Tipsy Coconut Tres Leches Cake

updated Apr 22, 2020
Tipsy Coconut Tres Leches Cake

Tres leches, which translates to three milks, is a sweet, moist cake popular throughout Latin America. Our version bumps up the richness with a drizzle of dark rum and coconut.

Serves12 to 15

Prep45 minutes

Cook35 minutes to 40 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Slices of tres leches cake sit on plates.
Credit: Photo: Karla Conrad; Food Styling: Trish Myers; Prop Styling: Leslie Poyzer

Tres leches, which translates to “three milks,” is a sweet, buttery cake popular throughout Latin America. As its name implies, the cake is soaked in three types of milk after it’s baked, creating the most incredible pudding-meets-cake texture. It also means the cake absorbs all the flavors of the milk, which is why we’ve spiked both the cake and the sweet, milky syrup with a drizzle of dark rum and lots of coconut.

This dense, rich cake tastes best the day after it’s baked, making it the perfect make-ahead treat. And don’t let its large size deter you from making it for a small party of two or three — this cake stays fresh and delicious for days in the refrigerator.

Credit: Photo: Karla Conrad; Food Styling: Trish Myers; Prop Styling: Leslie Poyzer

Cream of Coconut vs. Coconut Cream

This cake calls for cream of coconut in the soaking liquid, which is not to be confused with coconut cream. Cream of coconut is a canned, sweetened coconut syrup usually mixed into tropical drinks. Coconut cream, on the other hand, is an unsweetened, very thick, very rich version of coconut milk.

Cream of coconut tends to separate while it sits on the shelf, so make sure to stir the contents until smooth after you open the can before measuring. 

No cream of coconut on hand? Our Triple Coconut Poke Cake includes a recipe for making your own.

Tipsy Coconut Tres Leches Cake

Tres leches, which translates to three milks, is a sweet, moist cake popular throughout Latin America. Our version bumps up the richness with a drizzle of dark rum and coconut.

Prep time 45 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes to 40 minutes

Serves 12 to 15

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks

    (1 cup) unsalted butter

  • 4

    large eggs

  • 1 cup

    whole milk

  • Cooking spray

  • 2 1/4 cups

    granulated sugar, divided

  • 1 1/2 cups

    sweetened shredded coconut, divided

  • 3 teaspoons

    vanilla extract, divided

  • 3 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon

    baking powder

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 2 3/4 cups

    cold heavy cream, divided

  • 1 (14-ounce) can

    sweetened condensed milk

  • 1 cup

    evaporated milk

  • 3/4 cup

    cream of coconut (not coconut cream)

  • 1/4 cup

    dark rum, such as Myer’s

Instructions

  1. Place 2 sticks unsalted butter, 4 large eggs, and 1 cup whole milk on the counter and let sit at room temperature until the butter is softened.

  2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

  3. Place 1 cup of the granulated sugar and 1 cup of the shredded coconut in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process until the coconut is very finely ground with the sugar, 15 to 20 seconds. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl if using an electric hand mixer.

  4. Add the butter and 1 cup of the granulated sugar to the coconut sugar and beat with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until very creamy and soft, scraping down the sides halfway through mixing, 4 to 5 minutes total. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 2 teaspoons of the vanilla extract.

  5. Place 3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

  6. With the mixer on low speed, beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then beat in 1/2 of the milk. Beat in 1/2 of the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining milk. Beat in the remaining flour mixture and continue beating just until smooth and combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and to make sure all the ingredients are evenly combined. Scrape the batter into the baking dish and spread into an even layer. spreading it evenly.

  7. Bake until the cake is firm and golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 30 to 35 minutes. Meanwhile, place 3/4 cup of the heavy cream, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 1 cup evaporated milk, 3/4 cup cream of coconut, and 1/4 cup dark rum in a medium bowl and stir to combine.

  8. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and let cool 15 minutes (keep the oven on). Meanwhile, sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup shredded coconut on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring every 3 minutes, until toasted and golden-brown, about 6 minutes total. Cool completely and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

  9. While the cake is still warm, use a skewer to poke holes all over the top of the cake, poking all the way to the bottom of the cake. Ladle half of the milk syrup over the cake, then wait for it to soak in, about 5 minutes. Pour the remaining milk syrup over the cake, using it all. Let the cake cool completely. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.

  10. Top the cake right before serving: Place the remaining 2 cups cold heavy cream, remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until the cream is dense, thickened, and forms soft peaks, 3 to 4 (15-second) pulses. Do not over-whip or the cream will turn to butter. Spread on the cake and sprinkle with the toasted coconut. Cut into squares and serve. This cake is best served cold.

Recipe Notes

Cream of coconut: Cream of coconut is not to be confused with coconut cream. Cream of coconut is a canned sweetened coconut syrup used to make tropical drinks. It tends to separate in the can and must be stirred until smooth before measuring.

Storage: Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.