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!

  • Yield about 12-16 servings


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.