-flavored ice cream and milky coffee drinks like cappuccinos and lattes, you’re going to LOVE this coffee tres leches cake. I was a little worried that the coffee wouldn’t stand out against the milky flavor of the tres leches cake. But note that this recipe uses two different types of coffee: cold brew coffee to soak the cake, and instant coffee for the whipped coffee topping. All that coffee holds its own against the three milks. All in all, it tastes like a lightly sweetened, milky iced coffee drink… but with the texture of a sponge cake! Yum.
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 The Recipe
Now that you’ve learned all about tres leches cake, let’s talk about why you should try this coffee tres leches cake recipe:
- This coffee 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 coffee tres leches cake is based on a classic recipe, but incorporates trendy new ingredients like cold brew coffee and easy-but-fun techniques like making dalgona coffee.
- Although this coffee tres leches cake recipe uses accessible ingredients.
Most folks already have pantry items like sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and instant coffee at their disposal. Those are the “specialty” ingredients required to make this cake! The rest are even more common household staple ingredients like flour, eggs, milk, and sugar.
- This coffee tres leches cake recipe has components that can be made ahead to fit your schedule.
This cake can be made a few days before serving—in fact, it’s even better for it since it allows it to absorb and meld all the flavors more fully! Check out the section below on how to make this coffee tres leches cake recipe fit your schedule and make it even more “weeknight baking” friendly.
- This coffee tres leches cake recipe makes a cake that stores well and gets more flavorful with time.
Unlike other sheet cakes, this coffee tres leches cake doesn’t go stale quickly. In fact, it gets better with time as it cake absorbs more of the coffee tres leches soak! It becomes more flavorful and stays moist.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Now that I’ve convinced you to make this coffee tres leches cake, here’s your shopping list for the recipe:
Shopping List for Coffee Tres Leches Cake Recipe
- all-purpose flour
- baking powder
- kosher salt
- whole milk
- pure vanilla extract
- large eggs
- granulated sugar
- sweetened condensed milk
- evaporated milk
- instant coffee granules
- cocoa powder (optional, for garnish)
And let’s talk about some of the key ingredients in the recipe:
This coffee tres leches cake uses 6 large eggs, separated into whites and yolks.
This coffee tres leches cake uses a whopping total of SIX eggs in the recipe. Why so many eggs? I mentioned earlier that tres leches cake bases are often fat-free (that is, no butter is used in the recipe) to enable them to absorb the tres leches mixture without getting soggy. Bakers use butter in cakes to create a light and airy texture by creaming the butter with sugar to create air bubbles in the butter. During the baking process, those air bubbles become suspended in the batter to create the cake’s crumb and texture.
In this recipe, you’ll be using the eggs to create that same effect. How? You’ll need to separate the eggs into whites and yolks, then whip both to suspend air to create this cake’s texture. Food science is cool, right?!
This coffee tres leches cake uses ¾ cup whole milk in the cake recipe AND as part of the tres leches soak.
Can I use heavy cream instead?
Yes! Tres leches cake recipes vary regionally; one of the biggest regional differences is whether whole milk or heavy cream is used in the recipe. I used whole milk because it’s what my friend Adrianna recommended. She says it makes for a lighter, airier cake. However, many Central American recipes call for heavy cream. If that’s what you prefer, feel free to use it instead of whole milk!
Can I use nonfat or low-fat/skim milk instead?
In theory, yes. But low- and nonfat milks will lead to a less flavorful coffee tres leches cake.
Can I use an alternative, plant-based milk like almond, coconut, oat, or soy milk instead?
In theory, yes. But keep in mind that, similar to using nonfat or low-fat/skim milks, alternative plant based milks could potentially lead to a less flavorful coffee tres leches cake. Alternatively, if you use an alternative milk with a strong flavor (like coconut or oat milk), those flavors will potentially be present in the coffee tres leches cake too.
Sweetened Condensed Milk
This coffee tres leches cake recipe uses one 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk.
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 (non-sweetened condensed milk is instead referred to as “evaporated milk”, which we’ll discuss more in a hot second). 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.
Do I have to use sweetened condensed milk in this coffee tres leches cake recipe?
Yes! Authentic, traditional tres leches cakes are often made with a combination of sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and milk or heavy cream. Skipping the sweetened condensed milk will result in a cake that’s dry and missing the traditional tres leches cake flavor. Additionally, sweetened condensed milk has a unique flavor that’s hard to replicate with other ingredients.
