Coconut Tres Leches Cake Trifle

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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.

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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

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Ingredients:

Coconut Pastry Cream:

  • 1 can (14-ounces) coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Cake:

  • 1 cup white sugar, divided
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Whipped Cream Ingredients & Extras:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 6 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted coconut for assembly and topping

Tres Leches Mixture:

  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. For the whipped cream, combine the cream and sugar together in a medium bowl and beat until stiff peaks form.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours (or up to 24 hours) before serving. Serve chilled.

Notes:

This trifle should be refrigerated for at least 12 hours and preferably up to 24 hours before serving so that the milk mixture can soak into the cake and everything can set up. Also, if you don’t want leftover tres leches (the 3 milk mixture) leftover, just use 1/2 cup of each ingredient (sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and coconut milk). Of course, you’ll still have leftovers in the can, so either way, looks like you’ll need to make some french toast or smoothies with the leftovers. I like to toast my coconut in a skillet on the stovetop set over medium heat. Stirring frequently, it toasts perfectly in 5-10 minutes.

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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)