With the structural integrity of cake and the lushness of pudding, tres leches is a dessert that’s easy to love. This coconut version from Canje in Austin, Texas—one of our 10 Best New Restaurants of 2022—features a slick of jam between cake and cream for an additional dimension of flavor. Chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph favors guava or pineapple in the restaurant’s version, but you can use any flavor you like.
Wondering why the recipe calls for a stand mixer, but ultimately asks you to mix everything in a large bowl by hand? The mixer can more thoroughly whip the egg yolks and whites, which is key for the fluffiest cake. But the deep and narrow bowl design of mixers hinders the sort of gentle but precise folding required to maintain volume when integrating the eggs with the other ingredients. Err on the side of slightly undermixing the batter; while you don’t want large, dry pockets of flour, some streaks of egg white are okay. (Cream of tartar helps reduce the risk of overwhipping the egg whites.)
There is plenty of delicious coconut soak by design. You’ll want to add an extra splash to each serving.
tsp. vanilla extract
cup (200 g) granulated sugar, divided
tsp. cream of tartar
cups (216 g) all-purpose flour
SOAK AND ASSEMBLY
3″-long cinnamon stick
13.5-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
cups whole milk
cups heavy cream, divided
cup plus 2 Tbsp. (225 g) sugar
tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1½ tsp. kosher salt, divided
cup jam or preserves (such as strawberry, guava, or pineapple)
tsp. fresh lemon juice
tsp. vanilla extract
cup toasted unsweetened coconut flakes
- CAKEStep 1Place a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°. Separate yolks from 7 large eggs over a small bowl to catch egg whites. Place yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 2 tsp. vanilla extract and ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar and fit bowl onto stand mixer. Beat with whisk attachment on medium-high speed until very light and voluminous and mixture leaves a very slowly dissolving ribbon when drizzled back onto itself, about 3 minutes. Rub a small dab between your fingers—it should be grit-free (this means all the sugar is dissolved); beat another minute or so if needed. Scrape yolk mixture into a large wide bowl.Step 2Thoroughly wash and dry whisk and mixer bowl, then beat egg whites, 1 tsp. cream of tartar, and remaining ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar on medium-high until meringue is glossy and forms medium peaks, about 4 minutes.Step 3Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold half of the meringue into yolk mixture (err on the side of mixing less; it’s okay if there are quite a few large streaks of egg white). Sift ¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp. (108 g) all-purpose flour over batter (make sure to sift all over the surface rather than a heap in the center) and fold gently, making sure to scrape sides and bottom of bowl well. Fold in remaining meringue, followed by remaining ¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp. (108 g) all-purpose flour, sifting on top as before (be careful not to overmix or batter will collapse; some streaks are okay, but avoid large lumps or pockets of dry flour).Step 4Scrape batter into a metal 13×9″ baking pan (no need to grease—batter will rise higher in an ungreased pan) and gently spread into an even layer with a large offset spatula, making sure to work into corners. Bake cake until top is golden and center springs back when gently pressed, 25–30 minutes. Let cake cool in pan, about 1 hour.Step 5Using a chopstick, poke holes into cake, spacing ½” apart and wiggling chopstick gently to widen holes and reach bottom of pan.
- SOAK AND ASSEMBLYStep 6Heat one 3″-long cinnamon stick, one 13.5-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk, 2 cups whole milk, 2 cups heavy cream, 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar, and 2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt in a medium saucepan over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and liquid is steaming, 7–9 minutes.Step 7Gradually pour 6 cups coconut milk mixture over cake (it may look like too much, but it will all soak in eventually.) Let cake sit, occasionally tilting pan to redistribute any liquid pooling on the surface, until most of liquid is absorbed, about 1½ hours.Step 8Remove any pieces of cinnamon stick from cake and discard. Wrap cake tightly and chill until cold, at least 3 hours. Transfer leftover coconut mixture in saucepan to an airtight container; cover and chill.Step 9Just before serving, stir together 1 cup jam or preserves (such as strawberry, guava, or pineapple) and 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice in a small bowl. Using an offset spatula or spoon, spread jam evenly over entire top of cake.Step 10Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat 1 tsp. vanilla extract, remaining 2 cups heavy cream, 2 Tbsp. (25 g) granulated sugar, and ½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt in a medium bowl until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes. Spread whipped cream evenly over jam layer on top of cake.Step 11Scatter 1 cup toasted unsweetened coconut flakes over whipped cream. Cut cake into 16 pieces and serve with reserved soak for pouring around each slice.Do ahead: Cake can be baked and soaked 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Top with jam, whipped cream, and coconut flakes just before serving.