Blueberry tres leches cake: An alternative to chocolate or a happy (or cruel) Valentine’s Day for Wife?

February 13, 2007


Under doctor’s orders to avoid sweets, my wife is spared the cruelty of commenting on this delicious dessert. (Sadly, she could only look longingly at it and poke it forlornly with a fork. It fell to me to do all the tasting.) So, for a change of pace, you’ll be treated to just the Husband’s thoughts on this recipe. (But fear not, dear readers, I promise to make this cake for her as soon as the doctor lifts the restriction on sweets.)

For the first time in a long time, Valentine’s Day vexed me. Was it that I couldn’t find the right gift? Or decide what to make for dinner? Or find flowers pretty enough to make my wife swoon? No, I was vexed by this this blog.

I was trying to think of ways to reflect romance on a plate. I wanted to create something that is Valentine’s Day. To me, that means dessert; specifically, getting out my bakeware and working with chocolate. Trouble is, when you look out at the universe of yummy Valentine’s Day offerings, the chocolate genre is well covered. Furthermore, my wife likes chocolate, but it’s not her favorite. As we’ve pointed out in previous posts, she’s all about the blueberry.

And what is more romantic: A box of chocolates? Or giving someone something that shows you know them? So, I offer up an alternative to chocolate… I give you “Blueberry Tres Leches Cake.” For those not familiar with tres leches cake, it’s a milk-soaked cake common to Latin American cuisine. Tres leches translates literally as “three milks.” So it’s actually soaked in a combination of evaporated milk, condensed milk and whole milk or cream.


Here, we put a twist on it by blending in some blueberries with our soaking milk. We also add a blueberry coulis (fancy word for strained purée sauce) to reintroduce the acidity and brightness of the blueberries. The coulis also has the benefit of playing down the gray coloring of a cake soaked in blueberry milk. And finally, we top it all with some fresh whipped cream and more blueberries. In essence, we are creating a blueberry-palooza in a cool cake.

Some technical notes before I’m done. First, you can use frozen blueberries in this dish. Aside from the garnish, there isn’t any reason you couldn’t. I actually used fresh here because I keep so many in our fridge to keep the wife and her passenger happy.

Second, this cake can be topped with whipped cream in the pan and cut out. In fact, most recipes use that technique. I don’t do that here strictly for presentation reasons. I wanted the brightness of the coulis to cover up the purple-blue gray of the cake. If I had coated the cake with whipped cream first, I would drizzle the coulis on the plate and/or over top of the whipped cream for the same effect.


Finally, not to get “Semi-Homemade” with you, but I see lots of ways to cut the time and effort on this recipe. For example, you could use your favorite boxed cake recipe and likely turn out an even better version than mine. Or, you could buy a pound cake or similar boxed cake from the grocery and start by soaking that cake. A lot of shortcuts seem available, and you shouldn’t be afraid to grab them!

If this cake reminds you more of summertime then Valentine’s Day, well that’s to be expected. But my valentine would give up chocolate forever if I promised her blueberries every day. Since, I can’t do that for her, I made this. I hope you all have a good time with your special someone tomorrow.

Click here to download the recipe for Blueberry Tres Leches Cake.


Blueberry Tres Leches Cake
Yield: 6-10 servings

1 1/2 cups cake flour (but all-purpose can be used)
5 large eggs (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt

Tres leches (three milks)
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)

2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 lemon (zest and juice)

Fresh Blueberries
Whipped Cream (2 cups heavy cream + 1/2 cup sugar + 1 tsp vanilla)

13 x 9 baking dish (preferably non-stick, if not then greased and floured)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the sugar and butter. Cream together until the butter is light yellow, smooth and fluffy. (About 3-4 min on medium). Add the eggs to the mixer one at a time, waiting for each one to be fully integrated before adding the next. Once all the eggs are integrated, add the salt, vanilla and baking powder. Add the flour to the mixer 1/2 cup at time. You do not need to wait for it to be smooth, you just want the new flour wet. After adding the last bit of flour allow the batter to mix just until the last of the flour is integrated — then stop immediately. You don’t want to overmix; the cake will get tough.

3. Pour the batter out onto your greased and floured 13 x 9 pan. Place in the oven and bake for 30-40 min. You are looking for light browning; the cake is done when a toothpick inserted in its center comes out clean. I would begin checking at 25 min and calibrate time based on that.

4. Once the cake is complete, use a fork to poke several holes over the surface of the cake. Let cool completely.

5. In a blender, or a large bowl if you have a stick blender, add the evaporated milk, condensed milk, cream and blueberries. Blend (“blitz,” for you Brits and Aussies) the mixture together until the berries are broken. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the stem, skins and seeds from the mix.