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 coffee tres leches cake recipe uses one 12-ounce can of evaporated milk.
What is evaporated milk?
Similar to sweetened condensed 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. However, unlike sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk has NOT been sweetened. It has a far looser and more liquidy texture more similar to regular milk.
Learn more about the differences between sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk in this article by The Kitchn.
Do I have to use evaporated milk in this coffee tres leches cake recipe?
Yes! Authentic, traditional tres leches cakes are often made with a combination of sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and milk or heavy cream. Skipping the evaporated milk will result in a cake that’s dry and missing the traditional tres leches cake flavor.
Although you could technically get away with substituting the evaporated milk in this recipe out with the same amount of whole milk, please don’t. Evaporated milk actually has a taste that’s distinct from regular milk. Because it’s been cooked down, it is slightly heavier and has a very subtle toasted, caramelized flavor.
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, like making sweetened condensed milk, you’ll need to plan ahead as simmering the milk can be a time-consuming process.
This coffee tres leches cake recipe uses ½ cup of coffee in the tres leches soak.
What kind of coffee do you recommend for this coffee tres leches cake recipe?
Honestly, whatever coffee you have on hand works! I am lazy and hate making coffee at home, so I just used the pre-made coffee I had on hand: Stumptown Cold Brew Coffee. You’ll also need to buy instant coffee to make the dalgona whipped coffee topping (more on that in a hot second), so feel free to use the instant coffee to make coffee for the soak, too.
The most important thing about the coffee is that it’s cooled to room temperature when you use it in the recipe. Why? Hot coffee could potentially “melt” the cake’s insides, leading to a soggy coffee tres leches cake. See more in the troubleshooting section below.
Do I need to use coffee for this tres leches cake recipe?
In theory, no. You can omit the coffee from the tres leches soak and make a more traditional tres leches cake in the style of Adrianna’s cake. But you’d be losing a LOT of coffee flavor—the only coffee flavor you’d have left in the cake would come from the dalgona whipped coffee topping.
Alternatively, if you’re worried about this cake being too caffeinated, this is where I’d recommend skipping the coffee. You’d cut down the amount of caffeine in the cake significantly—the only caffeine would come from the dalgona whipped coffee topping. You’d also still get a mild coffee flavor from the dalgona whipped coffee.
Can I use espresso instead of coffee in this tres leches cake recipe?
Yes! If you are lucky enough to have an espresso maker at home, go for it. Just know that I’m mad jealous.
You’ll need ⅓ cup instant coffee granules to make the dalgona whipped coffee topping for this tres leches cake.
What is dalgona coffee?
Dalgona coffee is a whipped, frothy iced coffee drink made with instant coffee, sugar, water, and milk. Dalgona coffee has two distinct layers made from whipped coffee cream sitting on top of iced milk. As a result, it is also known as “whipped coffee”, “frothy coffee”, or “fluffy coffee.” You can learn more about its origins and recent internet virality in my post about dalgona coffee.
Can I use ground coffee from coffee beans or a pre-ground coffee bag?
No! It won’t work if you use fancy ground coffee, no matter how finely you grind it. You can learn more in my post about dalgona coffee. But the TL/DR is that instant coffee is processed in a way that makes it whip up into that fluffy cloud; you won’t get the same effect with ground coffee.
Can I use instant espresso instead of instant coffee?
Yes! Instant espresso whips up to dalgona coffee the same way instant coffee does. Just bear in mind that instant espresso tends to be more strongly flavored than instant coffee. Your resulting coffee tres leches cake may end up more intensely flavored than mine.
How to Make Coffee Tres Leches Cake
Here are the basic steps to make coffee 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 coffee 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, milk, and vanilla. (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: 18 minutes)
This tres leches cake recipe bakes up pretty fast! It only requires between 18 to 20 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.
Finally, soak and assemble the cake:
- Make the coffee tres leches soak. (Work Time: 1 minute)
Make the coffee tres leches soak by whisking together the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, coffee, and whole milk.
- Pour the coffee 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 coffee tres leches soak, it takes some time for the cake to absorb it all. It’s best if you let the cake soak overnight.
