Coconut Tres Leches Cake Trifle
Coconut Tres Leches Cake Trifle is like a little bit of dessert heaven in each bite. It is luxurious and pretty and completely, sinfully delicious.
This might be one of the most stunning desserts to ever come out of my kitchen.
I mean look at it. Layers of tender white coconut cake infused with a silky tres leches mixture, rich and creamy coconut pastry cream, fluffy whipped cream and a generous helping of toasted coconut.
Be still my coconut tres leches cake loving heart.
And if you think I like this type of cake, you should have seen Brian when I unveiled Sunday’s dessert. Coconut tres leches cake is one of his favorite cakes of all time and I pretty much knew in that moment that I didn’t even have to worry about getting him anything for our anniversary a few days later.
This basically completed his life.
It’s a show-stopper that’s for sure. And although the recipe might look long and intimidating, it’s all done in steps and several of them can be prepared days (days!) ahead of time.
In fact, the entire trifle should be assembled at least 12, but more like 24, hours in advance which makes it a perfect dessert for company so you aren’t slaving in the kitchen the day of.
The end result of this made-from-scratch labor of love is unbelievably delicious.
I hope you can find a reason to make it very, very soon.
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Coconut Tres Leches Cake Trifle
Coconut Pastry Cream:
- 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
- ¾ cup (159 g) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoons vanilla extract
- pinch salt
- 3 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- 2 tablespoons (28 g) butter
- ½ teaspoon coconut extract
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup (212 g) white sugar, divided
- 5 egg yolks
- 5 egg whites
- ⅓ cup coconut milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 1 cup (142 g) all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
Whipped Cream Ingredients & Extras:
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 6 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 ½ cups (128 g) toasted coconut for assembly and topping
Tres Leches Mixture:
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- ¾ cup coconut milk
- First up, make the pastry cream so it can chill in the refrigerator. In a medium saucepan combine the coconut milk, sugar, salt and vanilla. Heat the mixture over medium heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and cornstarch. When the coconut milk mixture comes to a simmer, slowly ladle about 1/2 a cup of the hot mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking vigorously and constantly so the eggs don’t scramble and form hard, cooked bits. Add the entire egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan and whisk constantly while the mixture cooks over medium heat for 3-4 minutes; it will thicken considerably. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and coconut extract. Pour the pastry cream into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface, and refrigerate until completely chilled, 3-4 hours (you can speed up this process by placing the bottom of the bowl in an ice water bath and stirring the pastry cream constantly until cool). Once the pastry cream has cooled completely, beat the 1/2 cup whipping cream until thick and creamy. Fold it gently into the pastry cream until combined. Refrigerate the pastry cream until ready to assemble the trifle.
- While the pastry cream is chilling (before folding in the whipped cream), make the cake. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease two round cake pans. Measure your trifle dish to determine what size is needed. My trifle dish would only fit an 8-inch round cake layer so I baked mine in 8-inch layers but some trifle dishes are larger and could work with 9-inch cake layers.
- In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with the 3/4 cup granulated sugar until they are light and thick, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the coconut milk, vanilla extract, coconut extract, flour, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl whip the egg whites until foamy. While beating, add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Bake for 12-14 minutes (watch closely!) until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn the cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
- For the whipped cream, combine the cream and sugar together in a medium bowl and beat until stiff peaks form.
- To assemble, whisk together the condensed milk, evaporated milk and coconut milk (or be like me and shake it all up in a canning jar with a lid). Place one cake layer in the bottom of the trifle dish, flattest side up. Poke holes all over the cake with a fork. Pour 3/4 cup of the milk mixture over the cake gradually, swirling the trifle dish back and forth to cover the cake with the milk mixture and adding the rest of the milk as the first layer soaks in. You can refrigerate for 30 minutes to let the milk soak in or just keep swirling and poking the cake until the mixture settles in. Top with 1/2 of the coconut pastry cream, 1/3 of the toasted coconut and 1/2 of the whipped cream.
- Poke holes all over the flattest side of the 2nd cake layer (before you put it in the trifle dish). Set the cake layer over the whipped cream layer (with the flattest side up; the side you poked all over) and pour 3/4 cup of the milk mixture over the cake, again, pouring it on gradually and swirling to distribute the milk mixture. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes if needed to help the milk mixture absorb into the cake. Top with the rest of the coconut pastry cream, 1/3 of the toasted coconut, the remainder of the whipped cream and sprinkle with the last of the coconut.
