Tres Leches Coconut Cake Trifle

Posted on 03/05/2012 by layers_of_eli
This is a coconut lover's dream. Dive into billowy, moist clouds of Tres Leches Coconut Cake, coconut pastry cream, freshly whipped cream, and toasted coconut. This dessert is best made at least a day in advance so the flavors can meld and the cake can soak up all its coconut love. Even though there are several steps to making this trifle, the end product (and the process!) is totally worth the effort.

Speaking of that -- of Cooking Hard Stuff and whether or not it's worth the effort -- I've written an essay on my blog called IN DEFENSE OF COOKING HARD STUFF. Give it a read if you're not sold on big cooking projects just yet ;)

And if you're a fan (like me) of trying a challenging recipe every now and then, tell me what you're MOST proud of making!

Tres Leches Coconut Cake Trifle

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, adapted from All Recipes (cake) and Zoe Bakes (coconut pastry cream)
Yield: serves about 10 people

Cake Ingredients:
1 cup white sugar
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 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Three Milks Sauce Ingredients:
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk, minus 1/2 cup
3/4 cup coconut milk

Coconut Pastry Cream Ingredients:
1 can (14 fluid ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch kosher salt
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Whipped Cream Ingredients:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons icing sugar
toasted coconut for assembly and topping

Note: This trifle actually tastes better if it can sit in the fridge for a day, so feel free to make it in advance. To toast coconut, spread it on a baking sheet and bake it at 350 degrees F for a few minutes, stirring every now and then, until it's toasted and browning. Transfer it to a plate to cool before using it.

Make the coconut pastry cream: Mix the coconut milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla in a medium saucepan and heat it over medium heat. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and corn starch. When the coconut milk mixture gets hot, temper the egg yolks by scooping up 1/2 cup of milk and slowly drizzling it into the yolks while whisking. This prepares them to be added to the hot mixture without becoming scrambled eggs! Now add the tempered yolks back into the coconut milk mixture that's still on the stove and whisk for 3 minutes on medium-high, or until the mixture turns thick and bubbles. Make sure to whisk continually for the full 3 minutes so your pastry cream doesn't separate. After the 3 minutes, whisk in the butter and then the coconut. Pour the cream into a shallow dish to let it cool.

Cover the cooled cream with plastic wrap pressed right against the pastry cream, which will prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate the pastry cream for an hour as you do the following steps. Once it is cold, stir the pastry cream to loosen it up. Whisk the 1/2 cup of heavy cream to medium peaks in a chilled bowl. Stir in a third of the whipped cream into the pastry cream to lighten before folding in the rest.

Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease two 9-inch cake pans (I use Wilton's Cake Release and put a circle of parchment paper, also greased, in each pan). In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with the 3/4 cup sugar until they are light and doubled in volume. Mix in the coconut milk, vanilla and coconut extracts, flour, and baking powder.

In a separate bowl (don't use the same bowl as the yolks, because with any fat in the bowl, the whites won't beat up), beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form (but not until the whites become are dry). Fold the whites gently into the yolk mixture until no streaks remain and pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake them at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before running a knife around the edge of the cake layers and inverting them onto a cooling rack. Cool them completely.

Make whipped cream: Whip the 2 cups of cream and icing sugar together in a chilled bowl to stiff peaks.

Assemble the trifle: Whisk together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, and the coconut milk for the Three Milks Sauce. Place one cake layer in the bottom of your trifle dish and poke holes in it with a fork. Pour about 2/3 cup of the milks mixture over it and let it sit for around 30 minutes. Top it with all of the coconut pastry cream and half of the whipped cream.

Poke the other cake layer with a fork (you do this before you put it in the dish because it's kind of hard to poke it once it's on top of the splushy cream) and pour another 2/3 cup of the milks mixture over it (you'll have quite a bit of the milks mixture leftover -- one resourceful person on All Recipes said she whisked an egg and some spices in, dipped bread in it, and used it to make French toast. You could also just discard it). Cover the trifle and refrigerate it for 30 minutes. "Frost" the trifle with whipped cream and top with toasted coconut. Let the whole thing sit overnight in the fridge before eating -- it gets better with time! Give it a whole day in there if you have the time.

