Tres leches are my neighbor’s favorite food, and I like her. So I started preparing them. I began with Martha Stewart’s recipe, which is a fantastic starting point, but it lacks the juiciness of a true tres leches cake, which is typically found lying in a little lake of sweet milk. As a result, I made adjustments and added some coconut, lime (as it is one of coconut’s best friends), and Tahitian vanilla, which is a little more floral than Mexican (but if you can’t locate it, use what you have). It tastes wonderful and is rich, milky, and coconutty. Consult your neighbors.
NOTES FOR A TEST KITCHEN
WHO: The chef who made us an outstanding Thanksgiving turkey also has dessert planned. We won’t pretend to be surprised.
WHAT: A delicious, tropical spin on a timeless recipe.
HOW: Prepare a straightforward batter, bake it, then pour a milk mixture over it and watch as it absorbs it all.
HOW COULD WE NOT Adore IT: How can we not love this? If the headline isn’t enough to persuade you, we’ll add this: a Food52 staff member ate this cake for breakfast and lunch the day after we cooked it. She wasn’t the only one, either.
- All-purpose flour, 1 1/4 cups
- One-fourth cup coconut flour
- One tablespoon of baking powder
- 5 teaspoons of salt
- 1 stick of unsalted butter, plus enough for the pan, equals 1/2 cup.
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- Five big eggs
- 2 teaspoons in addition to 3/4 cup sugar
- a single vanilla bean
- 13 1/2 oz. coconut milk can
- Sweetened condensed milk in a 14-ounce can
- 1 and a half cups whole milk
- Heavy whipping cream, one pint
- Lime zest, 2 tablespoons (zest from 1 lime)
- 1 cup of sweetened coconut flakes
- Oven temperature set to 350 °F. Butter a 9×13 baking pan. Butter and honey should be melted together and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flours, salt, and baking powder.
- In a bigger bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla until everything is well combined and the colour has lightened. When the mixture is nearly smooth, reduce the speed to low or use a gentler hand to add the flour in two batches. The butter should only be partially mixed after being folded in. When the cake is golden and a toothpick comes out clean, bake it for 25 to 30 minutes, flipping the pan once halfway through. This will resemble a shallow cake in appearance. Not to worry.
- Spread the coconut out on a baking sheet and combine the three milks (tres leches) while the cake bakes. Put the coconut in the oven to toast once the cake has finished baking. Every 3 to 4 minutes, check and stir. It should get golden brown in just 8–9 minutes.
- Make a few tiny holes all over the warm cake using a toothpick. Now carefully pour the milk over it. You’ll want to panic because there will appear to be a LOT of milk. Don’t. My cake truly rose momentarily like a raft! However, pour it all over and wait; 95% of the milk will absorb into the cake, leaving the remaining portion to become the lake you’re searching for. Both the cake and the toasted coconut should be given time to cool completely.
- Once stiff peaks have formed, continue whipping the cream, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and lime zest. The coconut should next be added on top of the cream-covered cake. You can eat it straight away or store it in the refrigerator for three to four days, though I doubt it will.