I’ll admit I’ve never tried a classic tres leches cake before.  It just didn’t seem like something I would like.  Mostly, I think it would be due to textural issues.  I have always been a bit wary of dishes with mushy textures (bread pudding, French toast, etc.)  Not to mention, traditional tres leches cake is often fairly…we’ll say homely looking, and if you’ve been here long, you know that I tend towards pretty desserts.  When I first saw this cake in my Pastry Queen cookbook, it didn’t even register that it was a souped up version of a tres leches cake.  All I saw was an awesome looking confection and I knew I had to try making it.  Only later on did I realize what it really was, but this seemed like a version I could get on board with.

An almond sponge cake with a hint of cinnamon is brushed with the soaking liquid which, in addition to the usual tres leches suspects, contains dulce de leche and cream of coconut.  Double yum.  The whole thing is covered in a whipped cream frosting and then garnished with sugared almonds.  They are lightly sweetened and toasted, and add a really nice textural contrast to the cake as well as visual interest.  Plus, you can use one of my favorite decorating tactics here – flinging the almonds at the frosted cake to help them adhere.  Fun times!  I will note that the original recipe must make an insanely large cake.  The version I made was 2/3 the original recipe, and that was still huge.  The version I am posting below is actually a half recipe because I cannot imagine anyone ever needing a cake in the original quantities.  Not to mention, the ingredients for the full cake would be incredibly expensive.  It called for 8 cups of almonds (!) and 18 eggs, among other things.  Also, a quick note regarding the sugared almonds – these took much, much longer to bake than the original recipe indicated.  This part is really best done by checking frequently until the almonds are lightly browned and crispy, not gummy from the egg whites.  I found that breaking them up slightly and turning them over helped with the process.

On a related note, Andrew is starting to really enjoy helping me in the kitchen.  He was very involved with the making of this cake, and we had a blast baking together.  Look at my sweet little helper whisking away!


For the cake:
2 cups (8 oz.) blanched almonds
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
7 large eggs, separated
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking powder

For the soaking liquid:
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp. dulce de leche
¼ cup cream of coconut
¼ cup sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup evaporated milk
1½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the sugared almonds:
2 large egg whites
2 cups slivered almonds
½ cup sugar

For the frosting:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
Splash of vanilla extract

Fresh berries, for garnish (optional)


  • 01

    To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line the bottom of a 9 x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper, and butter and flour the edges of the pan.  Place the almonds in the bowl of a food processor with ¼ cup of sugar and the cinnamon.  Process until finely ground.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form.  Transfer the beaten egg whites to a different bowl and set aside.  Wipe out the mixer bowl.  In the now-empty mixer bowl, combine the egg yolks and the remaining ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.  Fold in the flour and the baking powder with a spatula.  Fold in the ground almond mixture.  Mix in a third of the beaten egg whites to lighten the batter.  Fold in the remainder of the egg whites until evenly incorporated and no streaks remain.

  • 02

    Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth with a spatula.  Bake approximately 26 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

  • 03

    To make the soaking liquid, combine the whipping cream, dulce de leche, cream of coconut, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and vanilla in a bowl or liquid measuring cup.  Whisk together until smooth.

  • 04

    To make the sugared almonds, place the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl and whip on high speed until frothy.  Stir in the almonds and sugar until evenly incorporated.  Spread the mixture in a thin, even layer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat.  Bake at 325˚ F until golden brown and crisp, approximately 20 minutes (let cool a minute or two before touching).  Allow to cool and then break apart into small chunks.

  • 05

    To make the frosting, place the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form.  Mix in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.  Blend in the vanilla.

