How to Make Tres Leches Cake

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Celebrate in style with this decadent Tres Leches Cake. In this version of the traditional Latin American cake, a simple white cake is infused with the rich flavor of coconut and soaked in a sweet three-milk mixture. Four layers of the moist cake are then layered and frosted in a coconut buttercream and garnished with shredded coconut. This is one irresistibly delicious cake that will leave quite the impression. Make one for your next special occasion by following these straightforward steps!

Things You'll Need

  • For the cake:
  • 8.9 oz. / 250 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 18 oz. / 500 g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs and 6 egg whites
  • 18 oz. / 500 g all-purpose flour
  • 5 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 12.6 fl. oz. / 360 ml whole milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. coconut extract
  • Two or four 9-inch round cake tins
  • For the tres leches mixture:
  • 7 oz. / 200 g condensed milk
  • 3.6 oz. / 100 g evaporated milk
  • 3.6 oz. / 100 g heavy cream
  • For the coconut buttercream:
  • 13 oz. / 375 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 19 oz. / 600 g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp. coconut extract
  • 3.4 fl. oz. / 100 ml coconut cream
  • 7 oz. / 200 g shredded coconut for garnish
Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Coconut Tres Leches Cake (Image: Thalia Ho)

Step 1

Pre-heat the oven to 170 C / 335 F. Grease and line the cake tins.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Coconut Tres Leches Cake (Image: Thalia Ho)

Step 2

Using a stand mixer fitted with a beater attachment or an electric hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy,about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well to incorporate after each addition.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Coconut Tres Leches Cake (Image: Thalia Ho)

Step 3

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Coconut Tres Leches Cake (Image: Thalia Ho)

Step 4

Add half the flour to the butter mixture and beat to just combine. Add half the milk followed by the vanilla and coconut extracts. Add the remaining flour and milk and beat to combine well.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Coconut Tres Leches Cake (Image: Thalia Ho)

Step 5

Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared cake tins. If using two cake tins, bake in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes. If using four cake tins, bake in the oven for 25 to 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes in their tins before inverting them onto a wire rack.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Coconut Tres Leches Cake (Image: Thalia Ho)

Step 6

While the cakes are cooling, make the tres leches mixture by whisking together the condensed and evaporated milk, followed by the heavy cream. Set aside.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Coconut Tres Leches Cake (Image: Thalia Ho)

Step 7

Once the cakes have slightly cooled, level off any domed tops. If using 2 cake tins slice each cake in half horizontally so that four even layers remain. Pierce the cakes in several places then evenly pour over the tres leches. Let the cakes absorb the milks before gently wrapping them in plastic and transferring them to a refrigerator to chill for an hour.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Coconut Tres Leches Cake (Image: Thalia Ho)

Step 8

In the meantime, make the coconut buttercream. Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the butter for 3 to 4 minutes until pale and fluffy. Add the icing sugar, coconut extract and coconut cream and continue to beat for another 3 to 4 minutes until smooth and thick.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Coconut Tres Leches Cake (Image: Thalia Ho)

Step 9

Fix the bottom cake layer to a board or stand with a small amount of buttercream and spread the top with around 2 tbsp. of buttercream. Add the second layer and spread and repeat again with the third layer, finishing with the fourth and final cake layer.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Coconut Tres Leches Cake (Image: Thalia Ho)

Step 10

Cover the cake with a thin layer of buttercream to crumb coat and chill for 30 minutes or until the buttercream has set.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Coconut Tres Leches Cake (Image: Thalia Ho)

Step 11

Once set, spread a thick layer of the remaining buttercream over the cake to finish. Garnish with coconut and pesticide free flowers (if desired) to finish.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Coconut Tres Leches Cake (Image: Thalia Ho)

Step 12

You can let the cake chill for 30 minutes after final icing so that it's easier to slice for serving.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Coconut Tres Leches Cake (Image: Thalia Ho)

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Tips & Warnings

  • Before you begin, make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature.
  • You can substitute heavy cream for the coconut cream in the buttercream.
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