Pistachio Cardamom Tres Leches Cake Recipe

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If I were to rank my favorite desserts, the creamiest ones would make the top of the list. This may seem controversial, but I would take a scoop of ice cream over a slice of chocolate cake any day. I love the refreshing milky taste and the lingering cooling feeling on my tongue. So, it’s no surprise that two of my favorite treats are kulfi and tres leches cake.

Kulfi is a South Asian frozen dessert traditionally made from a base of slow-cooked sweet milk and spices reduced into a thick liquid. Tres leches cake is a moist milk-soaked sponge cake of Latin American origin (though the exact origin is often debated!). 

A Tres Leches Cake Inspired By Kulfi

Given their similarities, I thought it would be fitting to create a tres leches cake using typical Indian spices and flavors from kulfi. The result is a tres leches cake featuring a pistachio-studded sponge cake soaked in spiced milk topped with whipped cream and chopped pistachios. The base recipe was adapted from A Cozy Kitchen’s tres leches cake. 

Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan


Why Use Three Types of Milk?

Tres leches cake, so named because of its use of three kinds of milk, traditionally features condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream. This version uses whole milk instead of heavy cream for a lighter mixture to contrast the sweeter, richer condensed milk. Using all three milks ensures a balanced sweetness and a rich consistency without weighing down the cake.

Tips and Tricks for Making Tres Leches

  • Don’t overmix the batter: Avoid overmixing to ensure a light and spongy texture. Whipped egg whites can be tricky to fold, so I recommend stirring in the first third of the egg whites to lighten up the batter before folding in the remaining whites.
  • Whip the egg whites to medium peaks: Many recipes call for beating the whites to stiff peaks, but that can sometimes lead to more folding (and overmixing or deflating). Instead, I recommend medium peaks. Medium peaks occur when you lift the batter, and the meringue peak holds its shape, but the tip just slightly curls on itself. Be careful not to under whip the whites, or the cake won’t have enough structure. 
  • Make sure the cake is fully cooked: An underbaked cake is never ideal, but with tres leches, the cake will become soggy if the middle isn’t cooked through. Err on the side of a drier cake here to help absorb more moisture. 

Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan


Make This Tres Leches Cake Your Own

Everyone has their own personal preference when it comes to tres leches. 

  • This cake yields a moderately soaked cake; for a well-soaked cake, increase the amount of whole milk in the soaking liquid to 1 cup. 
  • A little bit of almond extract brings out the pistachio flavor, but if you happen to have pistachio extract, you can use that too. 
  • Don’t have cardamom? You can substitute cinnamon or a warming spice mix like chai masala. 

How to Make Tres Leches Cake Ahead of Time

Tres leches cake is a great make-ahead dessert, and this variation is no different. 

  • The milk soak can be made up to one day in advance and chilled in the fridge. Bring it back up to room temperature before pouring it over the cake. 
  • You can also bake the cake and soak it in advance. An overnight soak in the fridge is actually recommended to give enough time for the milk to penetrate the whole cake and develop flavor. Just before serving, make the whipped cream and pistachio topping.

Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan


Globe-Trotting Desserts

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