- Refrigerate for at least 12 hours (or up to 24 hours) before serving. Serve chilled.
Recipe Source: adapted from Willow Bird Baking found via Pinterest repinned from my cousin Merianne who tasted it at a potluck (and pinned the recipe)
95 Comments on “Coconut Tres Leches Cake Trifle”
I don’t have a trifle bowl, and no intentions of buying one. So I made the cake in a cookie sheet pan. I cut it into cubes and layered it. My family crushed it. I love that it wasn’t super sweet. This is definitely a remake.
Thanks for sharing.
Can I replace coconut extract with vanilla extract? I’m nervous coconut extract might taste too artificial. Has anyone had an issue with the coconut extract?
Yes, you can use vanilla extract.
Great! Will it still have a decent coconut taste u think? Also, for the tres leches mixture do you mean canned coconut milk or the more diluted type in other containers? Thank you so much!! I’m so excited to make this
In the tres leches mixture should I use canned coconut milk or regular coconut milk? Thanks! Making it this weekend for a family bbq
I use canned coconut milk. 🙂
This is incredible! Despite being a coconut recipe, it’s not overpowering. Not a quick recipe to make, but SO worth it!!
VERY VERY WELL DONE RECIPE. EVERYTHING WAS PERFECTION. THE PASTRY CREAM WAS SUPER EASY TO FOLLOW. THIS WAS A HUGE HIT WITH MY GUESTS.
I followed the recipe exactly and made this in a trifle dish, and it was so fantastic! I also made it the other day in a 9×9 casserole dish and just cut the hole recipe in half, and it worked beautifully. So I only had one cake layer, then the milk mixture, then one layer of cream, one layer of whipped cream, and toasted coconuts on top. Just in case anyone was wondering if it worked well without a trifle dish!
Edit: 9×13 dish, not 9×9
I made it in a 9×9 casserole dish the other day, and just cut the entire recipe in half and it worked beautifully. Had to bake the cake for 20 ish minutes though. So I had just one layer of cake, milk mixture, cream, whipped cream, and toasted coconut on top. Just in case anyone wondered if it also worked well without a trifle dish! SUPER AWESOME DESSERT!
I followed the recipe exactly and made it in a trifle dish, and it was much easier to put together than expected! It turned out great. I just recommend reading the directions a whole bunch of times first and picture each step in your head before starting so you feel more comfortable with it. But it all comes together easily even though the directions look like there’s a lot of steps. I also made it a second time in a 9×9 casserole dish, and just cut the entire recipe in half. Worked beautifully! I had to bake the cake for 20 ish minutes though. So I just had one layer of cake, then the milk mixture, then a layer of the cream, then whipped cream, then toasted coconuts on top. Just in case anyone was wondering how it worked if they didn’t want to use a trifle dish! Best dessert ever
My phone wasn’t adding my comment so I kept trying, and it suddenly added all of them at once! Excuse the repeat comments from me 🙂
Hi Mel! Can I ommit the coconut flavor from this recipe? This is by far the best Tres Leches recipe I found here in Pinterest. However, I am not a fan of coconut. I am also an amateur “baker” & just trying out recipes. But I don’t know how to modify this. I really want to try this Tres Leches recipe of yours. Hope you can help.
Yes, you definitely can!
So you mean, just omit entirely the coconut milk from the Coconut Pastry Cream, Cake & Tres Leches mixture without any substitute??
Thanks for your help…
When you said flavor, I thought you just meant the coconut extract. If you’d rather not use the coconut milk, yes, you’d need to substitute it with probably half-and-half or a mixture of half-and-half and cream.
So instead of using Coconut milk, substitute it with the following…
For the Pastry Cream
1 can (14oz) half-half
For the Cake
1/3 cup half-half
For Tres Leches Mixture
3/4 cup half-half
Correct? I’m sorry I just need an expert advice. I really want to make this for the Holidays.
I haven’t tried any of the substitutions so it’s really just suggestions and you’ll have to experiment, but for the pastry cream, I’d just use 14 ounces half and half (that’s about 1 3/4 cups) and use 1/3 cup half and half for the cake and 3/4 cup half and half for the tres leches. Good luck!
Thanks so much Mel! 🙂
This was awesome, and even though the directions seem pretty intense it goes together fairly quickly. I also didn’t chill the whole thing for as long as called for and it was still tasty. I added a layer of crushed pineapple on top of the cake and before the pudding, which gave it more of a pina colada vibe. Might try it as a 9×13 tres leches without the pudding sometime. Thanks for the recipe!
I’m going to make this for my daughters birthday and I live in the UK. Is heavy whipping cream the same as double cream? Double cream in the UK is 48% fat and our whipping cream around 30 or so percent. If you could let me know as soon as you can Id really appreciate it – need to do my supermarket run soon!
I don’t know for sure, but a quick google search told me that it can be used interchangeably (heavy cream and double cream).
I make this every Christmas and everyone loves it! it has become a Christmas tradition in our house
Is the coconut the sweetened variety or plain? Thank you
I use sweetened shredded coconut.
Hi Mel, I stumbled upon your recipe on Pinterest and finally have the perfect occasion to try it. I’m throwing a birthday party in a park in August and I wondered if it was possible to freeze the trifle for a few hours before the party so while it’s sitting out on display it can thaw and still be served chilled. Do you think there are any ingredients that will respond unfavorably to this?
Hmmm, I think that should work. How long will it sit out?
I am wanting to make a 3-layered birthday cake and was wondering how this cake would hold up? Would it stack well or would your white Texas sheet cake baked in rounds be better? Thanks!
I think the White TX Sheet Cake would be too soft and fragile, but I think this cake would work!
Not sure if you get new comments from older posts but I looove the sound of this. Question though: my friends don’t like shredded coconut. Any idea what else I could layer it with for some texture? Maybe fresh berries? Thanks for all your hard work and recipe testing!
Sure, you could definitely try fresh berries or even granola of some kind.
Hi! So excited to make this! Quick question Is the canned coconut milk called for ssweetened or unsweetened? I just noticed that The can I bought says unsweetened…
I believe the coconut milk in the can (not in the refrigerated section) is unsweetened. Should work just fine!
I made this for Easter dessert and it was a unanimous hit with everyone from 18 months to 65 years old. I made the cake, mixed the milks, and the pastry cream 2 days ahead, and assembled the cake about 30 hours ahead of time. It was delicious, and I think I could have made the whole cake 2 full days ahead of time because it is still delicious 2 days after!
So happy to hear that, Maria!
Hi Mel. Is it canned coconut milk in every part of the recipe? Or is the coconut milk in the cake part from the refrigerated section? Thank you!
Hi Christina, I use the canned coconut milk.
I made this for the Super Bowl and it was delicious! The cake part was a lot more dense than I was expecting. I have a recipe that is very similar to your coconut tres leches cake recipe only it uses a boxed cake mix, so I was expecting the cake in this to be similar to that. I’m wondering if I did something wrong to make the cake not as soft and fluffy or if that is just how made from scratch cakes always are?? My sister also brought a from scratch cake and we felt the same about hers. We grew up on from the box cakes so not sure if that’s why homemade ones don’t seem as light to us or if we are doing something wrong??
A lot probably depends on the from-scratch recipe, but generally speaking, homemade cakes have a totally different taste and texture than boxed mixes (which can be super light in texture). One thing to remember with a homemade cake is to avoid overmixing the batter. The cake will be tough the longer it is mixed (with a few exceptions; I have a chocolate cake that you mix like mad and it’s still light and fluffy).
I made this for a our dinner party tonight. It was a huge hit!! Everyone loved it so much. Even my husband whonis extremely picky!!
This trifle is one of the most amazing desserts I have EVER made. If you love coconut this trifle is for you! The coconut really shines through the custard and the milk mixture. I did modify the recipe for the milk mixture because I didn’t want to have so much extra milk. I used 1/2c evap milk, 1/2c condensed milk, and 1 cup coconut milk and used half the mixture for each cake. I was worried it wouldn’t be enough to moisten the cake, but it was perfectly moist. Definitely a repeater!
I’m confused about the coconut milk…I’ve only seen coconut milk in the dairy case in a carton while this recipe calls for a 14 oz. can. The cans I find our cream of coconut, which is very sweet. Which do I use? The coconut milk that is NOT sweet or the cream of coconut? Making this for Easter dinner tomorrow so I would love to hear back from someone real soon!
Sara – I use the cans of coconut milk usually found in the Asian foods aisle by the soy sauce. Usually there are full-fat and light options. The refrigerated coconut milk in the dairy section won’t work well here.