6. Pour the mixture over the cake about ½ cup at a time. Let the milk be completely absorbed before adding more. This should take 10 minutes or so and may leave you with extra soaking liquid. The goal is to soak the cake, but not make it too soggy. Once the cake has taken enough liquid, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour (three hours would be better).

7. Now we need to make the coulis. In a medium-sized pan over medium heat, add the blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar. Using a spoon or potato masher, begin to break up the berries as you cook. Cook for about 10-12 min or until the sugar is completely absorbed and has come together as a syrup. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain out the skin, seeds and stems. Let the liquid cool.

8. Time to dress up! Once the cake has rested in the fridge, cut a slice from the hunk and place on a plate. Lightly drizzle the couilis across the plate and slice of cake. Top the cake with a large dollop of whipped cream. Add fresh blueberries to garnish. Serve. Enjoy!


  1. I LOVE this recipe… and your blog! Beautiful, and delicious! 🙂

  2. beautiful photos, as always! i have to admit, i’m not a chocolate lover, but cakes really get me going. tres leches happens to be one of my favorites! what’s better than cake…soaked with cream, condensed milk, and evaporated milk?!?! and you made your’s healthy to boot 😛 (the fruit makes it healthy right?)

  3. There are very few desserts without chocolate that would tempt me, but this is one that would! Luscious photos, too.

  4. Frick, this makes me wish that I did sweets.

    Happy Valentines Day!

  5. my god that looks tasy

  6. Yum. That looks beautiful and delicious. Will have to try.

  7. Thank you all for the compliments. And to Amanda, absolutely it’s healthy. See all those beautiful blueberries, they have tons of antioxidents. I mean that more than balances off all the fat and sugar, right? I think so… Okay not likely, but we can hope.

  8. Tres Leches is one of my favorite cakes, but only when I am in a sour mood and want to punish my body with a ridiculous amount of fat and calories.

    And then I am sorry in the morning. I hate being sorry in the morning.

    I think I will just lean over to the screen and drink it in vicariously or those stubborn 25 lbs. may never go away.

  9. No sweets on Valentines! Unimaginable! You’ll be making this all the time once those restrictions are lifted though! It looks beautiful!

  10. Your poor wife, you keep making inbelievably delicious looking treats and she can’t have any of them. She’d better be getting foot massages or something to make up for your cruelty!

  11. There is a lot of pressure to do the chocolate and rose thing for V-day. I agree, much more loving to do the thing that shows you know your special someone. This looks fabulous.

  12. Given the current state of affairs, wouldn’t something chocolate, which wouldn’t tempt your wife as much be the better present this year?

    Either way, at least we know you love us, or else you wouldn’t have shared another master piece with us.

    Or wait maybe you hate us because you show us all these yummy things, and then we can’t taste them RIGHT NOW!

    I am a little confused now, not sure which one it is.

  13. Is there a way to upgrade my husband to the cooking model? Is there a plug-in for that? Please advise ASAP.

  14. Yummy!! The photos are as yummy-licious as the recipe. This would be a good break from the chocolate pies and gateaux!! Love your blog!! Cheers!!Jessica

  15. Courtney — I agree wholeheartedly! What’s the big idea with making a dessert featuring my favorite — blueberries — on Valentine’s Day, no less… when I can’t eat it!

    I’ll be generous and say he only wants to pique my anticipation with this sweet torture. Plus, I didn’t make him anything. So, there’s that. (Then again, he did get to eat an entire blueberry tres leches cake by himself.)

    And Heather — if there were such a software to turn husbands into a “cooking model,” I’d be rich. 🙂 Unfortunately, my hubby managed to upgrade himself — but don’t think I didn’t play my part: I had to shove him into the kitchen at first, and I forced him to watch many hours of food tv. Then of course endless praise is key! It’s worth it, though, when years later you’re forking in delicious meals! Good luck!

  16. Hi! I’ve been browsing your blog recently (I don’t even
    remember how I found it) and really enjoy the pictures,
    the recipes, the story behind the food. Anyway, I just
    wanted to say that I got my boyfriend to make this
    dessert for a party he was having and it was DELICIOUS.
    He’s not a big dessert maker in general, but the recipe
    was very easy to follow. Also, it’s a really nice change
    from the usual brownies/cookies I usually make. I will
    be trying out this recipe again in the future, perhaps
    with different fruit or other flavors. Thanks and keep
    up the yummy work.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: