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Dianda's or Delessio's Tres Leches cake? [San Francisco]

Which one of these spots makes a better or more authentic tres leches cake? Or is there another recommendation for someplace else? I checked the boards and although people used to rave about Platano's, its no longer an option. This will be need to be a whole cake by the way, for the boyfriend's birthday.

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  1. I've only had Delessio and would pick theirs even though I haven't had it at Dianda. I just think Delessio's work is far more consistent and good than Dianda's.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Atomica

      Thanks, I'm kind of leaning in your direction. I've only had this kind of cake once and it was from Dianda's. I wasn't very impressed with it, but then again it was my introduction to tres leches, so I can't be a good critic. Just wondering if there was an overwhelming consensus out there.

      1. re: Atomica

        I was in Dianda's on Sunday and realized more reasons why the place rubs me the wrong way. Never mind all the stale cookies. I wouldn't know whether they had tres leches cake because they don't label anything. Easily 20+ different kinds of cake for sale by the slice, but no labels at all. They are often busy, and I don't feel like making everyone in line wait while a taciturn teenager tells me what everything is (if she can even do it, which I highly doubt). A guy was in there to buy a rum cake, and the glum girl behind the counter asked if he wanted light or heavy rum. He replied that in all the time he'd been buying that cake, he had never been asked that question. He asked the difference between the two cakes and basically had to supply the answers for her while she muttered. I could tell she didn't know!

        I noticed cakes piled with lots of very unripe whole strawberries on top--lots and lots of green. Yech.

        I got an eclair for my husband. The chocolate was the same stuff you get on a Safeway donut. Not that he minded, but people really seem to love Dianda's and I'm not getting it.

        1. re: Atomica

          Dianda does St. Honore cake, rum cake, almond torte, and amaretti really well.

          Maybe the key is to stick to Italian items with lots of almond paste and/or booze.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I do love Dianda's St. Honore cake, but their Tres Leches is pretty sad. Those are their only two items I've tried, however. I'd be interested in trying their other Italian pastries.

            1. re: gaianeh

              I think Dianda's tres leches is tasty. It is equivalent to a white cake but more moist.

              1. re: gaianeh

                Dianda's raspberry twists are delicious. I almost never get anything else.

            2. re: Atomica

              I don't know what to say. I've never had a bad experiance at Delassio's. The help has been ... well, helpful. I do buy with my eyes. If it doesn't look appealig or average I pass.

              1. re: rworange

                My post is about Dianda's, not DeLessio. I like DeLessio very much.

                1. re: Atomica

                  Then ... never mind ...

                  Thanks for clarifying.

            3. Anyone had Lelenita's tres leches lately? For something a little different, Neldam's in Oakland makes a fantastic chocolate version of tres leches. Neldam's also makes a strawberry one, but I haven't had that one.

              36 Replies
              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Mmm, I would love to try the chocolate tres leches from Neldam's! I need to stick to SF for this particular cake, but I'll need to make a trek over to Oakland to try this out. Thanks for the tip! Is Lelenita's in the Mission?

                1. re: gaianeh

                  Lelenita's Cakes
                  3743 Mission St
                  San Francisco,

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    I haven't had the tres leches cakes at Lelenita's, but ordered cakes from them for a number of events. I've always been very happy. It has been a few years though. Tres Leches is their thing. I think there was something about them baking a cake for the pope when he visited SF. I think you can buy a slice if you wanted to do a test run ... hmmm ... strawberry tres leches at Neldhams. That's new and sounds good.

                2. re: Melanie Wong

                  I've had Tres Leches from Lelinita's. It's the only one I've tried. We enjoyed it. Keep in mind, the smallest one they sell will serve a crowd.

                  1. re: sondrac

                    Lelinita's was lmost good but the frosting was weird. I suspected their was a heavy lard/shortening component to it.

                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                    Thanks, I may give Lelenita's a try. Sounds like a good bet.

                    1. re: gaianeh

                      Be sure to let us know how it turns out.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Absolutely! Thanks for all the recs.

                    2. re: Melanie Wong

                      No chocolate tres leches cake at Neldhams. Just the regular which is sold as a slice or cake or strawberry which is only sold as a whole cake.

                      The slice of plain tres leches I had today was more like a whipped cream cake with a thick custard filling. Sort of like their strawberry shortcake only with custard in it.

                      I asked what flavors they had and was told regular & strawberry. Almost got into a cake throwing fight about the chocolate.

                      My bakery lady: "No chocolate"

                      Me: "But, but my friend bought a chocolate tres leches cake here"

                      ... we went through a couple of rounds of this.

                      In desperation ... and of course, not being honest "Really, I tried it"

                      Other bakery lady with what I thought was a 'shut this woman up statement" ... "we do have chocolate"

                      ... my bakery lady wasn't backing down ... "No, no we don't"

                      Other bakery lady: "There's chocolate milk isn't there? Don't we make chocolate tres leches cake?"

                      My bakery lady who did remain unruffled through all of this and certain of her facts ... "No, no chocolate tres leches cake"

                      Other bakery lady: "What is that chocolate cake in front of the tres leche cake then?"

                      My bakery lady: "Chocolate latte cake"

                      Me and other bakery clerk together "Ohhhhhhhh"

                      Neldam's now makes scones. They are more of a light currant bun with touch of baking soda. Not bad for 75 cents ... lots of currants.

                      1. re: rworange

                        Yes, it's called chocolate latte cake. Thanks for being persistent and sharing that story. Unfortunately, I'm not able to get into the website now, http://www.neldamsbakery.com/products... , but I'd almost swear that the latte is described on the site as a chocolate tres leches cake. I've posted on it before, but the search engine and google can't find it.

                      2. re: Melanie Wong

                        I got a single serving this past Sunday and the cake itself was nice--light and sponge-y. The sweetened milk was rather watery; the frosting was a slightly weeping citrus meringue, which I've never seen before on a tres leches cake. Anyone know if this is authentic? Maybe regional? Maybe left over from a special order?

                        No nuts or fruit embellished the topping.

                        Not one I'd go back for if I lived locally.

                        1. re: toodie jane

                          Was your single serving from Delessio's? Interestingly, my mother mentioned getting a slice from the self service flat tray about a month ago, and she absolutely hated it. Couldn't even finish the slice. She didn't elaborate, but perhaps the fact that it's baked and served in a flat tray instead of the traditional tall and round makes a difference? I haven't tried the single serving from the tray, but the full, regular cake is absolutely incredible.

                          1. re: gaianeh

                            You don't really get a slice, but you scoop it out of a big tray on their dessert buffet board. So, presentation isn't really the strong suit--you have to squeeze it into these paper takeout boxes, so if you want to buy one for a dinner party, get the whole cake, because trying to make a neat serving with the spatula is impossible. I have to say i had some the other day (sunday) and it was wetter than the one before and not as good. Perhaps the strawberries on top added the moisture, or it could just be that a different pastry chef made it.

                            1. re: gaianeh

                              I was responding to Melanie's query about Lelenita. It does seem set up to supply large cakes. There were many in the display cases.

                              I asked the gentleman behind the counter about a single serving, and he reached behind him to a countertop where there were three pieces already boxed up in clamshells, and handed me one. I think it was $2.50?

                              I was not sure what to make of the weepy meringue. Is the meringue meant to be finished off in a hot oven at home? Since I was on the road, I just swept it off and ate the cake. Serviceable cake but watery sweet milk sauce.

                              Another tres leches tangent--just had a piece made locally yesterday that was made with orange-zest cream cheese frosting. Not a pleasant combination.

                              1. re: toodie jane

                                Hmm, was the meringue not lightly baked? Kind of strange if they just piped on and didn't complete it there.

                                I picked up the cake from Delessio's right after it came out of the oven, specifically to finish off the soft meringue. It had a nice light, golden brown top which they dusted with powdered sugar. Not weepy at all and held together great.

                                I still want to try Lelenita's cake but perhaps will go with the full cake instead of a single serving.

                                1. re: gaianeh

                                  There's a Latin American style of meringue where the whipped egg whites are beaten with hot syrup. It's soft, something like thick zabaglione.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    That sounds delicious. I thought all meringues had to be lightly baked, but I suppose the hot syrup gradually sets it in this case? I'd love to try it. Thanks for the info!

                                2. re: toodie jane

                                  I had a piece today, and all these details are still accurate. I would not have wanted the sauce much thicker (I thought Delessio's was too thick and rich) but it could have been slightly sweeter and more complex. My search for the perfect SF tres leches continues.

                                  1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

                                    I'm loving your quest . . . keep 'em coming!

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      I am running out of options! Could use some intelligence. (I mean suggestions, but the other kind welcome also.)

                                      1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

                                        I've lost track of where you've been! Have you tried Market Hall in Oakland? What about Fruitvale? The bakeries in Safeway stores in Salinas have 3L, don't know about close to your haunts.

                                        (You have more of every kind of intelligence than my feeble mind can think of.)

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          I did not see any in the case at the Safeway at Market and Church, though I might have been able to order a whole cake. I'm looking for single servings. I have fond memories of the one I had at a Mi Pueblo in Oakland a few years ago. Will try Market Hall when I get over to the East Bay (am SF-based currently).

                                          1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

                                            Wondering if the Safeway in the Outer Mission-La Lengua has a bakery. The Salinas ones have single serving packs.

                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                              Yes, they do. Though I've never gotten anything from it.

                                              1. re: Windy

                                                Stopped in at the La Lengua Safeway (Mission and 30th) and they had single servings and 8" round cakes in a self-serve display. A single serving was four inches square, an inch and a half high, and $2.50. That's the good news. The bad news is that the list of ingredients went on for thirty lines (!) in tiny print, and the cake tasted about how you'd expect a supermarket sheet cake soaked in sweetened milk and covered with some sort of whipped topping to taste. Close to what I'm looking for in terms of technique (minus the topping), but I'd like higher-quality ingredients.

                                                1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

                                                  Did you try Lelenita's on San Jose? It's near Holly Park, close to Balompie #3 and on my way to Alemany Farmers Market.

                                                  1. re: Windy

                                                    Yes, I did; brief report about nine postings further up in this thread. I am going back to that area to try Balompie #3, though!

                                                    1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

                                                      Sorry, scanning : )

                                                      Balompie is decent, but if you're looking for pupusas, New Spot on 20th near 3rd is in a class by itself.

                                                      1. re: Windy

                                                        Thanks! I'd been looking for lunch in that area before trying Mr and Mrs Miscellaneous. That works out nicely.

                                                        1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

                                                          Also nearby is Marcella's Lasagneria on 22nd.

                                          2. re: Melanie Wong

                                            Had a slice of the Tres Leches cake from Market Hall in Oakland. $4. Big wedge. Meringue icing, but it wasn't too sweet or too thick, and didn't detract from the cake. Nice texture, properly soaked, right level of richness and sweetness. Reasonable prices on full cakes also (I'm thinking $22 and $28 but don't quote me). This is a winner. I should have tried their alfajores while I was there!

                                          3. re: Prabhakar Ragde

                                            Have you tried Joey & Pat's Italian Bakery? It's on Folsom and 21st. I hear their tres leches is good.

                                            1. re: Atomica

                                              Thanks for the rec, I will give it a try.

                                              1. re: Atomica

                                                Okay, I tried it just now, and it should not be labelled "tres leches". Even further away from the concept than Dianda's. It was dry sponge cake, a thin layer of custard, and whipped-cream frosting. I guess both J&P and Dianda's are proudly Italian-American, and only offering this because of the neighbourhood they happen to be located in. Too bad.

                                3. Delessio's is scrumptous and beautiful. I'm in there all the time and I always ogle it--they do different patterns with the meringue, sometimes top it with strawberries. I haven't had Dianda's version, and though I love their almonde torte, I can't imagine their tres leches could beat Delessio's.

                                  5 Replies
                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      That's how I've had it at La Duni in Dallas (though there's is cuatro leches). It's the best I've ever had.


                                      1. re: lexdevil

                                        That description is certainly mouthwatering! Interesting to see how this style of cake can be gussied up.

                                      2. re: Melanie Wong

                                        it's a soft meringue, not stiff like on a lemon pie. I guess technically that would make it four, not three leches...but they pipe it on with a pastry bag, looks gorgeous.

                                        1. re: cafecreme

                                          Thanks, I had thought it might be whipped cream.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Yes, I attended a birthday party for a friend, and I was informed the Tres Leches cakes was bought from Dianda's in the Mission. I haven't been in there lately myself to check this out.

                                      2. Possibly the best cake in the western hemisphere is Dianda's St. Honore cake . . . part cake, part tiramisu, part napoleon. Just heaven.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: TofuGirl

                                          Oooh yes, I'm a huge fan of the St. Honore cake! Divine.

