Toasted Coconut Tres Leches Cake

by Heather on April 30, 2012

So.  Next weekend.  What do y’all have planned?

For me the obvious choice (besides hanging out with my girls at the Blend Retreat) is celebrating Cinco de Mayo.  Sure, it’s not an American holiday but holy goodness is it fun!  AAAAAAND it’s Keira‘s birthday, which if you ask me is even more of a reason to celebrate.  Hey, I may even get crazy and have a margarita!  Who knows…I’m a wild one 😉


In all seriousness though, Cinco de Mayo is one of my all-time favorite holidays because for me it kind of symbolizes the beginning of summer.  It’s about grilling out, drinking margs (regular or virgin), chips and salsa, and spending time laughing with the ones you love.  I love the Mexican cuisine and the excuse to down more than my weight’s worth of guac in one sitting.  And dessert?





I’ve always enjoyed tres leches cake but have never actually tried to make it.  For anyone who doesn’t know, tres leches is a simple white cake that’s baked off and then doused in three different milk (hence the ‘tres leches’ title).  And if that’s not enough decadence, because it’s not, it’s then topped with a thick and creamy sweet frosting.  And then you die of happiness.  You know, traditionally anyway.


This year I decided that it was about time for me to put my money where my mouth is and try to make a tres leches cake myself.  But since I can’t leave well enough alone I used coconut milk in lieu of half and half for one of the milks, then topped it with a coconut-scented cream cheese frosting and mounds of freshly toasted coconut.  Suffice to say I face-planted in the 9×13 pan of goodness and then didn’t come up for air until just now.


  • 2 sticks (16 Tbsp) butter, at room temperature and divided
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 whole eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
  • 1 can (15 oz) coconut milk (I used light although full-fat would be fine too)
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp coconut extract
  • 1-2 Tbsp half and half or milk
  • 1 cup coconut, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9×13 cake pan.  In a large bowl cream together 1 stick of butter and 1 cup of sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, until completely combined.  Add the vanilla and mix until everything is well combined.  Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt to the wet ingredients and mix until everything is incorporated.  Spread in the bottom of the prepared pan and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool completely before adding the milks and frosting.


Meanwhile make the cream cheese frosting by creaming together the other stick of butter and the cream cheese.  Add the 2 cups of powdered sugar and coconut extract and mix until combined.  The frosting needs to be slightly softer to spread on the milk-soaked cake, so thin it out as needed with the half and half or milk.  Set aside.


When the cake has cooled completely poke holes all over the top of it with a fork; it doesn’t have to be pretty since you’re covering it with frosting.  Whisk together the coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk in a large bowl and then pour evenly over the cake (yes, all of it).  Let it soak in completely.  Frost the cake with the cream cheese frosting and then top with the toasted coconut.  Serve cold or at room temperature!

Y’all, seriously.  I’m just bummed I forgot to buy more coconut milk at the store yesterday; otherwise I think we know what today’s breakfast would be!

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