Coconut Mango Tres Leches Cake

A wheeled cornucopia goes down our street every day, with vendors selling everything ripe and local out of the backs of their trucks. In the summer, I can step out of the gate and buy mangoes by the kilo. Until then, I have to walk a block to the nearest store for mangoes coming from further south.

Until we moved to Mexico, I never knew the aroma and taste of mangoes picked ripe and juicy. And the variety! The common Tommy Atkins, known familiarly as “Tommy” in Mexico, the luscious Ataulfo, also called the Champagne mango, the large, firm Haden, the Keitt, still green when ripe, and the Kent mango, almost fiberless. These are the common mangoes of Mexico, exported by the ton, maybe coming this summer to a supermarket near you. When you find some, eat them raw and fresh, standing over the sink — or better yet, in the surf — so as not to drip the staining juices on your shirt. If there are any left over, make Mango Coconut Tres Leches Cake.

Tres Leches cakes are the cake of Mexico. Probably of European origin, this cake is known for its high moisture level, due to its saturation with three milks — condensed milk, evaporated milk and cream. Some think it is too wet. Well, that is part of its charm. If it wasn’t wet, it wouldn’t be a tres leches cake, just another white frosted cake. My cakes are hardly ever white, nor are they overly sweet. As in many of my baking recipes, this one has whole wheat flour and decreased sugar. It also has coconut oil instead of butter and coconut milk instead of dairy milk. The inspiration came from a recent recipe in the New York Times for Mango Tres Leches Cake. Its addition of Spanish brandy is a touch of genius.

This was one of those rare times when I actually had an uncommon ingredient on hand, thanks to Costco. If you don’t have Spanish brandy, cognac is fine. If you don’t have cognac, the cake will still be very good.


Coconut Mango Tres Leches Cake

  • 1  1/2 cups (6.5 oz./185 grams) sifted whole wheat flour*
  • 1/2 cup (3.5 oz./100 grams) plus 1/4 cup (1.75 oz./50 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3.5 grams) salt
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 5 tablespoons ( 2.25 oz./63 grams) melted coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 cups (17 oz./240 grams) cubed mango
  • 2 cups (473 ml.) unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 can (14 oz./397 grams) condensed sweetened milk
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60ml.) Spanish brandy or cognac (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 ml.) very cold heavy cream (called crema para batir in Mexico)
  1. Butter a 9-inch-by-13-inch (23 cm. x 33 cm.) baking pan; heat oven to 350 deg. F. (180 C.).
  2. In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in 1/2 cup sugar.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together egg yolks, melted coconut oil, 3 tablespoons coconut milk and vanilla.
  4. Beat egg whites until frothy, add cream of tartar. Before peaks form, add 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until slightly stiff.
  5. Whisk half of flour mixture into yolk mixture. Whisk in 1/4 egg whites. Carefully fold in another 1/4 egg whites with a large spatula or balloon whisk.
  6. Sift half of remaining flour mixture into batter, and fold in. Fold in 1/4 egg whites. Fold in remaining flour mixture. Fold in remaining egg white. Do not over-mix.
  7. Spoon batter into prepared pan, smooth top,  and bake 25 minutes, or until center tests dry with a wooden toothpick. Cool on a rack.
  8. In a small pan, heat coconut milk, condensed milk and brandy until hot. Pour over cake. Cover and chill cake for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  9. Puree mango in a food processor until smooth. Add additional sugar to taste if the mango is not sweet.
  10. At serving time, whip cream until stiff. Fold in half of mango puree.  Spread mango cream over the cake. Spoon remaining puree on top and swirl into whipped cream with a spatula.


~  * After sifting, you should have 1 1/2 cups of flour; save bran for muffins or bread.

~ When whipping cream, especially in the summertime, use very cold cream, and pre-chill the mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer. This will prevent you from unexpectedly making butter instead.

~ Use organic ingredients when possible. This minimizes our exposure to pesticides and herbicides, as well as lessening contamination in water and soil. The Coconut Mango Tres Leches Cake was made with organic coconut milk, organic coconut oil, organic sugar, eggs from free-range chickens and locally grown, unsprayed mangoes.


43 thoughts on “Coconut Mango Tres Leches Cake

  1. Mary from Alberta, Canada

    This is marvelous Kathleen!

    I appreciate that you are taking the time to explain/share your expertise/knowledge. Sometimes, when looking at recipes, it can get a little overwhelming with all the ‘specialty’ ingredients. I am not much of a computer person either, so when I go online to try and figure things out, I end up getting even more confused!

    I found the Mexican Coconut Mango Tres Leches Cake to be exactly as you described: less ‘branny’, no chewy little bits and you still get that delicious, nutty whole wheat flavour. Thanks to your inspiration, I may have to try more cakes with sifted whole wheat flour and separated, beaten egg whites. I am glad to know that I can substitute sifted whole wheat flour for whole wheat pastry flour as well – I have too many of bags of flour in my pantry as it is: all purpose, bread, cake & pastry, unbleached, whole wheat – WHEW!

