A Middle Eastern Spin On A Classic Latino Dessert: Rose Cardamom Tres Leches

Jun 25, 2017
Originally published on June 26, 2017 12:43 pm

Eid Mubarak! Or blessed celebration for those celebrating Eid al-Fitr today. It's the holiday marking the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan. During this month, observant Muslims do not eat or drink during the daylight hours. And to celebrate the end of the fast, family and friends get together to feast! But what to eat?

Food blogger Abeer Najjar knows what she's going to make with her family this Eid. And it's dessert that's on her mind.

"I picked this dessert to share because this is just one I've kind of been going to in the last few years of Eid, because it's been hot," she says.

For the past several years, Ramadan and Eid have occurred during the summer. (The dates are determined by the lunar calendar, which Muslims follow for religious matter.) And Tres Leches' cold custard and cake base make it a summer and Eid treat.

"We really just want something that's still rich, but refreshing for the summer weather," Najjar says.

But this isn't any ordinary Tres Leches. It's fused with some traditional Middle Eastern flavors: cardamom, rose water and pistachios.

Rose Cardamom Tres Leches

This recipe is courtesy of Abeer Najjar. You can find this recipe and others on her blog at www.abeernajjar.com.


  • Yellow cake (box or recipe)
  • Ingredients needed for cake (eggs, oil, etc.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom

Milk Mixture*:

  • One 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • One 12 ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1-2 tablespoons rose water


  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
  • Fresh raspberries (or fruit of your choice)
  • Chopped pistachios

  1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven. Mix the cake ingredients according to the box (or your own recipe). Incorporate the cardamom into the cake mix according to the instructions. If you're breaking up the cake to display in cups, baking on a sheet pan (with parchment paper) makes the cake bake fastest and makes it easy to break up into small pieces.
  2. Milk mixture: Combine all the ingredients for the milk mixture into a bowl, ideally one with a pouring spout. Set aside.
  3. Whipped cream: When making whipped cream, it is ideal that everything is cold. The heavy cream, the bowl, and even the whisk attachment for your electric mixer help make the cream whip faster if they're all chilled. Pour your cold heavy whipping cream into a chilled stainless steel bowl. Using a whisk attachment on your electronic mixer (or a manual whisk), whip the heavy cream on a low setting until it slightly thickens. Raise the speed to medium/high until the whipped cream reaches stiff peaks, adding sugar in small increments. If you're using a manual whisk, you'll have to keep whisking for several minutes. Put the whipped cream into a piping bag or a ziplock bag ans store in the fridge.
  4. Building the Tres Leches: Break up the pieces of cake and stack them into whatever type of cups you like. 6-8 ounce glasses work best. Lightly pack the cake into the cups, filling about half way. Pour the milk mixture over each cup of cake until it reaches the top of the cake. Allow your cakes to soak in the milk mixture for at least 1-2 hours. You can soak them overnight as well if you want to make this in advance.
  5. Plating: When you're ready to serve, pipe the whipped cream onto each cup of Tres Leches and top with fruit and chopped pistachios.

*Note: If you're keeping the cake whole, this milk mixture will be enough for the cake. If you're displaying the cake into cups, this milk recipe will be enough for about 6-8 cups and you'll have about half of the cake leftover. If you want to use up all the cake, you'll need to double the milk mixture recipe and you'll have about twice the servings.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Eid Mubarak or blessid celebration for those celebrating Eid al-Fitr today. That's the holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. During the month, observant Muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours. And to celebrate the end of the fast, family and friends get together and feast. But what to eat?

We called up and coming food blogger Abeer Najjar to find out. She's been featured in Teen Vogue, Chicago mag and other publications. Her web series, "Abeer's Day Off," offers simple recipes that mix traditional Middle Eastern flavors with accents from the African and Latino dishes she's come to love growing up in Chicago. She's with us now from her home kitchen in Chicago. Abeer, thanks so much for joining us.

ABEER NAJJAR: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: How does your family celebrate? How did they celebrate growing up, and has it changed at all over time?

NAJJAR: I think it's definitely changed. Growing up, we weren't part of a huge Muslim community, so families kind of did their own thing. After attending the mosque, we'd usually go out to eat or my mom would cook something and we'd have family over. Now, everybody comes together. And throughout the day, everybody's coming in and out, eating, hanging out and just enjoying each other.

MARTIN: You know, it seems as though any time you have a fasting period, you want to celebrate with something, you know, rich and delicious. And you picked a dessert to share with us. How come?

NAJJAR: I picked this dessert to share because it's been hot. It's been summer. And we really just want something that's still rich but refreshing for kind of the summer weather, so that's why I chose this one.

MARTIN: And what is it called?

NAJJAR: It's a rose cardamom tres leches, so it's a traditional Latino dessert of a cake that's soaked in three types of milk. But I put a little bit of a twist on it with some of the flavors I add with some Middle Eastern, South Asian influence of rose and cardamom and pistachio.

MARTIN: Fusion.


MARTIN: I hear it - fusioned (ph). Love it. So walk us through it. How do you make it? You promised us this is easy, right?

NAJJAR: It's a few steps, but I think for the most part, all the steps are pretty easy. I always tell people to not be shy from using a store-bought cake, usually a yellow box. And make it as it's - the directions go, but I add ground cardamom to the cake to add some warmth and flavor to it. Then I mix the milks that we're going to soak the cake in. And that's when we add more ground cardamom and rosewater. You don't want to overdo it with rosewater. It can easily go from a nice rose flavor to just a bouquet of roses in your mouth.

So when the cake comes out, I let it cool. And I chop it up into small pieces. Pile in, you know, a good amount of cake into each cup or bowl, whatever you're making it in. Pour over that milk mixture, and throw all of those into the fridge and let the milk take time to soak into the cake. And when they're done, just top it with whipped cream. And I like topping it with fresh fruit and nuts.

MARTIN: I just happened to have a delicious little bowl here that our producer Ashley Young has prepared for us. And I'm going to have a little taste here.

NAJJAR: Oh, my God.

MARTIN: It's so good. Yum.

NAJJAR: That makes me so happy that you like it.

MARTIN: It's so good. Wow. Well, thanks so much for sharing this recipe with us. And Eid Mubarak to you and hope you have a wonderful celebration with your family.

NAJJAR: Thank you. Eid Kareem.

MARTIN: That's food blogger Abeer Najjar. You can find her rose cardamom tres leches recipe online at npr.org. And you can check out more of Abeer's recipes and her web series, "Abeer's Day Off," at abeernajjar.com. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.