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.