    Please wish your husband, Russ, a belated happy birthday from me: a fellow Mexican Coconut Mango Tres Leches Cake lover!

    Mary and her happy tummy! :0D

    1. Glad you liked it, Mary. If you do substitute sifted whole wheat flour for whole wheat pastry flour, you will have better results if you use 50% whole wheat (sifted) flour, and 50% all purpose white flour. I find that pastry that is 100% whole wheat flour is very difficult to handle and shape, though this may be because I don’t have w.w. pastry flour, just regular w.w. flour.
      I almost never use white flour for cakes — just sifted w.w. flour — and the results are never disappointing.
      Happy Baking!

  2. Mary from Alberta, Canada

    Good afternoon Kathleen,

    I did indeed see your e-mail, I shall reply forthwith. A big THANK YOU for posting and sharing this recipe. I made it this past Canada Day long weekend and it turned out just like yours! Amazing, considering you are half way around the globe from me and have a different climate, equipment and ingredients than I do.

    Anyone considering making this recipe of yours, really should try it if they enjoy the taste of coconut and mango in the slightest. This a stupendous cake – worth every penny for every ingredient and every second spent creating it. Not only does this cake look deliciously gorgeous, it has a wonderful balance of flavours and textures. From the nuttiness and slight dryness of whole wheat cake to the creamy-dreamy moisture from ‘tres leches’ (three milks) and it is all combined with the extra added flavour sensation of coconut and a touch of booze. ;-P

    Just out of curiosity: Why is the bran sifted out of the whole wheat flour? Would it then be considered whole wheat pastry flour or a suitable substitute for whole wheat pastry flour?

    Happy July 4th to you and ciao for now,


    1. I made it also — for husband Russ’es birthday — and it was enjoyed by all. It is so good, that maybe it will become a birthday tradition, especially when we have plenty of mangoes in June. It makes a big cake. I am going to halve the recipe and bake it in a 8″x 8″ when I’m not baking for a crowd.

      The flour is sifted to remove the bran so that a very tender cake is still produced. Traditionally, whole wheat flour is not thought of as being able to make a tender cake. If the bran is left in, the “chew” is a little tough — you can feel the little pieces of bran. Maybe other flours aren’t so “branny”, but that is my experience with the Tres Estrellas brand of whole wheat flour that I buy in Mexico.

      I find that sifted whole wheat flour is perfect for cakes, especially in this recipe where beaten egg whites add to the tender texture of the cake. Most of the time, those eating my cakes are not aware that they are baked with whole wheat flour.

      Pastry flour is different that just removing the bran. Bread flour, regular flour (all purpose) and pastry flour differ from each other by the percentage of gluten (a type of protein) they contain. The lower flour is in gluten/protein, the more tender its results. Bread flour is high in gluten, because we want a chewy bread with more texture. Cake flour is the lowest, with pastry flour being slightly higher in gluten than cake flour. I would not say that sifted whole wheat flour is exactly a substitute for whole wheat pastry flour, but I use it as a substitute because I can’t buy whole wheat pastry flour here in Mexico.

  3. Mary from Alberta, Canada

    Dear Kathleen,

    I thank you for your prompt and informative response to my querie, dearie! How I wish that I could say that my face was red from what is probably a gorgeously hot Mexican day! Alas and alack, we ourselves have a veritable monsoon today, with my boulevard trees standing in pools of water.

    Just teasing, it was not my intention to embarass you in anyway, I just like to improve my chances of a successful baking venture – I’ll let you know how it goes. Actually, it is true about my trees… boo hoo hoo.

    But, hurrah, my little bundles of sunshine (mangoes) are getting deliciously ripe and crinkly (not quite wrinkled, but a bit more than dimpled)… soon… soon… I shall experience the giddiness of attempting a new tasty treat!

    Your new friend from the northern hemisphere,


    1. Dear Mary,

      I came home today with 4 mango beauties that will be used in a Mango Tres Leches Cake this week-end. Thank you for reminding me about this treat. We will all enjoy it, and I hope that includes you and yours as well.

      P.S. I hope you see the email I sent to you.

  4. Mary from Alberta, Canada

    Hello there Kathleen,

    I am new to your site & had a great time looking around (for hours/days ;-P). I read your update on how your life has taken a ‘different turn’, so if you don’t reply that is understandable (that’s life – it constantly changes!). I admire your dedication and passion for pure/real food and traditional Mexican recipes. I would like to thank you for the time and expertise that you have taken in sharing your experiences in this blog over the years. (I am not a blogger, but am continually surprised at the amount of blogs that are ‘out there’ and the time and energy it must take to maintain them!)

