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Tres Leches Cake

yield: 3 eight-inch layers


For the Vanilla Bean Cake Base

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 whole vanilla bean
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk, divided into 1 cup and 1/3 cup portions
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the Tres Leches Soak

  • 7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

For the Coconut Chantilly Cream Frosting

  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup confectioner's sugar


For the Vanilla Bean Cake Base

  • Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 (F). Prepare three 8-inch round cake pans by generously spraying with cooking spray and lining the bottom of each pan with a round piece of parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper.
  • In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 3 cups cake flour, 2 cups granulated sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix on low speed until well combined.
  • Slice 1 vanilla bean lengthwise and use the tip of a small knife to scrape the tiny seeds from the inside of the vanilla bean into the electric mixer's bowl; save the pod for the tres leches soak. Continue mixing on low speed until the vanilla seeds have dispersed throughout the flour mixture.
  • On low speed, add 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 1 cup of the whole milk. Once both the butter and milk are added, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the batter until it is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. While the batter is beating, whisk together the remaining 1/3 cup whole milk with 5 egg whites and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup. Lower the mixer speed to its slowest setting and add the liquid ingredients in 2 to 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition. Mix only until the ingredients are just incorporated — do not overmix or your cake will be heavy and dense and I will cry!
  • Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, before inverting out onto the rack to cool completely. Allow the cakes to cool completely before soaking in the tres leches mixture. While the cakes are cooling, make the tres leches soak.

For the Tres Leches Cake Soak

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together 7 ounces sweetened condensed milk, 1/2 cup evaporated milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream and the vanilla bean pod. Let sit as the cakes cool to room temperature. The vanilla bean pod will infuse the milks with vanilla flavor.
  • Once the cakes are cooled, transfer each cake onto its own individual plate. Use a wooden skewer to poke each cake generously with holes. Fish out the vanilla bean pod from the tres leches soak, and pour a third of the soak over each cake. Wait a few seconds before each pour to allow the cake to absorb the soak. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to allow the cakes to cool and set for a couple of hours.

For the Coconut Chantilly Cream Frosting

  • In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine 4 cups cold heavy cream, 1/2 cup coconut cream and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Whisk on medium-high speed until the mixture starts to thicken; add in 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar and whip until the peaks just hold their shape — be careful not to overmix or you'll end up with butter!