Everything that is wonderful about this cake is in the name.
Pineapple Coconut Tres Leches Cake. Pineapple? Yum! Coconut? Yum! Tres Leches? Yes! Cake? Absolutely!
I can’t remember the first time I had tres leches cake, but I remember the first time I really fell in love with it. I was in Puerto Rico doing focus groups. We were opening stores there and wanted to better understand the customer and what her needs were.
A group of us sat in a separate room to observe and take notes as multiple focus groups filed in and out, answering questions and giving comments.
At some point, someone ordered us some lunch so we wouldn’t miss any observation time. I honestly can’t remember what we had for lunch, but dessert? (Wait, they ordered dessert?) Dessert was tres leches cake.
It might have been the fact that we were all trapped in that little room all day, but one bite and I was sure it was the best tres leches cake I ever had. I continued to take notes, but savored every bite of that cake.
Flash forward to my daughter in second grade. She had just finished a unit on Costa Rica which was to culminate in a colorful play followed by a small food reception. I offered to make tres leches cake.
I’d never made one before but I love to research recipes and eventually found one that looked good to me. It was an easy recipe, but needed to be made the night before, which was perfect because I wasn’t going to have time to bake the day of the play.
The cake was a hit with both the kids and their parents. What’s not to love? A delicious cake soaked with a sweet milk mixture (three kinds of milk) covered in whipped cream? That’s a dessert with my name written all over it.
When made properly, the cake is fully drenched, but not soggy, and won’t fall apart on you. (Although, if you are a person that doesn’t love cookies or donuts dunked in your beverage of choice, this may not be the cake for you.) Between the eggs and the butter and the milk, it kind of tastes like a cross between custard and cake.
My daughter’s Spanish teacher, who happened to be from Costa Rica, said it was the best she’d ever had in the states and it reminded her of home. Considering I didn’t even test the recipe (I know….risky) before I made it for the event, I was quite happy with that review.
I’ve made it a few times since, but this year, I decided to try something new and switch up the flavors. I’d been working on some pineapple coconut recipes, one which was great, the others….well, the photos were beautiful, but the recipes needed to go back into development.
I decided that this cake would be a perfect canvas to nail something on the first try with pineapple and coconut. I just made a few switches…I used a light coconut milk as part of the soaking liquid, covered the whole cake in crushed pineapple, then sprinkled some toasted coconut on top. Easy, no fail, pineapple coconut treat.
When you pour the milk over the cake, you’ll wonder how it will ever soak up all of that liquid. If you’ve done a thorough job poking holes all through the cake, you’ll be amazed the next day to find that, indeed, the cake was thirsty enough to drink up all of that creamy sweet milk.
And the taste? My husband was skeptical after sampling all the failed pineapple coconut recipes of the previous months. In fact, he was over that whole flavor combo. But he loved it and wanted seconds.
I loved the creamy cake with pineapple. It reminded me of a pineapple cream dessert we used to have when we were kids. The slight acidity of the pineapple is a nice counterpoint to all of that creaminess in the cake and topping.
The coconut milk adds a nice mild flavor that is punctuated further with the toasted coconut up top. The pineapple and the coconut definitely bring some new textures to this otherwise creamy cake, but we loved the new flavors they added.
Here’s another idea…take this Pineapple Coconut Tres Leches Cake and add a little rum to the milk mixture and you could have a more adult pina colada version of this dessert. Or, if you want a stronger rum flavor, you could even soak the pineapple in the rum. So many possibilities…
Today, however, my cake is rum free and family friendly. And, I don’t need to sit through a focus group session to know that…
this one is a winner.
Pineapple Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Pineapple Coconut Tres Leches Cake. A twist on the classic made with coconut milk, a layer of crushed pineapple and topped with toasted coconut!
For the cake:
- 6 3/4 ounces cake flour (about 1 and 1/2 cups + 1 Tablespoon)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter 1 stick, room temperature
- 8 ounces sugar 1 cup
- 5 large eggs room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the glaze:
- 1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
- 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup light coconut milk
For the topping:
- 1 20 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained thoroughly
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- toasted coconut
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 13x9" metal pan. Set aside.
- Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, (using paddle attachment) beat butter on medium speed until fluffy, about 1 minute.
- Decrease speed to low and very gradually add sugar (this should take a good minute) scraping sides of bowl as necessary.
- Add the eggs, one at a time mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix until combined.
- Add the flour mixture in thirds and mix just until combined after each addition. Scrape bowl as necessary and don't overbeat.
- Transfer the batter to prepared pan and spread evenly. This will be thin layer of batter.
- Bake for 18-25 minutes until lightly golden. If you have a thermometer, the cake will be done when it's internal temperature registers 200 degrees. Mine took just over 18 minutes.
- Place cake on a cooling rack and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Then, poke the top of the cake all over with a skewer or a fork. I used a skewer this time, but found that the fork was much more effective. Be thorough with poking the cake. Any areas without enough holes will not absorb the glaze as well as the areas that have alot.
- Allow cake to cool completely.
- Make the glaze by combining the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk in a liquid measuring cup. Whisk to thoroughly combine, then slowly pour the mixture over the entire cake.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, most, if not all of the liquid should have been absorbed by the cake.
- Spread drained crushed pineapple evenly over cake.
- Place the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla into a mixing bowl and using whisk attachment, beat to stiff peaks. Spread the topping over the cake and allow to chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. Top with toasted coconut flakes, if desired.
*Store cake covered in refrigerator. Once the cake is thoroughly chilled, you should be able to cut pretty clean squares. Mine only chilled for about an hour, so my whipped cream was still a bit soft.
*The original recipe is all in weight measurements which is great if you have a scale because you won't need measuring cups. I've provided the traditional measurements that are as close as possible to the weight measurements.
*I actually thought the cake was best on day two, after the pineapple had time to soak up some of the moisture from the cake and topping. I had drained the pineapple very well and pressed it against the side of the strainer. I wanted to err on the side of drier so that there wouldn't be alot of added liquid on top of the cake. But it needed the moisture of the cake to rehydrate a bit.
*I just lightly sweetened my whipped cream because the dessert is already sweet. If you like a sweeter whipped cream, you can double the powdered sugar or add even more to taste.
*Make sure you thoroughly poke the cake. I like to use a fork and poke every half inch or so until the top of the cake is covered in tiny holes.
*For a more traditional tres leches, use half and half instead of coconut milk for the glaze, omit pineapple and toasted coconut.
*If you decide to add rum to the milk mixture and you use more than a tablespoon, just remove the same amount of milk mixture so that you end up with the same amount of total liquid.
*For the coconut, I bought the large, unsweetened flakes in the bulk aisle. I spread them on a foil lined baking sheet and toasted them in my toaster oven. They can burn quickly, so stay near the oven to watch them!
Recipe adapted from Food Network
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