Active Time: 55 MINTotal Time4 HR 10 MIN
Yield: Serves : 10

Inspired by Fany Gerson’s recipe for tres leches cake from her book My Sweet Mexico, chefs Saqib Keval and Norma Listman and the rest of the team of Masala y Maíz in Mexico City incorporated chai spices, like cinnamon and cardamom, as well as coconut milk and fresh strawberries to update this classic cake.



  • Unsalted butter, for pans
  • 2 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour (about 8 ounces), plus more for pans
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 8 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar


  • 8 green cardamom pods, cracked open
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 4 whole star anise
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 2 (13.5-ounce) cans unsweetened coconut milk, chilled, unshaken

  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 (3-inch) Mexican cinnamon sticks

  • 2 tablespoons loose black tea
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk


  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 cups fresh strawberry slices

How to Make It

Step 1    Make the cake layers

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour 2 (9-inch) round cake pans. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together egg yolks, oil, 1/4 cup water, and vanilla in a separate bowl. Set aside.

Step 2    

Place egg whites in bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. Add cream of tartar, and beat on medium speed until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture to egg whites alternately with yolk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating just until incorporated after each addition. Pour batter into prepared pans, and bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on wire racks 30 minutes. Remove cakes from pans to racks, and cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Step 3    Make the tres leches chai masala

Combine cardamom pods, allspice berries, and star anise in a small skillet. Cook over medium-low, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute and 30 seconds. Add ginger and fennel. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture just begins to smoke, about 30 seconds. Transfer spices to a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, and grind until very finely ground.

Step 4    

Scrape cream from top of coconut milk, and transfer to a small bowl; cover and chill. Combine coconut milk liquid, whole milk, cinnamon sticks, and ground spices in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium, stirring occasionally. Simmer, stirring often, until flavors are infused, about 5 minutes. Add tea, and cook, stirring often, until mixture is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl; discard solids. Whisk condensed milk into mixture until combined.

Step 5    

Using a serrated knife, cut a thin slice (about 1/8 inch) off the top of each cake layer, and discard. Place cake layers, cut sides up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Pierce tops of cakes all over with a fork. Spoon warm milk mixture over cakes, allowing liquid to absorb. Let cakes stand at room temperature 30 to 45 minutes, occasionally spooning milk mixture runoff over cakes. Carefully flip cakes, and continue spooning milk mixture runoff over cakes until most of liquid is absorbed, 30 to 45 minutes. (There may be about 1 cup milk mixture that does not soak in.) Cover and chill cake layers 1 hour.

Step 6    Make the filling and topping

Combine heavy cream and reserved coconut cream in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. With mixer running on medium-high speed, gradually add sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.

Step 7    Assemble the cake

Carefully transfer 1 cake layer to a serving platter. Spread half of whipped cream mixture over top of bottom layer; top with half of strawberries and second cake layer. Spread top with remaining whipped cream mixture. Garnish with remaining strawberries. Chill 1 hour before serving.

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