Got Milk(s)?


Cookies dipped in milk too basic for you? (blasphemy!) Try cake soaked in many milks― a.k.a tres leches cake for those of you who haven’t tried this Latin American favorite. My twist on this well-loved recipe? Plantain Tres Leches Cake.

Sliced plantains, pan-fried in sugar and spices, cover the bottom of a light sponge cake soaked in evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and 2% milk. Topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with a combination of cinnamon and allspice, you’ll be digging into this cake with a spoon.

Some recipes use a butter cake but many prefer a sponge cake. Various online sources claim a butterless sponge is more authentic but whether this is true, I’m not sure. Without butter or oil, the lightened batter is able to better absorb all that liquid without falling apart.


No milky mess here.

A self-saucing cake, yes. But never a milky mess.


And if you’re going to eat a very sweet cake, why add unnecessary fat?

Make sure to use super ripe plantains. Because the cake is very sweet, even ripe plantains won’t taste that sweet in comparison.

Sometimes the grocery store by me will have plantains on sale four for $1 (yesss) but more often than not, the produce is a disheartening shade of deep, unripe green. Definitely not suitable for Plantain Tres Leches Cake.

So if you can’t wait for them to ripen or just can’t find plantains, try bananas. Because plantains are firmer than bananas, I slice them thin. If you’re making a Banana Tres Leches Cake, you can slice the fruit a little thicker and sauté them with less sugar.

You can even line the sides of the cake pan with banana slices rather than just the bottom. In that case be sure to butter the pan sides well. Alternatively, consider lining the pan with parchment paper if you want to be absolutely certain the bananas won’t stick to the pan. Just don’t use too much fruit or you’ll lose the lovely texture that is key to a tres leches cake.

Both versions are tasty so whip up a batch of each and see which you prefer!


Border Dessert 3




Recipe Type: Dessert

Bake Time: 25 minutes

Serves 18 to 20

When an airy sponge cake meets sweet plantain slices and is subsequently soaked in a trio of milks, you know it’s time to grab a spoon.


Cake Ingredients

11/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, room temperature, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup 2% or whole milk
Optional: Orange, zested

Pan-Fried Plantain Ingredients

2 very ripe plantains or 4 very ripe bananas, sliced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Milk Bath Ingredients

1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup 2% or whole milk
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

Whipped Cream Ingredients

1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pan-Fried Plantain Instructions

  1. Thinly slice the plantains on a slight bias. (You can use thicker slices if substituting bananas.)
  2. In a skillet, heat a tablespoon of butter over medium heat.
  3. Add as many plantain or banana slices as you can fit without crowding the pan.
  4. Add a tablespoon of brown sugar and caramelize the fruit over medium to medium-low heat, about 3 minutes per side.
  5. Repeat until all the plantain slices are browned but not mushy.
  6. Toss the cooked plantains in cinnamon along with a sprinkle of nutmeg and allspice to taste.
  7. Arrange more than half of the slices in a well-buttered 9 X 13″ baking dish. Set the rest aside.

Cake Instructions

  1. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. Beat the egg whites on low speed until soft peaks begin to form. Slowly add the sugar until the mixture reaches the medium peaks stage.
  3. Slowly add in beaten egg yolks with vanilla extract.
  4. Sift in a third of the dry mixture and fold.
  5. Slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup of 2% or whole milk.
  6. Repeat with a third of the dry mixture, 1/4 cup of milk and the remaining third.
  7. Pour a thin layer of the batter into the baking dish atop the plantain slices, like an upside-down cake.
  8. Add more plantain slices, reserving a few as a garnish.
  9. Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes until golden.
  10. Allow the cake to cool fruit-side up before soaking it in the milk trio. (The cake should still be slightly warm so 10 to 15 minutes of cool time should suffice.)

Milk Bath Instructions

  1. Whisk together evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and either 2% or whole milk.
  2. Add in optional Grand Marnier or orange liqueur of your choice.
    (I generally use 1/2 teaspoon or less but you can’t taste the alcohol. Add more if you’d like a greater impact.)
  3. Place the cake fruit-side down on a serving dish and pierce all over with a fork or toothpick.
  4. Drizzle the milk mixture over the cake very slowly, allowing it to absorb. Pay extra attention to the outer edges because the cake usually dips slightly in the center.
  5. If not using a serving dish with a lid, cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.

Whipped Cream Instructions

  1. In a chilled glass bowl, whip heavy cream on low or medium until it begins to thicken. (Lower speeds will prevent the cream from warming as quickly so you’ll end up with a more stable finished product.)
  2. Slowly add powdered sugar and vanilla extract.
  3. Beat at medium or medium-high speed until it reaches the medium peak stage.

Assembly Instructions

  1. After overnight refrigeration, the cake should have absorbed most of the liquid with only a thin layer pooling at the bottom of the dish.
  2. Gently spread the whipped cream on the cake in an even layer.
  3. Lightly sprinkle with cinnamon and allspice. Top with the remaining plantain slices. Serve immediately or within a week or so. Because of the moisture, Plantain Tres Leches Cake keeps well and will not dry out nor become a soggy mess. The texture does not change much in the refrigerator but don’t bother trying to freeze it.

Pairs Well With

coffeetoasted-walnutsshaved-chocolate Peach Green Tea


* Make sure to use super ripe plantains. Because the cake is very sweet, even ripe plantains won’t taste that sweet in comparison.

* Not a plantain fan or just can’t wait for them to ripen? Use sliced bananas instead.

* If you want to jazz this cake up a bit, try serving it with mini chocolate chips and crushed walnuts― my favorite way of eating Plantain Tres Leches Cake.
Semisweet and dark chocolate chips work well. However I wouldn’t recommend white or milk chocolate because they add too much sweetness.

* Looking for extra credit? Use homemade sweetened condensed milk instead of store bought. The homemade sweetened condensed milk I use for this recipe has less sugar and fat than the canned version.

* If you don’t have 2% or whole milk, try a combination of skim milk and a little fat free half-n-half or heavy cream. Some tres leches cake recipes call for soaking the cake in evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream but I think the cake is plenty rich without heavy cream. I use 2% over whole milk in this recipe anyway.

* To recreate the cake photographed above, spoon a little of the milk mixture on a plate. Sprinkle the piece of cake with a combination of cinnamon and allspice. Top with a plantain slice and enjoy.

Leave a Reply