lighter tres leches cake
With much less sugar and fat than the original, this lighter tres leches cake is a delicious and lower calorie way to enjoy the Latin American favorite!
Many years ago my mom and I tried tres leches cake at a friend’s birthday party. We were blown away by the flavor and concept of a cake soaked in three milks. Tres leches cake has been my mom’s favorite ever since.
Although I love the classic cake soaked in a mixture of heavy cream, condensed and evaporated milk, I often find the traditional version too sweet for my palette. I’ve also observed a fine line between perfectly moist and too soggy tres leches cake. I wanted a recipe that upheld the tradition of baked good while preserving my preference for healthier desserts.
After some experimentation I decided to keep the heavy cream but to swap out the condensed milk and evaporated milk for healthier options. Condensed milk contains upwards of 166 grams of sugar per cup (which is the amount called for in most recipes). I decided to omit the condensed and evaporated milks altogether and replace them with coconut milk (for richness and flavor) and unsweetened vanilla almond milk for balance. To replace some sugar lost in the absence of condensed milk, I added a light touch of brown sugar (only 60ish grams worth), vanilla, and cinnamon; non traditional ingredients that amplify the sweetness without excess sugar.
My family went wild for the finished product and I was so thrilled to have found a healthy-ish alternative for my mom’s favorite cake.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. Leave me a comment if you have any questions or if you get a chance to bake this cake!
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A lower sugar, lower calorie version of the traditional tres leches cake.
- Vegetable oil spray
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup flour
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ cup canola oil (can use other neutral flavored oil like sunflower or vegetable oil)
3 milks mixture
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup unsweetened vanilla (or plain) almond milk
- ½ cup full fat coconut milk
- ⅓ cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Whipped cream topping
- 1 cup heavy cream, cold
- 2–3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Spray a 9X13 baking dish with cooking spray, set aside.
- Bring 2 inches of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer.
- Reduce the heat under the saucepan to low and place the bowl of eggs and sugar on top of the saucepan of simmering water.
- Whisk the eggs and sugar together constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have a food thermometer, simply heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture looks thick, syrupy and the eggs are foamy, 3-5 minutes.
- Remove the mixture from the heat and set the bowl in the stand mixer.
- With the whisk attachment in place, beat the eggs and sugar until the eggs form a stable foam and the mixture has tripled in size.
- The mixture is ready when it forms a ribbon as it falls from the whisk back into the bowl, 3-5 minutes on medium high speed.
- Add the vanilla and salt to the egg mixture, beat for a couple seconds until combined.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift the flour and baking powder over the top of the batter.
- With a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the eggs being careful not to knock too much air out of the mixture. (You can also whisk the batter in the standing mixer until the flour is just incorporated, 1-2 minutes.)
- Slowly stream the neutral oil into the side of the bowl and fold by hand or whisk in the standing mixer until completely incorporated with the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, bake on the center rack of the preheated oven until the cake is golden brown, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. The cake may sink in the middle, that’s ok.
- While the cake is baking, combine the heavy cream, almond milk, and coconut milk together in a saucepan with the brown sugar.
- Slowly heat over medium low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Cook until the sugar dissolves and steam is rising from the top of the milk, 3 minutes.
- Remove the mixture from the heat, add the cinnamon and vanilla to the hot milks and pour the milk into a large measuring cup (or spouted bowl) to come to room temperature.
- When the cake is done, remove the dish from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the baking dish for 20 minutes.
- You can leave the cake in the dish or run a knife along the edges and transfer the cake onto a rimmed serving platter.
- Let the cake come to room temperature, about an hour, and poke holes all over the surface of the cake with a skewer or a fork.
- Slowly drizzle the liquid over the entire cake, letting additions of milk absorb before adding more.
- Cover the cake with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.
- Just before you’re ready to serve the cake, make the topping.
- Pour the cold heavy cream into the bowl of a standing mixer.
- With the whisk attachment in place, beat the heavy cream on medium speed until just starting to hold its shape.
- Add the powdered sugar to the cream and continue to whisk until stiff peaks form, being careful not to over-whip the cream or you’ll end up with butter. The whole process should take about 3-4 minutes.
- Spread the whipped cream over the top of the cake, sprinkle with extra cinnamon if desired. Slice the cake into squares, and serve with your favorite coffee.
- The cake is best eaten the same day but leftovers can be covered with plastic wrap and kept in the fridge for 2-3 days.