To read my essay, "In Defense of Cooking Hard Stuff," join in the Cooking Hard Stuff Challenge, and see more Milk-Soaked Coconut Cake in a Bucket, please head over to Willow Bird Baking!

x-posted to food_porn, cooking, picturing_food, and bakebakebake
layers_of_eli 6th-Mar-2012 01:11 am (UTC)
Just to kick it off: I think my proudest cooking moment to date (I almost said my proudest coconut moment) has EITHER been perfecting my Chinese steamed buns (soooo proud of that one) or making homemade croissants.
mana_goddess 6th-Mar-2012 04:13 am (UTC)
In a similar vein, I once made Bobby Flay's Toasted Coconut Cake with Coconut Filling and Coconut Buttercream. Yes, that's about 3 hours of active prep time for ONE cake. But it was SO worth it. If you have the patience, I highly recommended it.

Edited at 2012-03-06 04:17 am (UTC)
layers_of_eli 6th-Mar-2012 01:19 pm (UTC)
I always have the patience for coconut cake! It sounds amazing!!!
rhodielady_47 6th-Mar-2012 10:07 am (UTC)
That is a fine little essay you cooked up and served to us!
Thanks for sharing! i so want to try making your coconut trifle and soon.
layers_of_eli 6th-Mar-2012 01:19 pm (UTC)
Why thank you :D
rinabeana 6th-Mar-2012 10:38 am (UTC)
Excellent defense! I'm all for easy during the week, but I tend to rebel against the tendency for the adjectives "quick" and "easy" seemingly being required for recipes. The recipe that gives me the greatest sense of accomplishment is Esther Bolick's Orange Marmalade Cake from the Mitford series of books by Jan Karon. The genesis was that she wanted a descriptive cake that would be characteristic of one of the members in her fictional town and she herself does not care for chocolate. Thus, the orange marmalade cake was born. After the first book, readers started contacting her for the recipe, which did not exist. But due to an overwhelming fan response, it exists now! I term it the cake to end all cakes. Every time I make one, it has a little photo shoot on my kitchen counter. You can find slightly different versions (2-layer vs. 3-layer) of the recipe online.

layers_of_eli 6th-Mar-2012 01:20 pm (UTC)
Oh my goodness, it looks amazing! That thing NEEDS to happen in my kitchen. Mike would go bananas.
rinabeana 8th-Mar-2012 10:33 am (UTC)
I was wondering if you'd heard of it or made it before. It's well worth the effort (not difficult, just a little time consuming). The first time I made it (for my uncle's birthday, after reading the entire Mitford series), for some idiotic reason I scrupulously followed the directions. This included placing both layers upside down and not trimming to flatness, which was against my better judgment. Of course, I should have followed my better judgment because my cake had the Grand Canyon running across the top. I was mortified, but my uncle's comment was, "It doesn't taste cracked." (Very dry sense of humor, that one.) Anyway, I was not daunted into not trying again because it was delicious, if not as pretty as it should have been.

I'm looking forward to seeing a post when/if you try this!

layers_of_eli 8th-Mar-2012 01:29 pm (UTC)
I'd never even heard of it, but it sounds wonderful. LOL, I think I'd like your uncle, too. Sounds like just the right kind of person to serve an ugly recipe too ;)
layers_of_eli 8th-Mar-2012 01:30 pm (UTC)
You know, I have some clementine syrup sitting in the fridge from making candied clementines. I bet this would be awesome as a clementine marmalade cake as well! Hmmm, clementine marmalade...
vettecat 6th-Mar-2012 05:43 pm (UTC)
That looks amazing!
layers_of_eli 6th-Mar-2012 07:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
weerainbow 6th-Mar-2012 09:17 pm (UTC)
I'm saving this in hopes I'll have times to try it out during a holiday this year. It looks and sounds gorgeous!!
I have a Tiramisu recipe that requires a number of steps and mixing that takes quite a while (though not as much effort as this) but I refuse to use the quick recipe in another book because the taste is absolutely no comparison. Sometimes that extra bit of effort really pays off and I am a strong believer in taking the time if it's worth it for the end results :o)
Thank you so much for sharing this great recipe! ♥
layers_of_eli 7th-Mar-2012 04:33 am (UTC)
So true!! Sometimes shortcuts shortchange the flavor. And it sounds like I need that tiramisu recipe... ;)

weerainbow 8th-Mar-2012 01:33 am (UTC)
The tiramisu recipe is from Gordon Ramsay's Just Desserts and in my opinion it is a really fabulous recipe. I make it without the liqueur since I'm not a fan of alcohol and it still tastes delicious. It's been a while since I made it but any time I have I've been glad I put in the effort so I could go "Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmyyyyyy" after eating ;o)
layers_of_eli 8th-Mar-2012 01:42 am (UTC)
Yum!! Must look it up! Thanks for the rec :D
rachelpage 12th-Jan-2015 05:01 am (UTC)
It looks delicious and picture perfect!
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