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Layered Blood Orange and Coconut Tres Leches Cake

This layered Blood Orange and Coconut Tres Leches Cake was a Cinco de Mayo hit! I thought about trying to make a healthy version of this one, but why mess with a good thing?? You just can't go wrong with the traditional cake soaked in sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream. In this recipe I subbed in coconut cream for the heavy cream and added blood orange juice to the soaking liquid, and then topped the cake with candied blood orange slices. I also used a boxed cake mix as the base for the cake and doctored it up a bit. It was so good! So good, in fact, that I will probably never try to "health-ify" it! Sometimes you just need the real thing!



1 box yellow cake mix

3 eggs

2/3 cup canned coconut milk (full fat)

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

1/4 cup canned coconut cream

Juice of 2 large blood oranges (about 1/2 cup)

Reserved syrup from candied blood orange slices (see below)

1/2 teaspoon orange extract (optional)


1/2 cup canned coconut cream

2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

Candied blood orange slices:

1 blood orange, sliced 1/4 inch thick

2 tablespoons corn syrup

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 cups water


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.

2. The process of candying the blood orange slices should be started prior to baking the cakes, as they will take the longest to make. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water and bring to a boil, stirring to completely dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to a simmer and add orange slices.

3. Continue to simmer orange slices until the sugar mixture is reduced to a syrup-like consistency and the orange slices are translucent, approximately one hour. Remove orange slices and dry completely on a wire rack. Reserve blood orange syrup for soaking the cake later. The candied orange slices could also be done ahead of time, even a day or two in advance.

4. To make the cake, beat together cake mix, eggs, coconut milk, softened butter, and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Mix until well combined.

5. Transfer batter to prepared cake pans. Bake for approximately 25 - 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

6. While cakes are cooling, prepare the soaking liquid for the cake. Whisk together evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, coconut cream, blood orange juice, and reserved blood orange syrup. You can also mix in the orange extract (optional) if you want an even stronger citrus flavor.

7. Remove cakes from pans once cooled and place one cake layer on the cake stand or plate for serving. Using a fork, poke holes all over the top of the layer, making sure to pierce the cake all the way through. Slowly pour the soaking liquid over the cake, filling the holes.

8. Place the first cake layer in the refrigerator and allow it to soak for about 30 minutes. While the first cake layer is soaking, make the coconut whipped cream by combining heavy cream, coconut cream, powdered sugar, and coconut extract and whipping on high speed until stiff peaks form. You want the whipped cream to be firm enough to spread as the icing in between the layers and on the outside of the cake.

9. Remove first layer from refrigerator and spread a thick layer of prepared coconut whipped cream over the top. This will act as a barrier for the liquid that will be poured over the top layer.

10. Place the top cake layer, flat side up, on top of the whipped cream. At this point I would suggest also icing the sides of the cake with a thick layer the whipped cream, as that will help keep the soaking liquid contained within the cake.

11. Repeat the process of poking holes in the top layer of the cake, and pour soaking liquid on top of this layer. Allow to soak again in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

12. Spread remaining whipped cream on top of the cake and smooth out. Top with candied orange slices.

Note: This recipe could also be made as a single-layer sheet cake, which is the traditional method of preparing tres leches cake. However, baking time will be slightly longer for a single sheet cake (about 30 - 35 minutes).

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