Coconut Tres Leches Cake

Toasted Coconut Tres Leches Cake is a sponge cake soaked in three milks and topped with a delicate whipped topping and flaked coconut.

Flow with me….today we’re going to talk about cake. Tres leches cake that is topped with toasted coconut. Yah. One bite and you will be over the moon!

It’s one of my favorite cakes, and I’m about to share with you why.

a piece of coconut cake on a spatula

Why you’ll love this cake:

  • 100% homemade
  • sponge cake soaked in three milks
  • topped with a whipped cream frosting
  • sprinkled with sweetened toasted coconut
  • deliciously moist and delicate bites

Is tres leches cake hard to make?

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, toasted coconut tres leches cake is a multi-step operation. You’ll dirty a lot of bowls and need to follow the recipe closely, even read through it completely before making it. However, once you get the hang of it, it will be one of the easiest cakes you’ll ever make. Trust me!

a piece of coconut cake on a plate with a bite out

What is tres leches cake?

Tres Leches cakes are sponge cakes usually baked in a round pan. A milky soaking liquid is then poured over the cake and a whipped or meringue topping is spread over the soaking liquid. It’s similar to a poke cake.

Tres Leches literally stands for “3 milks”. In this recipe the 3 milks are sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream and coconut milk.

How to Make Tres Leches Cake

I already discussed how this cake is involved with several different layers. But trust me…I’ll walk you through the layers so you can have confidence making it!

Toasted Coconut.

The easiest part. Just watch it closely so it doesn’t burn. I know some will ask “Does it have to be toasted?”

The answer is no, but you’re missing out on a great nutty flavor and pretty color if you don’t.

a hand holding toasted coconut

Make the cake.

The trickiest part of making the cake is that you have to mix in the eggs separately. Mix in the yolks with the sugar, but then whip the egg whites until they are fluffy and fold them in at the end. This is what gives the cake “fluff” so don’t skip this step.

I bake our cake in a springform pan so I can easily remove the sides to serve. You can use a round cake pan instead, just make sure it has at least 3″ high sides so that it doesn’t overflow.

Prepare the Soak.

The soaking liquid contains 3 milks: sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk and heavy cream.

For the coconut milk, buy a can of coconut milk. There will be two parts: a clear milky liquid and a thick white cream. Use just the liquid part for the soak. If yours doesn’t have clear layers, use about ½ cup of coconut milk.

Note: If you don’t like your cake soggy, reserve maybe ⅓ of a cup of the mixture and use it for something else. It’s great as a base of French toast.

Make the whipped frosting.

I love this topping because it is made with heavy cream so has a deliciously creamy, pure flavor.

You’ll need a stand mixer (or a high powered hand mixer) to whip the cream, coconut cream and sugar until it holds stiff peaks. Then you’ll fold in the shredded coconut. Then top with the pretty toasted coconut.

toasted coconut tres leches cake on a plate

Recipe Variations:

  • Use vanilla extract instead of coconut extract if you’d like a less strong flavor.
  • If you’re in a pinch, top with Cool Whip instead of homemade whipped cream.
  • Add nuts or chocolate chips. Mmmm!
a piece of coconut cake on a plate
a piece of coconut cake on a plate

Toasted Coconut Tres Leches Cake

4.75 from 4 votes
Coconut Tres Leches Cake is a sturdy sponge cake soaked in three milks and filled with a delicate whipped topping sprinkled with sweetened flaked coconut.
Servings 12 servings
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients
 

For the toasted coconut:

  • 2 cups sweetened flaked coconut

For the cake:

  • 5 large eggs separated at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (divided)
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoons coconut extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour lightly spooned into measuring cup then leveled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the soaking liquid:

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk 14 ounces
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 can coconut milk (only use ½ cup of the liquid & save the cream) (13.66 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

For the frosting:

  • 1 3/4 cups cold heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 heaping tablespoons coconut cream (from the canned milk above)
  • 3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Instructions
 

Toast the coconut:

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the coconut evenly onto a baking sheet and toast until lightly golden brown, stirring every 3 minutes, for a total of 8-12 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.