- Make the whipped dalgona coffee topping. (Work Time: 3 minutes)
Once you’re ready to serve the cake, make the dalgona coffee topping. Whip together the instant coffee, sugar, and hot water until the coffee is light and fluffy.
- Top the tres leches cake with the dalgona coffee and serve! (Work Time: 1 minute)
Spoon the dalgona coffee over the tres leches cake. The cake is best when served immediately because the dalgona coffee loses some its fluffiness the longer it sits.
Make it Weeknight Baking: How to Make This Coffee 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 coffee tres leches cake recipe lends itself particularly well to that format. I recommend making the cake and soaking it the day before serving, then making the dalgona whipped coffee topping the next day and serving then. Here’s what that looks like:
- Day One: Make the Cake, Make the Coffee 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 Dalgona Whipped Coffee Topping, and Serve!
All in all, making the whipped coffee topping and swooping it on the cake should take less than 10 minutes.
Recipe Troubleshooting and FAQ
FAQ: Coffee Tres Leches Cake Results
Help! My egg whites wouldn’t whip to peaks. They stayed liquid even despite me 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 coffee 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 coffee 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! My dalgona coffee cream wouldn’t whip. What did I do wrong?
First, check your coffee. This recipe does NOT work with ground coffee. It only works with instant.
Now, let’s talk water. Remember: hot water helps dissolve both the instant coffee and the sugar more quickly, helping it whip up into its foamy state. The hotter the water, the better. You want the water to be freshly boiled.
Finally, how long and how much did you whisk for? If you didn’t whisk for long enough, keep going—the mixture will eventually thicken. If it has thickened but doesn’t look as fluffy as mine, it’s likely that you either haven’t done it for long enough or haven’t been doing it vigorously enough. The more you whip and the faster you do it from the get go, the fluffier the coffee will be.
Help! Is coffee 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.
Alternatively, did you use coffee for the soak that was freshly boiled and/or still very hot? Coffee that is too hot can potentially damage the sponge cake’s structure, leading to a soggy, mushy cake. Per the recipe below, use coffee that has been cooled to room temperature.
Why does your dalgona coffee look fluffier than mine?
The more you whip and the faster you do it after combining all the ingredients together, the fluffier your dalgona coffee will be. Follow the recipe’s timing cues and whip until the whisk leaves visible trails in the coffee!
FAQ: Coffee Tres Leches Cake Storage
How long does tres leches cake last?
This coffee 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 the dalgona whipped coffee.
DO NOT SOAK OR TOP THE CAKE BEFORE FREEZING—you’ll end up with a sad, soggy mess if you do.
Best Recipe Tips
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 dalgona coffee whip.
More Coffee Recipes
- Bubble Iced Coffee
- Dalgona Coffee
- New Orleans Style Iced Coffee
- No Churn Coffee Ice Cream with Circus Animal Cookie Crumbs
- Overnight Cinnamon Iced Coffee and Cream
- Vietnamese Iced Coffee Cake
More Sheet Cake Recipes
- Banana Sheet Cake with Dulcey Frosting
- Banana Tres Leches Cake
- Potluck Chocolate Sheet Cake
- Sour Cherry Streusel Cake
- White Chocolate and Raspberry Sheet Cake
Coffee Tres Leches Cake Recipe
For the 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) whole milk
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 6 large eggs, separated into whites and yolks
- 1 cup (7 ounces or 198 grams) granulated sugar
For the Coffee Tres Leches Soak:
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
- ¼ cup (2 ounces or 57 grams) strongly brewed coffee, at room temperature
- ¼ cup (2 ounces or 57 grams) whole milk
For the Dalgona Whipped Coffee Cream:
- ⅓ cup (2.35 ounces or 67 grams) granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup (0.85 ounces or 25 grams) instant coffee granules
- ⅓ cup (2.65 ounces or 75 grams) very hot or freshly boiled water
- cocoa powder, for garnish
For the Coffee 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 milk and vanilla.
- 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 18 to 20 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, coffee, and whole 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, make the dalgona whipped coffee cream. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the coffee and sugar. Add the hot water and immediately whisk on medium-high speed until light, airy, and doubled in volume, 2 to 4 minutes.
- Serve and store. Serve immediately after garnishing with dalgona whipped coffee cream. The coffee tres leches cake will keep, covered loosely in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
This post was last updated on 8/15/2020.
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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.