Tres Leches Cake is a favorite of mine, ever since a friend from Nicaragua shared a family recipe many moons ago. Tender cake drenched in rich milks that add flavor and richness. At its essence, it is a very simple sweet, but one I always order if I see on a menu. But tres leches is ripe for interpretation – I make a perfectly autumnal pumpkin version and a seasonally simple eggnog style at Christmas. Here’s my spring version, perfect for Cinco de Mayo celebrations and strawberry season. I give it some flair by swapping out heavy cream in with coconut milk in the soaking syrup and add juicy bites of strawberries and sweet flaked coconut.
Watch the cake carefully and remove it from the oven just as a tester comes out clean so it remains light and airy. If the top begins to brown past a light golden color, loosely cover it with foil to finish cooking. Cool just for 20 minutes before pouring over the milk – to hot and it becomes a sodden mess, too cold and it doesn’t absorb very well. Poke holes all the way through the cake. I like to use a two-pronged meat fork which it long enough to spear right through. I add some strawberries to the milk mixture for extra flavor. Let the milk soak in – if you can’t pour it all over at once without spilling out of the pan, do it in stages. A whipped cream topping adds a lovely smooth finish, but don’t be tempted to over-sweeten it; the cake is perfectly balanced. Make the top pretty with a shower of coconut tendrils and sliced berries. If I have a few leftover, I puree them with a pinch of sugar and drizzle over the top.
Strawberry Coconut Tres Leches Cake
- For the Cake:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1 cup diced strawberries
¼ cup shredded sweetened coconut
- For the Tres Leches
4 large strawberries, halved
1 (14 ounce) can evaporated milk
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk
- For the Topping
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- For the Cake
- Beat the butter and the sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium high until very light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bow a few times, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl and making sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next. One low speed, beat in the flour, baking powder and salt in three additions, alternating with milk and scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the diced strawberries and the coconut (make sure there are no clumps) and gently fold in to evenly distribute. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 -45 minutes. Let the cake cool for 20 minutes, then poke the top all over – I find a two prong meat fork a great tool, but a thin bladed knife works as well. Poke all over, right through to the bottom.
- For the Tres Leches
- While the cake is cooking, put the halved strawberries and all three milks in the carafe of a blender and blend until the strawberries are completely smooth and everything is well combined. Whizz it again to blend right before pouring over the cake. Slowly pour the mixture over the top of the cake. If the baking dish fills to the brim, just leave the cake to soak up some of the milk, then pour on the rest. Let the cake cool completely, then cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- For the Topping
- Whip the cream with the heavy sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the top of the tres leches cake shortly before serving. Sprinkle with the shredded coconut and decorate with some sliced strawberries. Slice and serve.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 by 13 inch glass baking dish with baking spray.
- If I have some extra berries, I like to puree them with a hint of sugar and drizzle the sauce over the slices of cake.