This No Bake Chai Tres Leches Cake takes only 7 ingredients and 15 minutes of work to make the most delightfully soft and moist cake with a delicate chai flavor. This recipe is based on my uber popular Easy No Bake Tres Leches, which has had hundreds of remakes this year alone!
This is the EASIEST Tres Leches recipe you will ever find, even easier than using box-mix cake. The secret? Ladyfingers! When I was developing my easy no bake Tres Leches cake recipe, I was surprised to find out no one had used that hack before (at least not that I found). Ladyfingers are a great substitute for the cake because they are made using the same biscuit sponge cake batter that is used for the light and fluffy cake for Tres Leches! They remove the hassle of baking, and allow you incredible flexibility in how big or small you want the Tres Leches cake to be, and also how you want to serve it (e.g., one dish vs individual portions).
The chai flavor is added to the three milk mixture by steeping the milk in chai (tea leaves). The quantity can be adjusted depending on how strong you want the flavor to be.
WHAT IS CHAI?
Chai, a popular beverage originating from the Indian Subcontinent, made by infusing black tea leaves with water and/or milk. The word "chai" itself means "tea" in Urdu, and this beloved drink is characterized by its warm and comforting taste. Masala chai recipes often include ingredients like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg, which are simmered with black tea and milk to create a rich, fragrant concoction.
In Pakistan, where I grew up, Chai is more than just a drink - it is an integral part of our culture, with many people drinking 3 or more cups a day, and our social and familial activities are often centered around Chai.
Chai traveled from India to Britain through Britain's colonization, and today has gained popularity around the globe, with popular restaurant and coffee chains in the US now serving "Chai Tea Lattes" (by the way, saying Chai Tea is redundant!).
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
This No Bake Chai Tres Leches Cake requires only seven ingredients (including an optional one)! Yes - you heard me right. You will find the exact quantities in the recipe card below, but let's do a quick overview here:
- Evaporated milk: I use Nestle Carnation, which is available everywhere. You will need one 12oz can
- Sweetened condensed milk: Again, I use Nestle! This makes the three milk mix a bit thicker and sweet, so you don't need sugar. Since I don't like my cake to be too sweet, I use about ¾th of the can. Great thing is, you can taste and adjust however you please!
- Chai - you want to use ground black tea or black tea leaves. I strongly recommend using Tapal Danedar as it has a wonderful, potent chai flavor
- Cardamom powder: I enjoy adding just a hint of cardamom and no other masala to this cake, mostly because I don't like masala (spices) in chai! Adding spices to chai is more common in India than in Pakistan, so I never developed the palate for it. However, you are welcome to add any spices you want along with cardamom! People usually add cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves
- Ladyfingers: Use any packaged ladyfingers you can find easily. I use the ones from Savoiardi. You will need 2 packs (24 each), though you won't use up all of them.
- Heavy cream: Use any heavy cream you can get your hands on. Make sure it is chilled, and then you will just whip it up to decorate the cake at the end. I leave the whipped cream completely unsweetened as it helps balance out the sweetness in the cake
The exact quantity of ladyfingers you use will depend on the size of your dish and how soaked you want them to be! If you want the cake to be extra moist, go for about ~35 ladyfingers. It you want it to be just moist but not soggy, you can use up to 40.
To decorate, I used freeze dried strawberries (freeze dried fruit is so great for decoration! It's dry but tastes great, can be crushed, and adds a wonderful pop of color), and chopped pistachios. But use whatever you want (or don't)!
In order to make this cake, you will need:
- A large mixing bowl
- A hand whisk (or spoon - we don't need to mix much)
- Saucepan to make the tea
- Tea strainer
- A serving dish in which you will prepare the cake. I used a 7x11" ceramic serving dish. You can use any shape and size, but just make sure it can fit 36-40 ladyfingers in 2 layers
- Stand mixer or electric beater to whip cream
- Spatula to spread cream
- Piping bag, if piping!
HOW TO MAKE NO BAKE CHAI TRES LECHES CAKE
Super duper easy - this cake requires just about 15 minutes of active time and some waiting (cooling) time in between. Check out this video for a tutorial:
Here is what you will need to do:
1. MAKE THE CHAI
First, you will make a milk tea. Add the milk and tea to a saucepan along with any spices you are using, and simmer on medium low heat for 3-5 minutes until the milk takes on good color and flavor.
Tip: The tea soaks up milk. So if you are adding more tea for a stronger flavor, you might also need to add a bit more milk!
2. PREPARE THE CHAI THREE MILK (TRES LECHES) MIX
Just mix the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk (start with a smaller amount and increase by tasting), chai in a bowl. This is a great point to stop and taste! Adjust the spices of level of sweetness if needed.
3. ARRANGE AND SOAK THE FIRST LAYER OF LADYFINGERS
Instead of placing all your ladyfingers at once, I suggest doing this in two layers so we can make sure every ladyfinger gets properly soaked. Arrange one layer of ladyfingers in your dish, and make sure to pack them tightly. If you need, cut or trim some ladyfingers to fill any gaps.
Now, soak them with the milk mixture, ¼th cup at a time, flipping the ladyfingers over halfway through the soaking so both sides get equally soaked.
You want to use about a third of the soak on this layer. It may look like a lot, but you will notice the ladyfingers will absorb most of the milk within minutes.
4. ARRANGE AND SOAK THE SECOND LAYER OF LADYFINGERS
Now just repeat the same exact process with the second layer of ladyfingers! At this point you will use up all of the soak.
Tip: One thing I like to do is alternate the pattern of the second layer: so if the first layer has ladyfingers placed horizontally on the right, I will place them vertically in the second layer. This helps ensure there aren't any gaps or cracks in the cake slices eventually!
Now you just whack the dish into the fridge and forget about it for 2-3 hours. If you would rather get the decoration over with and then chill, I recommend waiting ~20 minutes so most of the liquid has been absorbed before adding whipped cream and decoration.
5. DECORATE & SERVE!
Once your Chai Tres Leches is properly chilled, the ladyfingers will have absorbed all the liquid and be nicely soaked - yay! Now you can decorate. I go for a thick layer of whipped cream, but reserve some to pipe on using a French star tip.
I then sprinkle over crushed freeze dried strawberries and chopped pistachios, which add the most beautiful color!
And that's it! See - I told you guys this was an easy recipe. You are now ready to slice up and enjoy this divine dessert.
You can really get creative with this recipe and make different flavors! For example:
- Make a classic Tres Leches cake by omitting the chai
- Replace the cardamom powder with cinnamon powder (or omit altogether)
- Make a coffee flavored three milk mixture for a coffee flavored Tres Leches
- Introduce other flavors in the three milk mixture, for example different fruit concentrates can be great!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Tres Leches is a Spanish term that translates to "three milks". This dessert originates in Mexico, and gets its name because three types of milks are used to make the soak for the cake.
If you don't have ladyfingers, you will need to just make the original Tres Leches cake. Google will give you many recipes!
Yes, you can use teabags. Dip them into the milk in the saucepan as you simmer the milk, and then press on them to drain them thoroughly as you remove them.
Yes! This cake, by design, is supposed to be well soaked, almost soggy. That's the beauty of it. It is more like dessert than cake.
You definitely want to keep this Chai Tres Leches cake in the fridge! Cover your dish with cling wrap. It should keep in the fridge for 3-4 days, although it may start to feel a bit more soggy with time.