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.
For the toasted coconut:
3cupssweetened flaked coconut
For the soaking liquid:
1cansweetened condensed milk14 ounces
1cancoconut milk14 ounces
2teaspoonsvanilla bean paste
Large pinch of kosher salt
Filling + topping:
2 1/2cupsheavy cream
1 1/2teaspoonsvanilla extract
2heaping tablespoonssweetened coconut creamI used Coco Lopez
1 1/2cupssweetened flaked coconut
For the cake:
1cupall-purpose flourlightly spooned into measuring cup then leveled
1 1/2teaspoonsbaking powder
5largeeggsseparated at room temperature
3/4cupgranulated sugar for the egg yolks
1/4cupgranulated sugar for the egg whites
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 five minutes, for a total of 15-20 minutes with a pair of tongs for even baking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.
Prepare the soaking liquid:
In a large bowl, combine the condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, vanilla bean paste, and kosher salt. Whisk vigorously until combined and pour into a 4-cup measuring cup. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Filling and topping:
In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, pour about 1/3 of the heavy cream and mix over medium/high speed until thickened. Add another third of the heavy cream and also mix until thickened. Add the rest of the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and sweetened coconut cream. Beat until thickened and forms medium peaks.
Reduce the speed to low and add the confectioners’ sugar. Beat on low until combined then increase the speed to high and beat until firm peaks form. Remove the heavy cream from the mixer, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Bake the cake:
Raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and position a rack in the center of the oven.
Spray the bottom and sides of two 8 inch pans with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper and spray the parchment paper with cooking spray. Set aside. Place an 8 inch spring form pan over a large rimmed platter and also set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
Separate the yolks from the whites. Set the whites aside momentarily in a small bowl.
To a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (you can use a hand mixer), beat the egg yolks with ¾ cup of sugar on medium/high speed until the yolks are thick, creamy, and pale – About 2 minutes or so. Lower the speed to medium. Add the milk and vanilla extract. Whisk until combined, about 1 more minute. Transfer the egg yolk mixture to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Clean and dry the whisk attachment and mixer bowl. Add the egg whites to the bowl and whisk the egg whites, over medium/high speed until it forms soft peaks, about 2-3 minutes. Increase the speed to high and add the ¼ cup of sugar in a stream. Whisk on high until the egg whites form firm peaks, about 1-2 more minutes.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture into the egg yolks and fold with a rubber spatula until combined. Gently fold 1/3 of the egg whites until no white streaks remain. Alternate between the flour mixture and the egg whites in two more batches until incorporated. Make sure no flour or egg white streaks remain, but don’t overbeat the mixture.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bang the pans on the counter a couple of times to even out the batter. Place in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes.
Remove pans from the oven and allow the cakes to cool in the pans for about 7 minutes. Invert the cakes onto a wire rack, remove the parchment paper, and allow to cool completely. Once the cakes are cooled, poke holes on the entire surface of the cakes with the tines of a fork. Don’t be shy about poking. Just when you think you can’t poke anymore holes, poke a few more.
Place one of the poked cakes in the prepared springform pan. Slowly pour half of the soaking liquid, starting at the edges, pausing to allow the liquid to soak into the cake before adding more liquid. A turkey baster (a clean one reserved for this purpose) works very well for this.
Spread half of the whipped cream filling onto the soaked cake with an offset spatula. Place sweetened coconut flakes over the filling, making sure to cover the surface of the cake.
Place the second cake on top of the filling. Slowly pour the rest of the soaking liquid, once again starting at the edges and pausing to allow the liquid to soak into the cake before adding more liquid. Top the cake with rest of whipped cream.
Cover the cake loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the cake is well chilled, at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours. Remove the cake from the spring form pan. Smooth the top and sides of the cake with an offset spatula. Pat toasted coconut onto the sides and top of the cake. Slice and serve.
Cake keeps well covered in the refrigerator for about 3 days.