Tres Leches Cake Recipe

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This easy Tres Leches Cake is soaked with a sweet mixture of three milks! Topped with whipped cream and a little cinnamon, it is totally addicting! A classic Mexican dessert that you’ll want to make over and over.

Why You’ll Love Homemade Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches means “three milks”, which is precisely what makes this cake unique. After being baked, it’s soaked with three milks: whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk. Tres Leches Cake is popular in Mexico and Latin America, and it is perfect for celebrating Cinco de Mayo! You’ll be amazed at how quickly this cake comes together and how addicting it truly is!

  • Homemade. There are some desserts that are truly best when homemade. Store bought and restaurant versions often don’t do them justice! This Tres Leches Cake is one of those desserts. I’ve tried buying it, I’ve tried ordering it, but the only way to experience the best this dessert has to offer is to make it yourself.
  • Easy. Making Tres Leches at home may seem intimidating, but thankfully it’s very easy! This cake is refreshing, lightly sweet, full of flavor, and addicting. It holds the milks so well without being too dense or falling apart. A big winner!
  • Whipped egg whites. To make the absolute lightest Tres Leches, we are going to skip the butter and use whipped egg whites in the batter. Once you’ve tried this recipe, you’ll never go back to using creamed butter in a Tres Leches Cake. Promise!
  • No butter. You might also notice that this recipe lacks a common cake ingredient – butter. I promise, you absolutely will not miss the butter in the slightest! I tried making it the more common way with creamed butter, but this version with whipped egg whites was BY FAR the best!
  • Make ahead. This is actually a great cake for making ahead because it gets even better after sitting overnight and letting the milks soak in. It might be difficult to wait till morning to taste it, but it’s 100% worth it! You’ll fall in love!

Tres Leches Cake is like the original poke cake because after baking it’s poked with holes all over, covered with the milks mixture, and allowed to chill while soaking up all the liquid. If you love a good poke cake, don’t miss my Lemon Poke Cake, Strawberry Poke Cake, and Raspberry Almond Poke Cake!

Ingredients Needed to Make a Tres Leches Cake

Using the right ingredients will take your dessert making skills to the next level. Here are a few tips to help you select what you’ll need. Check out the recipe card toward the bottom of this post for full ingredient amounts.

A square serving of Tres Leches Cake with a bite taken out with cut strawberries on top on a white plate with a fork

For the Cake

  • Flour – We will be using all-purpose flour. For the best taste and texture, I recommend measuring accurately with a food scale. If you don’t have one, you can also use the spoon and level method.
  • Baking powder – For a light and fluffy cake crumb.
  • Salt – For flavor. Without it, your cake will be bland.
  • Eggs – You’ll need to separate the eggs into a bowl of yolks and and a bowl of whites. Eventually you’ll be whipping the egg whites until stiff peaks develop. Adding whipped egg whites to the cake batter is part of the secret to creating a super light cake.
  • Sugar – Plain granulated sugar will provide some of the sweetness to this delicate recipe.
  • Whole milk – I highly recommend using whole milk! The higher fat content really adds to the taste and texture of the cake.
  • Vanilla extract – You’ll get the best flavor if you use a high-quality extract.

For the Three Milks Topping

  • Evaporated milk – Since the water content is lower in evaporated milk, it is creamier and thicker than regular milk. You can use any brand you like.
  • Sweetened condensed milk – Do not skip the sweetened condensed milk! It’s very sweet and will add a rich, decadent taste to the three milks topping. It’s heavenly.
  • Whole milk – You’ll want to use whole milk for maximum flavor and creaminess in the topping.

For the Whipped Cream Topping & Garnishes

  • Heavy whipping cream – It’s easier to make whipped cream when you start with cold heavy cream. You can even chill your bowl and beaters if you really want to go the extra mile.
  • Powdered sugar – If you like smooth, sweet and thick whipped cream, you’ll love the addition of powdered sugar to the whipped cream. It has cornstarch in it and will keep your whipped topping from wilting.
  • Vanilla extract – For great flavor.
  • Ground cinnamon – This is an optional garnish, but I think it adds a very subtle appetizing flavor, and it looks really pretty.
  • Fresh fruit – This is another optional garnish, but it jazzes up the whole presentation and adds fresh flavor to the mild sweetness of the cake. I used strawberries, but you can use any berry or other soft fruit to match the soft texture of the cake and whipped cream.
A square serving of Tres Leches Cake with cut strawberries on top on a white plate with a fork

How to Make a Tres Leches Cake

This really is an easy dessert to make. Take a look at these step-by-step photos for a quick overview of the directions. Full directions can be found in the recipe card below.

