Coconut Milk Cake

Pastel de Tres Leches con Coco


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • 18


Appears in

Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor

Muy Bueno

By Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack

Published 2013

  • About

The first time I had a bite of tres leches cake I thought someone had literally dunked the cake in milk. It has the texture of cake and the ice-cold taste of milk in every bite, and not just one type of milk but three, as tres leches means “three milks.” Although Mom and Grandma never made this cake, it quickly became a favorite for Yvette and me. Yvette even served it at her wedding! I love coconut milk, so when I created our recipe I knew it would have to be one of the three milks. The velvety sponge cake is decadent, with a hint of coconut in every bite. This cake is crazy good and, best of all, it’s simple to prepare. Be sure to make it well in advance—the longer it sits, the better it tastes. Garnish each slice with toasted coconut and your choice of fruit.



  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • cup coconut milk (make sure it’s milk, not cream)

Tres Leches

  • 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • Splash rum or brandy (optional)

Whipped Cream

  • 2 cups cold heavy (whipping) cream
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar


  • ½ cup coconut, toasted (optional)
  • Fruit of choice
  • Mint sprigs for garnish (optional)


Make Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks with ¾ cup of sugar on high until light yellow in color. Mix in the vanilla and coconut milk. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and mix these gently until combined.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on high until you have soft peaks. Add ¼ cup sugar and beat on high until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into the batter.

Pour the batter into prepared pan and spread out until batter looks even. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Check to make sure cake is ready by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If toothpick comes out clean it’s ready. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 20 minutes.

While cake is still warm, pierce it all over with a fork making sure you pierce the edges. This will allow the tres leches to drain into the cake when you pour it over.

Make Tres Leches

Whip together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, vanilla, and splash of rum, if using. This will make about 3 cups.

Slowly pour about 2½ cups of the tres leches over the entire cake. Make sure to get around the edges. Do not worry about the puddling of the milk mixture, the sponge cake will absorb it in about 30 minutes. Save the rest of the milk mixture in the refrigerator for later. Cover the cake with plastic wrap, place in the refrigerator, and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Make Whipped Cream

Put the cold whipping cream and sugar in a large cold mixing bowl and mix on high until fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Reserve in covered container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To Serve

For each serving, ladle a tablespoon of the leftover milk mixture onto a serving plate. Place a piece of cake on the milk mixture, top with a dollop of whipped cream, sprinkle with toasted coconut, and top with pineapple chunks or your favorite fruit. Garnish with mint spring.