Why did I have extra milk mixture? 3/4 on first layer and 3/4 on second layer of cake. That equals 1 and 1/2 cups of liquid. If you add the milk mixture as per recipe it comes to way over that right? Oh we’ll, hope I did it right. Made this for a party!!!!
Thank you for sharing this dessert!! I made it for my mom’s birthday last week. She asked me to make her something with coconut in it, and I just knew I couldn’t go wrong with your recipe. Of course, everyone loved it, but on my sister in law’s very first bite she blurted out, “This is my new favorite food in the whole wide world!!!!!!!”
Hi Mel! The recipe sounds magnificent. I’d like to make this gem for Mother’s Day/my Dad’s birthday, but I’m short on time. Would it be safe to cheat and buy a store-bought angel food cake? Thank you so much! ~ Laura
Laura – I am sorry I didn’t get back to you before Mother’s Day. Did you end up trying the Angel Food Cake? I wasn’t sure how it would fare, but I hope it turned out well for you.
It turned out good with the angel food cake, Mel! I just wished I would have had more time for it to set. Thank you for getting back to me!
I had already made my dessert list for Easter when I received your Easter email and decided to make this in place of a traditional coconut cake. Ohhhhh-emmmmm-geeeeee!
This was so good! Delicious and amazing! I made 15 desserts for Easter (I am the baker of the family) and this one was the first one gone. I put it in a trifle dish that had a ring around it and put fresh strawberries and cantaloupe on the bottom to serve with it. I will def. be making this again and again. Thank you for such an awesome recipe!! 🙂
If you make it today, there won’t be any left by Sunday. But also, I’m afraid it would be soggy in two days.
I plan on making this for Easter Sunday. Would it be ok to make it on Friday night for Sunday afternoon or should I wait until Saturday?
Hi Kim – I’d suggest waiting until Saturday if you can. You could make all the components on Friday (like the cake, etc.) and then wait to assemble on Saturday if that would save you some time.
I just made this. It did take me quite a while, but I was also making your bread rolls at the same time. It’s in the fridge for tomorrow, Valentines day with my husband and son and his girlfriend. It looks AMAZING! I
I’ve had my eye on this dessert for a while now. The cake tasted like a coconut angel food cake, very light and all the components tasted great. I can’t wait to try it tomorrow. I know I am going to have a job on my hands keeping my husband away from it when he gets home later.
I need to buy a deeper trifle dish as mine was poking above the dish I have it in.
I’m feeling very clever and pleased with myself.
Thanks for the recipe Mel. Much appreciated.
This was fantastic! I also layered in raspberries. Thanks for the great recipe.
I made your coconut tres leches cake recipe (subbing with a store cake mix)and it was absolutely delicious! I noticed this recipe uses coconut milk instead of coconut cream. Would there be a big difference if I made a trifle with the ingredients of the other recipe and just added coconut extract to the cake mix? Or would that not work well? Thanks.
Mary C. – I think that could work great. Good luck!
Made this for our family Christmas party yesterday… it was absolutely delicious! A huge hit! Coconut flavor was light, not overpowering. Cake was moist but not soggy. Really perfect! It’s a winner recipe and got rave reviews from my family… and they’re not shy about giving their opinions, LOL! Thank you!
Thanks for your help Mel. I ended up making this to the T and just adding raspberries in between the layers. Everyone LOVED it. It was a major hit and it came out looking beautiful. This will definitely be a recipe I’ll be doing for special occasions. Heaven in a bowl is easily the best way to describe it.
I even made two mini trifle dishes to taste and they were awesome too. Thanks for the recipe, a real winner!
Hi Mel! I have been scouring the internet looking for a Tres Leches cake I can take into my jobs Christmas party. This looks like something I’d love to take in! My mouth is watering. There will be around 35 people there though, so not sure how I could make this spread out more!
I was wondering if omitting the coconut extract would make a huge difference, as I can’t find any.
Also, what are your thoughts on adding fruit to this? Like say strawberry? Or do you have any other addition that would make it more Christmas-y?
Stephanie – leaving out the coconut extract will make the coconut flavor less intense – it might end up being more like a vanilla pudding cake but either way, I think it will be delicious. What about adding raspberries to the pudding layer and then garnishing with fresh mint?
Oh my, I am such a coconut freak. This is making me salivate just looking at this. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe.