  • 06

    Using a serrated knife, cut the cooled cake into thirds width-wise so that you have three pieces of cake about 4 1/3 x 9 inches each.  Place one of the segments of cake on a rectangular serving platter and brush with a third of the soaking liquid.  (You may want to poke the cake with the tines of a fork to help it absorb the liquid.)  Frost with a layer of the whipped cream.  Top with another layer of cake, brush with half of the remaining soaking liquid, and frost again with whipped cream.  Top with the final layer of cake and brush with the remaining liquid.  Frost the top and sides of the cake with the whipped cream.  Press the sugared almonds into the top and sides of the cake to cover evenly.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

  • 07

    Before serving, dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar and top with fresh berries, if desired.


  • Gorgeous!!! :)

  • Wow, this looks heavenly! Glad you tried it :)

  • I’m not a fan of soggy/mushy…I dip my pancakes in syrup rather than poor it over the top, so I’ve not supper interested in leches cakes either. But this has coconut in it…I can’t resist that.

  • Siunna

    I completely agree with you on the anti-soggy dessert preference; however, this looks and sounds absolutely scrumptious! Gorgeous presentation as well! Andrew seems to be quite the budding patisserie chef :)

  • Amy

    this cake looks beautiful! and your little boy is so cute!!

  • Oh my, oh my! That sounds and looks amazing! Wow, I am very impressed!

  • Oh good grief this looks insane. We actually love tres leches cake so this is pretty much a dream come true with the sugared almonds and all…amazing!

  • I would like to eat this. Right now. My boyfriend is growing up so fast, Annie! It’s so incredibly special that he likes to help you cook. Warm fuzzies.

  • Jessie

    This looks so pretty! I wanna make it for Mother’s Day.

  • Heather W.

    Beautiful cake! Looks yummy. I can’t wait until my son can help me in the kitchen too.

  • I can’t wait to make it this weekend! We are having a Cinco De Mayo/ Mother’s Day celebration and this will be perfect!

    Do you have an estimate as to how many people this recipe would serve since you made adjustments?? Thanks!!

  • OMG! I LOVE Tres Leches cake! And this one is beautiful!

  • Annie

    It’s really hard to say. I personally think even one full vertical slice is too much for a serving, so we have been cutting each slice in half. With that I would guess we have at minimum 20 servings in my version, so the slightly reduced one would have at least 16 I think.

  • Sue

    That is the prettiest tres leche cake I’ve ever seen!

  • Julie

    I feel the same way! I’m sure tres leche cakes are delicious, but I’ve never seen one that had me running to try it. Except this one. Must make! It sounds amazing, and with the Annie seal of approval, I know it’ll be good!

  • Kenya

    This looks very good! I have to admit as well that I am not a fan of tres leches cake. I can relate to not liking the mushy texture. Is this cake mushy at all or more on the moist side?

  • This cake is so lovely, Annie! Great job on it, and happy (early) Cinco de Mayo to you and your family!

  • Annie

    It’s really more moist, I would not call it mushy.

  • I’ve been meaning to make a tres leches cake for some time, but you’re right – they’re definitely not the prettiest of cakes! Yours looks so pretty!!

  • If this cake does not make it to the Top 9, I’ll eat my hat! It is the prettiest tres leche cake I have ever seen! Sooo perfect for a Cinqo de Mayo celebration!

  • I agree with you…double yum! I’ve never tried tres leches cake before! I must try this version. Delish!

  • Sarah

    This looks really good, I have to make it! Your son is so adorable! Also, where do you get your bowls? I need one like that.

  • Annie

    This particular set is from Crate and Barrel.

  • This looks really good! I didn’t think I would like Tres Leches cake either, but when I tried it, i was pleasantly surprised.

  • This is absolutely beautiful! I love love tres leches cake and this sounds even fancier.

  • What a great blog you have. I just recently discovered your blog via my daughter in law. She makes a lot of your recipes and they are all fantastic.

  • Holy gorgeous cake! That is a thing of beauty. I’ve never had tres leches cake either, but I’ve always thought it sounded fantastic. This is my first time visiting your blog, but it won’t be the last. Great recipes!!

