Coconut Cinnamon Tres Leches Cake with Mexican Vanilla Whipped Cream

A stout bottle of pure vanilla extract and a dozen, foot-long sticks of cinnamon were among the treasures I carted back to my kitchen from our recent adventures in Mexico. Yes, I also imported the requisite tequila, a pottery piece or two, and a selection of colorful table linens, but I was most excited about the aromatics.

I’ve been eager to pair the vanilla and the cinnamon together in an authentic, merit-worthy dessert – and that pot of rice pudding I scorched a while back doesn’t count. Although it hardly fits into the ‘whole foods’ recipe bracket that I usually aim for, today’s coconut tres leches cake was just what I was looking for and most deserving of my precious Mexican ingredients.

Coconut Cinnamon Tres Leches Cake with Mango on

Translated as ‘three milks cake’, Tres Leches is a buttery sponge cake that is soaked in a rich blend of milk varieties, in this case, coconut, evaporated, and thick cream. Before yesterday, I was quite unaware of its qualities, having never tasted it in my 34 years. Now, here I am, inviting you to put a fork to its sweet, cool sponge and be seduced for yourself.

Spotted on Shutterbean (who adapted it from Martha) nearly a year ago, this simple sheet cake has been in the back of my mind to make for ages. I left the flaked coconut out of the original recipe (Danny’s not an enthusiast), and added a generous pour of my Mexican vanilla extract to the cake batter instead.

I also ground one of the cinnamon sticks (I grind my spices myself when possible) and sifted it into the coconut milk and cream. It gave a pretty speckled appearance to the soaking mixture.

Coconut Cinnamon Tres Leches Cake with Mango on

As a finishing touch, I tipped a little more pure vanilla into the whipped cream and spread it generously on the chilled cake. The end result was cool, creamy and dreamy. And it totally reminded me of Mexico.

Paired with silky cubes of mango, this Coconut Cinnamon Tres Leches Cake was the perfect sweet ending to our little Cinco de Mayo weekend party. My boys asked for seconds, which I conceded, then thirds, which I refused.

Everyone needs a solid sheet cake recipe in their back pocket for the summer. Ideally it should  feed a crowd, keep overnight, and be easily decorated in about two minutes flat – even when the cook is slightly buzzed on a fruity summer beverage (although, I can’t think why I would happen to know that fact).

This is such a cake.

Coconut Cinnamon Tres Leches Cake with Mango on

I could happily enjoy this cake all over again next weekend. In fact, I think I may bake it and soak it on Saturday, then leave it in the refrigerator for the boys to finish off on Mother’s Day. They are fully competent to whip cream and wash berries, and they would thrilled to be able to fix dessert for me.

A little Mother’s Day do-ahead has always been my game plan and it works like a charm every year.

Coconut Cinnamon Tres Leches Cake with Mexican Vanilla Whipped Cream

Cool, creamy and dreamy, this traditional Mexican dessert wraps coconut, cinnamon and vanilla flavours together for a simple and memorable summer dessert. Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart via
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Desserts
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 12 people
Calories: 581kcal
Author: Aimee


  • 6 large-sized eggs separated, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract divided
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter melted and cooled, plus more for baking pan
  • 1 cup cake flour divided
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream divided
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk (13.75 ounce can)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounce can)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 ripe mangoes peeled and diced
  • 1 cup mixed seasonal berries for serving


  • Preheat the oven to 350F and butter an 8x11 baking pan.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine egg whites, baking soda, and salt. Beat on medium speed with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form, about 3-4 minutes, depending on the strength of the mixer.
  • Add the egg yolks to the mixer and continue beating until well combined. Add sugar in a slow, steady stream and whisk until well blended. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
  • Stop the mixer, remove the whisk, and fold in the melted butter with a spatula.
  • Sift 1/4 cup flour onto mixture and fold to combine. Repeat with remaining flour, folding in 1/4 cup at a time. Pour batter into the prepared pan; bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • While the cake is baking, whisk together 1 cup heavy cream, the coconut milk, the condensed milk and the cinnamon. As soon as cake is removed from oven, pour cream mixture over cake. Let cake cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cover cake with plastic wrap, and refrigerator at least 5 hours and up to 8 hours.
  • Just before serving, whisk the remaining heavy whipping cream (1 1/2 cups) until soft peaks form and add remaining 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.
  • Spread the whipped cream over cake and smooth with a spatula. Serve cake with diced mango or seasonal berries.


The original recipe calls for a 9x13 baking pan, which you can totally use. The 8x11 in this recipe gives you a slightly taller cake, that is all.


Calories: 581kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 25g | Cholesterol: 181mg | Sodium: 170mg | Potassium: 341mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 40g | Vitamin A: 1475IU | Vitamin C: 12.5mg | Calcium: 155mg | Iron: 1.2mg

And finally…

I had quite a few people on my Facebook page asking for a gluten-free version of tres leches cake. Although I am not sure why they are asking me, with zero food intolerances to my name, I happen to have an answer for them. I am also sharing my source here in case you are on a similar hunt.

The amazing Kelly, of Kelly Bakes, recently developed and posted a Gluten-Free Tres Leches Cake. So there you have it. I’m sure you could substitute coconut milk in for the evaporated milk in her recipe and have something similar to what I have shared with you today. Happy Baking!

Do you have a favorite sheet cake for easy summer entertaining?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Wow, that looks quite impressive. I will have to wait for summer to come around to enjoy this one with mangoes.