                                        2. Ok, here's the update! I ended up purchasing the Tres Leches cake from Delessio's mainly for convenience, since I'm in the inner Richmond and I had a few other items to pick up from Falletti's, in the same complex. The cake had just had it's meringue piped on and I only had to wait a few minutes until it browned in the oven for me to pick it up.

                                          Wow. This was truly a decadent cake. Incredibly moist, deeply satisfying and yet not cloyingly sweet. Some of the milks had oozed out along the bottom while it had been sitting in my fridge until it was taken out for cutting. I loved the meringue which was light, soft and creamy, and lightly sweetened. I'm not a big whipped cream or buttercream fan, so this was a plus for me, and I thought it worked quite well to help balance out the dense richness of the cake.

                                          The little bit of meringue on top at the very center was swirled around to create a small "well," and nestled within that was a healthy dallop of dulce de leche like a little golden treasure. You would get a little bit with every slice, and it was quite simply a little punch of over-the-top goodness. The remaining dulce de leche on the cake started to ooze slowly down the cut half, and it was tempting to just swipe it up with your finger to savor. It's a very "sensual" cake if that makes any sense at all.

                                          All in all, I was incredibly impressed and would highly recommend this cake. This was NOTHING like the Tres Leches I had from Dianda's which was dry toast compared to this. But I am excited to try the cake from Lelenita's, as I'm sure Delessio's is probably not quite the authentic version. Thanks for everyone's recommendations!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: gaianeh

                                            Glad you liked it, and thanks for the update. I was in there today myself and asked the nice pastry chef (at the Broderick Place location) if it was indeed meringue instead of whipped cream and he said yes. Actually, it tastes a lot like the 7-minute frosting my mom used to make (she called it "Divinity icing"). So, I had to buy some, and it is delicious as always. That's great about the dulce de leche--that isn't in the pan version they serve in the cafe. I'll have to try it--thanks!

                                          2. Addressing the question of authenticity...

                                            Mexico (and the rest of Latin America) doesn't really have a Cake tradition outside of the broad Western tradition. In Mexico most nice bakeries make Tres Leches cakes unique to try to stand out... and they use all relevant Western techniques & native accents available to do this.

                                            From what I have seen there is really no defintion of an authentic Tres Leches cake... other than the general guidlines of soaked sponge cake in some kind of sweetened milk concoction. Of course there are variations that go too far and it loses any connection with its origins... but other than that there are as many authentic Tres Leches variations as there are creative bakers.

                                            11 Replies
                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                              I didn't know that. Thanks for the info!

                                              1. re: gaianeh

                                                I thought the Nicaraguans claimed invention of the tres leches cake.

                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                  Lots of Latin American countries claim it.... I don't think anyone will ever find conclusive proof of who invented it first.

                                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                    the first time I had it (or even knew it existed) was when I was living in Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan about 10 years ago. I saw it at a Dominican bakery and got hooked. I assumed it was from the Dominican Republic.

                                              2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                Tres Leches was likely invented by Nestlé circa the 1940s to promote consumption of evaporated and condensed milk, but it was a variation on cakes that had been popular in Mexico since the 1800s.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  Interesting...did they invent dulce de leche also? I know that you can make it by cooking a can of sweetened condensed milk for a really long time (I tried, but didn't have the patience).

                                                  1. re: cafecreme

                                                    No dulce de luche or Cajeta as the Mexican version is more commonly known has a millenary tradition that goes back to the Levant... then Iberia... then Latin America... then Nestle =)

                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                      My mum and I went to Delessio's the other day looking for the almond croissants and morning buns but they were out of those (which made sense since we went at around lunch time.) We tried the tres leche cake that everyone recommended. For $4.25, you get a hefty serving enough for the two of us to share. The cake was described as a "yellow cake with a sweet-creamy mixture flavored with vanilla bean and Myer's Rum," with "toasted meringue" as "the finishing touch."

                                                      The man who served us was generous and gave us lots of strawberries with the cake. The strawberries were soft and slightly sweet, so I think they have been soaked in syrup. The meringue on the top of the cake was golden brown and had a fine dusting of powdered sugar. It was like an Italian meringue (egg whites with hot sugar syrup beaten in) and was soft and marshmallow-like. There was also a slight crunch to the meringue (as if there were tiny sugar crystals in it) which I liked a lot. The cake was very moist and was not weepy at all. I wished there was a stronger vanilla and rum flavor though; we couldn't really taste them in the cake.