  • I actually love tres leches but had always found the recipes to be too complicated for me to try. I finally tried the pioneer woman’s version and it was easy and delicious. Now I’m ready to step it up and this looks like the perfect version to try. I may cut it in half again for cinco de mayo tomorrow; that way I won’t end up with tons of leftovers to torment me.

  • marci

    I will definitely be making this to celebrate myself as a mother this Sunday! How long did you let it sit after you assembled it? Does it need to be served immediately?

  • I love this cake! I’ve made it before, actually for a Mother’s Day get-together. It’s really a special cake, and yours looks gorgeous…comparing it to my own copy of The Pastry Queen, looks just like the picture!

  • Annie

    The cookbook says it is good for at least 2 days after assembling. We’ve eaten it even longer and it has been fine.

  • This looks fabulous – especially the berries and almonds. I love that your son is involved. We involve ours regularly and they’ve tried so many new foods as a result. Not to mention it creates lasting and wonderful memories. :)

  • Oh wow. I adore Tres Leches cakes but I tend to stear away from them for events because you are right, they are kind of…homely ;) I can’t wait to try this recipe!!

  • What a lovely cake! I’ve never actually had tres leches cake but have always been curious about it. Maybe it’s time to try it out…

  • HJ

    OMG! What a beautiful cake! I must try this as soon as possible. Thanks for scaling down for us. I don’t think I’d have jumped for the idea of 8 cups of almonds and EIGHTEEN eggs in a recipe! This will be a great cake to make for Mother’s day to share with friends who are great moms and wonderful friends! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  • Candy

    Ohmyheavens, I loooove Tres Leches Cake; and what a beautiful version!! I might just have to make this for Mother’s Day.

    I made your amazing Tropical Carrot Cake for Easter, and for the first time, worked with Cream of Coconut… I had never heard of, nor seen, this product prior to that recipe (thank you for letting me know where to find it, next to the drink mixes! You saved me a lot of effort.) Please tell me, is it supposed to be mixed/shaken up before use? It separated in the can, and I subsequently stirred the solid into the liquid, and everything came out fine, but I was just wondering if that was normal. Either way, what an interesting product to thicken up and flavor baked goods!

  • Annie

    I would check the can/bottle of whatever brand you buy and see if it says to shake. The one I usually buy doesn’t normally separate, but I think it still says to shake before use.

  • What a great recipe! This cake looks beautiful. Yum!

  • YUMMMM and beautiful !!

  • Isabel Kitchen

    I already have a great recipe for Tres Leches Cake. This weekend I tried the Almond topping and it was a wonderful match! I don’t know if I’ll ever make it without it again!

  • The sugared almonds on top sounds amazing!!!

  • I love Tres Leches and your version looks to be probably the best I’ve seen yet. I could just look at (and drool over) your blog all day.

  • Sarah Bulmer

    I just made two tres leches cake, and I thought I was being all fancy by using dulce de leche. Little did I know you already had a recipe with dulce de leche AND coconut milk! Props to you, I’d love to try this version next :)

  • Lena Hermann

    Wow! This recipe sounds delicious!!! do you have the original recipe for the 18 eggs from her book?

  • annieseats

    Yes, this is modified from that recipe.

  • Lena Hermann

    I would really love to make this cake in it’s original proportions. I’m from a culture that loves food, and when there’s food, there are usually a lot of people…especially when the food involves sweets :)) Would you mind sharing the original proportions with me, pretty please? Thank you!

  • annieseats

    Sorry, I’m only sharing the version here but you could purchase Rebecca Rather’s book for the original version.

  • val ruby

    my fiance is allergic to coconut milk, and it breaks my heart because I absolutely love this stuff!!! What might I use to replace this ingredient in baking this GORGEOUS cake?? Thank you! :)

  • annieseats

    Please see the FAQ page regarding substitutions. Thanks!

  • Heidi Sue

    I made this cake yesterday and brought it into work. The OR and PACU staff polished it off, but there was a tiny corner left that I got to try. It was excellent–thank you for the recipe!