  2. Aimee this looks heavenly! Wow. I love the coconut, so tropical!! YUM. YUM. YUM!

  3. Oh, heavens! Just reading the title makes me want this so badly! Can’t wait to make this!!

  4. This sounds sooo good!! Love this idea!

  5. This cake sounds so good. Love mangoes so can’t wait to try making this:)

  6. I cannot get over how AMAZING this dessert looks! I have to make it ASAP. YUM 🙂

  7. How cool, creamy, and delicious! It look like a perfect cake for summer!!!

  8. OOOO, I am drooling at 6:27 am Aimee! What a gorgeous little cake so perfect for Mother’s Day! xoxo

  9. Carrian says

    I love this! It’s so creamy and wonderful!

  10. kelly @ kellybakes says

    5 stars
    Aimee! We need to talk about this combination of flavors for a second. I happen to be a flag-waving vanilla enthusiast. If there was a vanilla pride parade, I would be holding the banner marching in front. I love simple vanilla flavor, but this cake almost begs for something warm and delightful like cinnamon and coconut, especially with the right vanilla! I make the same cake in the summer, only I add bourbon to the milk mixture, bourbon peaches over the top of the cake and top it all off with some bourbon whipped cream. *kisses fingers* perfection! (and sure to get the already-buzzed cook even more so 🙂 Thank you for the link love too! Glad I could help out your GF readers!

  11. (groans of pleasure…) Tres leches is definitely one of my favorite indulgences of all time. Can’t wait to try this version! Thanks!

  12. Oh girl does this cake look wonderful!!!!

  13. This sounds SO insane, I cannot even get over it!

  14. I love tres leches as well! I usually serve mine with fresh pineapple on the side. I find myself making tres leches during summertime because it is simple, flavorful and serves well with seasonal berries. It just happens to be my go-to summer cake. Hmmmm, however I have never posted it on my blog…:P What’s up with that? Maybe I’ll share mine this summer.

  15. I have never eaten or made Tres Leches Cake but now I want too. YUM!! It sounds perfect for summer. I’ll be making this soon!

  16. Oh, Mexican vanilla, how I miss you – the bottle from my trip in 2010 is loooong gone, so I’ll have to live vicariously through you and your cake. (And PS – I’ll eat all the coconut Danny doesn’t want!)

  17. Sheet cakes one of my favourite cakes to make – and this one looks pretty darn incredible.

  18. I always tell to myself that I am going to bake a cake like this one. Thanks for posting the gluten-free version has my brother-in-law is celiac.

  19. A favorite of mine, your Tres Leche cake is so decadant. I’ve eaten the ones with strawberries and kiwi But I love your version using mango…Love it!!!!

  20. I could destroy this entire cake!

  21. um, as if you’re 34! just thought you should know that you look about a decade younger. (we met at FBC2013). this cake looks amaze!

    • Hello my new best friend, Robyn. =) We should hang out more often!

      But I have three kids! Sadly my twenties were long ago. Danny and I are both 34. But the thirties are the new twenties!

  22. I love tres leches cake but have never made it myself, something I will have to soon remedy! Love the fresh fruit toppings!

  23. Tres leches is one of my favorite dessert but have never made it – now its on my mind

  24. Funny, I had never tasted it either, up until the weekend after FBC13… in a gluten-free cupcake form at a cute cupcake shop in Burlington, Ontario. I liked it, but wondered what the gluten sister cupcake would taste like. Now I’ve got a recipe to try! 🙂

  25. Yum, I love tres leches cake! Yours looks wonderful 🙂

  26. 5 stars
    ooh la la! Not only does this look and sound delicious, but I love the idea of making it for mother’s day and letting the kids put the final touches on it. Totally doing this.

  27. This cake looks gorgeous Aimee, and it is definitely bookmarked as something I’ll be making for summer entertaining!

  28. Aimee,
    I’d eat this! I was lucky recipient of a bottle of Mexican vanilla from a friend of my mom’s, and then mom handed over her bottle too, so I got double. That stuff was wonderful–when the bottle is bigger than the glass ones at the grocery store I am more likely to add a teaspoon here and there.
    Clever idea for a do ahead Mother’s day. I start solo parenting that morning and I am not looking forward to being “spoiled” for my special day. I’d rather just be able to cook whatever I want and not have to clean up after myself!

  29. That is one good looking Tres Leches Cake! It has been far too long since I last made one!

  30. Candace Ortiz says

    5 stars
    I made a regular Tres Leches cake for my husband last year on his birthday which everyone loved (of course, since he is Mexican!). I will try this version this year (he’s a May baby so it’s perfect timing) and it’s meant-to-be because I JUST bought a can of coconut milk this week thinking to myself “hmm… I’m sure I can find a use for this, it looks yummy!” Fate at it’s finest, I say.

  31. Yum! Love your take on tres leches cake!

  32. 5 stars
    Nicely done Aimée. Love the photos and how the color of the Mangoes and strawberries offset the creamy whiteness of the cake. Great recipe.

    Of course you do know that the foot long Cinnamon you carted from Mexico is Ceylon Cinnamon right? This is the authentic soft multi layered true Cinnamon that Mexico imports from the Island of Sri Lanka. Hence why you also able to grind it somewhat unlike the cheaper and harder Cassia Cinnamon which has none of refinement of Ceylon cinnamon.

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