                                                      This was our first time trying tres leches cake and we enjoyed it much. It was sweet and satisfying, but not cloyingly so. The meringue just adds to the lightness of the cake, and would be great for those who are not big fans of whipped cream or buttercream (like us and gaianeh.) This cake isn't an everyday treat, but I think it would make an ideal birthday or celebration cake.

                                                      (We also got other items from Delessio's, but I will post them under another topic.)

                                                      1. re: dreamsicle

                                                        Oh, and here are pictures of the tres leches cake. The first photo shows the cake (on the right hand side of the picture) as it is served on the tray, and the second photo shows our cake in a box.

                                                        1. re: dreamsicle

                                                          Thank you for the photos and glad you liked the cake. Is this from the Delessio's on Market? The one on Broderick had their individual service for Tres Leches in a pan where you just scooped up your slice, but it's a full tray cake. Your photo looks like they're real, individual, small cakes, or slices. It certainly makes for a nicer presentation. Plus you get strawberries!

                                                          1. re: gaianeh

                                                            We got our cake at the Market Street location. There was a large tray with individual slices and when you order it, the staff will take one slice and put it in a box, then top some strawberries on it (in our case, much more than I had expected!) Both the man who served us and the cashier were incredibly friendly, and we were pleased with our experience there. And yes, the tres leches cake did look good even though it was scooped into a box for us.

                                              3. My favorite tres leches cake, hands down, is the pandan tres leches cake at Sweetheart Bakery in the Mission, 24th btwn Alabama and Harrison. It's a Vietnamese-owned bakery in a Mexican neighborhood, so this wondrous, addictive cake is the product of this interaction. Pandan, a leaf native to Southeast Asia, gives the sponge cake a delicate flavor, balanced by the richness of the milks and the whipped cream topping. It's what I always want for my birthday.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: sfkusinera

                                                  Even in East L.A. the Vietnamese & Chinese bakeries are very well regarded. I am always amazed at how adaptive, creative & consistent they can be.

                                                  1. re: sfkusinera

                                                    They told me they would only make a full cake to order, not sell a single slice.

                                                  2. You need to go to a Mexica bakery. There are several places here in Napa Valley who make pastel de tres leches very, very well. I have the recipe but it takes hours and hours to make and it's not worth it. It's not my favorite cake.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: carmyn

                                                      I like the tres leches cake at the in-house bakery at Las Montanas Market.
                                                      (925) 687-7417
                                                      1725 Willow Pass Rd, Concord, CA

                                                      1. re: Cynsa

                                                        Any East Bay versions worth trying besides The Pasta Shop?

                                                    2. Awful name, but really good tres leches cake- Galli's Sanitary bakery in South San Francisco. Really good!!

                                                      324 Grand Avenue
                                                      South San Francisco, California 94080

                                                      1. Somehow this thread stuck in my mind, despite its cursory mention of the Tres Leches cake at Oakland's Pasta Shop. I was there yesterday afternoon, scrambling to fulfill a last-minute request from a friend to bring dessert to a potluck, and I spotted the cake, vaguely remembered that it was supposed to be good, and snapped it up.

                                                        I've only had Tres Leches a few times before, and always found them too sweet and too dense (I've only had the more rustic, homemade looking ones from modest eateries in the past - this was my first yuppified version - but sometimes yuppification can be good). This one was a single tall layer, soaked through but not at all soggy, with a texture more like mousse than like pudding, and not remotely as sweet as other versions I've had. The frosting was a very thin layer of buttercream that didn't distract from the glory of the cake itself. I had two slices, despite having already stuffed myself at dinner.

                                                        It was expensive - $32 for the larger (9", I think) size - I thought it was well worth it.

                                                        Pasta Shop
                                                        5655 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                                                        1. In Berkeley, try Cactus Taqueria on Solano Avenue. Just get the tres leche cake. It's soaked in rum and milk and delicious. My friend from Mexico says it's the best she's ever had! All I know is we have to share a slice, it's too much to eat on your own, and then we sit around with huge smiles on our faces =) My 21 year old son made me drive a piece down to college in Los Angeles, he was jonesing for it so badly!

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: linberl

                                                            I realize this is slightly extra topical, but if you are shopping in BERKELEY for "LECHE DESSERTS", studies have shown there is a 98% correlation between liking TRES LECHES CAKE and liking the CRIXA VATROUCHKA.