    This is an absolutely delicious looking recipe – that mango & cream topping makes me want to dive in face first! Ahem… sorry about that… I’ll try to control myself from here on in… Coincidentally, I have mangoes ripening on my counter as I type, as well as most of the other ingredients. I would like to try this recipe for the coming weekend – never tried tres leches cake before. :-(

    I have a goofy little question for you about step #10: I tried looking through the entire recipe and couldn’t find the amount of whipping cream required for the topping. I am guessing by looking at the taste tempting pictures that it will be 2 cups (500 mL) before whipping? Then fold in the mango puree…

    Again, my gratitude for your kindness in sharing and my best wishes for your future life adventures,

    Mary from Alberta, Canada

    1. Mary,

      Boy, is my face ever red! I can’t believe that for all the comments this recipe elicited, no one pointed out before that there was no amount given for the whipped cream, nor did I catch it. Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention. Please use 1.5 cups of heavy cream. I also added a note about whipping cream that you will find below the recipe.

      I no longer find enough time to keep up with blogging (I still check for comments and questions), but I am thrilled that so many people like yourself still read it and are actually inspired to try some of the recipes. Thank you for your kind words and good wishes. I hope you try a few more recipes.

      It is once again that time of year when I have mangoes on the kitchen counter. Reading over this recipe and looking at the photos inspires me to make it again. Perhaps we will both be making and enjoying Mango Tres Leches Cake next week-end!

      Update: As of October 2015, I am blogging again. New recipes and reviews are being posted. Thanks to hundreds of readers who patiently waited for me to return.


  5. As always this looks ammmmmmaaaaazing girl!!! Wish we were neighbors!!! Can you imagine the fiestas we could host together? Kinda funny that we are all on a mango and coconut kick. That goes to show you the endless possibilities of these wonderful ingredients combined together.

  6. wow, that looks absolutely delish. I have a tres leches cake recipe that includes Cream of Coconut. I love the fact that the cake is “wet.” yours looks, well, yum!

  7. Kathleen this looks wonderful. I would love to sink my teeth into a piece right now. I am so sorry I came late, I’m sure it is all gone now! :D

    I love the champagne mangos and pick them up when I see them at Whole Foods. I have a Kent mango tree in my yard and this year it looks like I will get a lot of mangoes. Last year the fruit didn’t set too well. Now I just have to figure out how to battle the squirrels for them!

    1. Yes, it is all gone, but I’ll same a piece for you next time. :)
      Even here, the mangoes have off years. Last year was a banner year, but we will have to wait to see if there is a bounty again. How fortunate you are to have your own mango tree. Our yard is not large enough for one.

  8. I have a flat of Ataulfo mangos on the counter, watching and testing…….the first two I had were so flavorful but a bit tart like almost lemony – I tossed one with a banana and what a marriage made in heaven. I think by the weekend they will be perfect to test in this recipe. Did you see my note on Facebook where I said I was licking my computer screen when this photo showed up there – what a great photo !!

    1. I’m so glad you can get ataulfo mangoes where you are. Does the flat give their country of origin? The ones here are very sweet. I make a fake banana ice cream using only frozen bananas. I’ll have to try adding frozen mango. Yes, I saw your comment. :)

  9. Lorin Johnson

    This looks and sounds fantastic. I heard that the local Safeway had some really good mangos last week. If they don’t still, I can get some good frozen ones and give this a try.

  10. I adore tres leches, but have never tried a mango version…the second pic is stunning, love the swirls of mango. We have mangos at our local market and we have been buying them by the loads, great recipe..I will try this soon..take care!


  11. Peggy Davidson

    Hi Kathleen: Thanks so much for posting this recipe. I’ve been thinking about it since you served it in La Cruz last Thursday – even went out and bought frozen mangoes in anticipation of making it for our friends. I’m having people over for ‘brunch’ on Sunday and intend to use all recipes from your Blog. Give our best to Russell and Chucha(?). Regards to all – Peggy & Ted

    1. Peggy,
      It was so nice to meet you. What a compliment, that your brunch recipes will all be from Cooking in Mexico. I wish we could be there. You will have to tell me all about it when you next return to Mexico.
      P.S. Good idea to use frozen mangoes when they are not yet in season.

  12. Well, it looks like we are on a similar wave length two weeks in a row! I also just wrote about mangoes. This cake looks downright delicious. Too bad Cooking in Mexico isn’t cooking in Maryland.

  13. Yum! As always great photos, great recipe. :) I just watched the Alton Brown show on milk; he did a spot on tres leches cake. I learned a lot from him and hopefully will be able to try out your recipe soon! Thanks.

    1. I made Alton’s recipe last year for a birthday party, decreasing the sugar. It was a good cake and I would make it again. I also learn a lot from his programs, he is so scientific in his explanations.

  14. Darlene

    Wow! That looks delicious. I just finished making Kathleen’s Mango Chutney and have 3 left over diced mangoes in the freezer. I have no choice but to make this dessert, but first my misson will be to find some Spanish Brandy (the touch of genius). Can’t wait..

  15. I adore tres leches cakes and never even bothered to look up a recipe because I knew that it was just too bad for me to know how to bake. But this is a great one and looks delicious. I love the addition of cool mango to the milky wet cake. I hope you enjoyed every bite of this.

    For me, I am printing this recipe and hope to bake one this weekend. Thankyou!!

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