Do you only use canned coconut milk? You specified this for the coconut pastry cream what about the cake and tres leches mixture? I am wondering if I can use the coconut milk that is used as an alternative to cow’s milk.
Heidi – I’ve only used canned coconut milk so you’d have to experiment with the refrigerated coconut milk.
Have converted some of the ingredients to what us Aussie call some things…..Every BBQ I go to now I am asked to bring this Dessert….yes lots of dishes but love cooking challenges…. Love this Trifle…
Wow. Just wow. I need to make this!
I made this for my sister’s birthday last night — she is not a chocolate fan so I had my eyes open for something special. I made this without a trifle dish, using 2 big pie plates. I served one for her birthday last night and the other will be for company tomorrow. It’s beautiful — and so delicious that I was embarrassed at the sounds the guests made last night. Thanks for this recipe!
I made Willow Bird’s version for Easter dessert this year. It was a huge hit. Even my MIL, who believes only traditional English Trifle, can be called a trifle, loved it. It was worth the effort.
this is a pretty simple dessert, and by that i mean it’s not something you’re gonna find on a sophisticated restaurant’s dessert menu. that said, i’d absolutely prefer this over pretty much everything else in the world–magnificent!
I made this over the weekend and, while it took a long time to make (I made it all in one evening) and used lots of dishes, it was AMAZING! It was a “knock it out of the park” winner with my husband. That coconut pastry cream completes my life. Thanks for sharing a great recipe!
this is a trifle lover’s heaven full of bliss in every bite :-)how we love tres leches and coconut and making something like this delicious will sure taste out of the world,amazing food clicks 🙂
This looks amazing. I will save this for something special like a holiday or birthday.
I think it would be so perfect for Easter ( but I might not be able to wait that long!)
Hi, Mel. Sounds yummy. FYI, it looks like you repeated the assembly insructions starting on number 8.
This looks so light and delicious! I love coconut, and Tres Leches cake is one of my favorites! This is a definite must try!
Heaven help me! I saw this first thing this morning and text it my best friend about before I even got out of bed! Haha that’s how excited I am to try this! I’m going to the store first thing in the morning to pick up more coconut milk to have this baby ready for Sunday night. I. Cannot. Wait! Thanks, Mel!
This looks amazing! My husband loves coconut anything…me too really. Ive been looking for a good trifle bowl but all the ones I find seem rather small. Do you have any recommentations on a good place to get one or what size they should be? I’m wondering if looks are deceiving and those small bowls really hold a lot…? Thanks!
Hi Emily – I bought my trifle dish (love the size of it) at walmart of all places probably 2-3 years ago.
This looks so delectable! I’m going to have to get a trifle bowl just to make it. Thank you for sharing so many wonderful recipes.
This looks amazing! I’m making this weekend! And barb, try evaporated milk instead.
Mel, this is evil. I have been DREAMING of a tres leches (seriously) for, like, weeks. I need this trifle so badly you don’t even know… I’m about to have a tantrum on the floor and everything!
Totally making this! I want to dive right into it! 🙂
Don’t yell at me! What if I don’t like coconut? What can I use in place of coconut milk?
Barb – you could use evaporated milk (like Lien suggested) but if you don’t like coconut, this may not be the dessert for you because the coconut flavor takes center stage. 🙂
I don’t think I need a reason for this. Other than maybe, I want it. Like, now.
I saw this recipe (or one just like it) on Pinterest and made it a while back. Seriously life changing. Can’t wait to follow YOUR directions and make it again.
Oh my goodness. This looks insanely delicious, I will definitely be trying this one! I love your website, we must have really similar flavor profiles, because I pretty much want to try every recipe you post. All the ones I have tried have been fantastic!
in the directions number 3 and 4 seem to be the same just worded a little different????
Sorry about the directions! Looks like an old draft was published instead of the final draft. It’s all fixed up and ready to go so you can run into the kitchen to make it.
You had me at the word coconut. I love coconut in dessert. This looks awesome. I haven’t made a trifle in a while. I’ll have to give it a try soon!
I have a confession to make- I don’t like tres Leches cake! I have tried it at Mexican restaurants and it’s always a soggy wet mess. Perhaps I haven’t had a good version, because your trifle looks amazing! I’m going to make this recipe for my next Mexican/Tex-Mex theme party!
Oh man, I can only imagine how good this is. Delicious!