Make the cake:

  • Make sure you start by separating the egg yolks from the egg whites into two separate bowls.
  • Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease and flour the bottom only of a 9-inch springform pan.
  • Beat the egg yolks only with ¾ cup sugar until light in color and doubled in volume.
  • Stir in milk and vanilla.
  • Mix in the flour and baking powder.
  • In a separate bowl, beat egg whites and the remaining ¼ cup sugar until stiff peaks form.
  • Gently fold ⅓ of the egg whites into the cake batter.
  • Fold in remaining egg whites. Be careful not to mix too much. The fluffy egg whites are what gives this cake its soft texture.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool 10 minutes.
  • Poke holes in the top of the cake with a large fork.

Prepare the soaking liquid:

  • In a large bowl, combine the condensed milk, heavy cream and ½ cup of the liquid from the can of coconut milk. Save the cream for the topping. Mix in the coconut extract. Whisk vigorously until combined.
  • Pour the milk mixture over the warm cake while it is still in the pan.
  • Cool cake completely on a wire rack, then refrigerate until cold.

Filling and topping:

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer (this works best if your bowl is cold) with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream, powdered sugar and coconut cream until it thickens and holds peaks.
  • Fold in the shredded coconut.
  • Loosen edge of cooled cake with knife before removing side of pan.
  • Frost cake with the whipped cream, then top with the toasted coconut.
  • Store the cake covered in the refrigerator.

Notes

The calories shown are based on the cake being cut into 12 pieces, with 1 serving being 12 slice of cake. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the calories shown are just an estimate. **We are not dietitians and recommend you seek a nutritionist for exact nutritional information.**

Nutrition

Calories: 536kcal | Carbohydrates: 60g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Cholesterol: 137mg | Sodium: 197mg | Potassium: 388mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 47g | Vitamin A: 722IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 166mg | Iron: 2mg
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Calories 536
Keyword cake recipe, coconut

About Julie Clark

I'm Julie Clark, CEO and recipe developer of Tastes of Lizzy T. With my B.A. in Education and over 30 years of cooking and baking, I want to teach YOU the best of our family recipes.

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Alison
4 years ago

Why can’t my mom also make these kind of decadent cakes :(. Can I be your daughter so I can join your recipes?

Lena
3 years ago

5 stars
Would u happen to know what i could substitute for eggs? My significant other has an egg allergy.

Erin Schultz
3 years ago

Could I make this as a sheet cake? I don’t have two 8″ spring pans. Trying to make this tomorrow for easter 🙂

Mary
2 years ago

5 stars
This was delicious!!!!

Doris
2 years ago

Only one cup of flour?? I want to make this but that doesn’t seem like enough flour for the cake part. Thanks.

Doris
2 years ago

Not the easiest cake to make and I had to go to five stores before finding the vanilla bean paste. Got real discouraged when I over beat the filling/topping and had to start over (my fault). When I started over with the topping, I put the total amount of whipping cream in the mixing bowl at once and mixed to thicken before adding the other ingredients. I did not divide and whip in thirds as that is initially where I think I made my mistake. I poked a ton of holes in each layer; however still was left with about… Read more »

sneha
1 year ago

4 stars
This was complicated. So be ready for what you’re in for! The whipped cream failed for me as soon as I added in the coconut cream. That made putting this together a mess unfortunately. It’s in the fridge setting… hopefully it tastes okay.

Jen a
1 year ago

do you use sweetened or unsweetened coconut milk?

Wendy
1 year ago

Hey, I noticed the recipe calls for no butter? Why is that? I’m new to baking so I wasn’t sure if you can bake a cake without using butter or oil! Just trying to check if this is the case or if there was a mistake not adding butter to the list of ingredients!