Sunday 13 March 2022

coconut tres leches cake

Tres leches cake is a Latin American delight, an airy sponge cake soaked with a mixture of 3 milks; condensed, evaporated and regular. The cake is essentially a chiffon sponge, be still my beating heart, and requires a little babying to achieve its airy lightness. A plain aluminium 8 by 2 inch sandwich pan is ideal, you want the cake to stick to the pan; once cooked the cake is inverted to cool, then cut from the pan. It's worth the fiddling, after its overnight in the fridge you'll have a cake that's wonderfully soft and light, creamy and moist, so moist it sometimes sits in a puddle, yet slices like a dream. It's a conundrum, and I'm happily confounded.

I used to steer well clear of "soggy sponge" but this, like tiramisu and the famed flour and stone lamington is not wet, but more damp, with a beautifully soft texture equally suited to a fork or spoon. This version is flavoured with coconut extract and vanilla, swaps the evaporated milk for coconut milk, and is topped with whipped cream and crisp toasted coconut flakes, tres leches, tres coco! 

Take care with the milk mixture, the thickness of both the coconut and condensed milk can vary. You are looking for the consistency of regular pouring (single) cream, adjust as you go, thinning with regular milk where necessary, but remember to use a maximum of 210ml for the soak.

This cake was developed for Harris Farm Markets all the ingredients can be found in store, and home delivered, which is fabulous if like us you are stuck in covid isolation...



3 eggs, separated
120g caster, halved
80g plain flour
3/4 tsp (3g) baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 tsp coconut extract
55ml full fat milk
200ml thickened cream, whipped to soft peaks
2 tbsp (10g) coconut flakes
2 tbsp (10g) desiccated coconut


90ml coconut milk
90ml condensed milk
30ml milk

• preheat oven to 170ºC fan, cut a circle of baking paper to fit a not non stick 8 inch sandwich cake pan, set aside
• whisk egg whites on medium high to soft peaks, slowly add 60g caster sugar and whisk to firm peaks
• tip the flour, baking powder and salt into a small bowl, whisk briefly to combine
• in another bowl, use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment if you have one, beat the egg yolks with the remaining 60g of sugar until pale, thick and creamy. Add the vanilla paste, coconut extract, and milk, mix to combine, then sift in the flour mixture, and mix until smooth
• add 1/3 egg whites to the batter, fold through, add the remaining egg whites, gently folding until there are no streaks of white
• drop a heaped teaspoon of cake batter into the cake pan, use a pastry brush to spread almost to the edge, then press the baking paper on top. Tip the cake batter into the pan, bake in the centre of your oven for 20-25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out cleanly
• remove the cake from the oven and immediately invert the pan onto a wire rack to cool. Cooling the cake upside down helps prevent it shrinking, keeping the cake super light and moist
• while the cake cools, make the soak. Whisk the 3 milks together until smooth, set aside
• when the cake has cooled completely, run a sharp knife around the inside of the cake tin, then ease a palette knife down the side of the cake and between the baking paper and the base of the tin, gently wiggling to lever the cake out
• set the cake aside while you wash and dry the cake tin, then return the cake to the tin and carefully poke all over with a skewer. Pour half of the milk mix over the cake, leave to soak for 5 minutes, then pour the remaining milk over. Cover the cake and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, overnight is ideal.
• half and hour or so before you want to serve the cake, spread the coconut flakes and desiccated coconut onto a lined baking tray, toast in a 180ºC fan oven for 5-10 minutes until lightly golden, watch like a hawk as it colours very quickly, leave to cool 
• when you ready to serve, top the cake with the whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted coconut
• keep leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 3 days

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