Make the Cake

  • Prepare to bake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9×13 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. I recommend a ceramic or glass pan, as the cake bakes and rises much better in that type of pan.
  • Combine dry ingredients. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  • Separate the eggs. Now separate the eggs. Place the egg whites in one bowl and the egg yolks in another. Set the whites aside for later.
  • Mix sugar and egg yolks. Add 3/4 cup (155g) sugar to the bowl with the egg yolks and mix on high speed until the yolks are pale yellow and have doubled in volume. When you lift the beater out of the egg yolks, it should drizzle down in a thick ribbon.
  • Pour in milk and vanilla. Add the milk and vanilla extract, and gently stir to combine.
  • Combine the egg yolk and flour mixtures. Add the egg yolk mixture to the flour mixture and gently fold together just until combined. Don’t over mix.
  • Whip the egg whites and sugar. Next, grab your egg whites from earlier and whip them on high speed until they reach soft peak stage. Then gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup (52g) of sugar as you continue whipping. Whip until the egg whites reach stiff peaks, but aren’t dry.
  • Fold in the whipped egg white mixture. Gently fold the egg white mixture into the batter taking care not to deflate the egg whites.
  • Bake. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly so that it bakes evenly. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Cool. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely before poking holes into it. The cake is so soft and tender out of the oven that it comes apart easily if you poke it while warm. So trust me and let it cool before poking holes.
Baked Tres Leches Cake before the milks mixture has been poured over it.

Prepare the Three Milks Mixture

  • Combine the milks. Mix the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk in a medium bowl.
  • Poke holes. Next, you’ll poke holes all over the top of the completely cooled cake using a fork – lots of holes!
  • Cover the cake with the milks mixture. Pour the milks mixture over the the top of the cake, making sure to pour it all over the top, edges, and corners.
  • Chill. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour or overnight to allow it to soak up the milks.

Make the Whipped Cream Topping & Garnish

  • Whip the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl. Whip on high speed until stiff peaks form. For more help with making whipped cream, check out my Homemade Whipped Cream Tutorial.
  • Cover the cake. You can add the whipped cream topping right away or wait until just before serving. Make sure to spread it evenly over the top of the entire cake.
  • Garnish. If desired, sprinkle with cinnamon and garnish with fresh fruit like strawberries. It’s the perfect final touch to a wonderful cake!
A full Tres Leches Cake topped with cut strawberries in a white platter with whole strawberries in the background

Tips for Success

Here are a few tips to make sure your Homemade Tres Leches is the BEST Tres Leches. Don’t forget to give them a read!

  • Measure your flour correctly. Too much flour will make a dense, thick cake. I always recommend a food scale to ensure accuracy, but if you don’t have one you can use the spoon and level method. Read more about measuring your flour accurately here.
  • Fold in the egg whites carefully. The purpose of whipping the egg whites is to incorporate air into the cake batter that will create a soft, light cake after being baked. Take care to fold them into the cake batter gently without overmixing. This will help prevent the egg whites from getting deflated.
  • Allow the cake to cool before decorating. It’s exciting to make something so delicious, but it’s worth waiting for the cake to cool completely before attempting to poke holes in it. If you poke holes while the cake is too warm, you risk having it fall apart before you get to enjoy it.
  • Make it ahead of time. This is the perfect cake to make the night before you need it. After covering it with the milks mixture, you’ll place it in the fridge and it will start soaking up all the delicious flavors. The longer it sits, the better it tastes.

More Great Cinco De Mayo Recipes

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recipe for tres leches cake
Recipe

Tres Leches Cake Recipe

  • Author: Lindsay
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Yield: 12-15 slices
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Description

This Tres Leches Cake is a super light cake that’s soaked with a sweet mixture of three milks! It’s topped with whipped cream and a little cinnamon and is totally addicting! A classic Mexican dessert that you’ll want to make over and over!


Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 cup (130g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup (207g) sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Three Milks Topping

  • 12 oz can evaporated milk
  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) whole milk

Whipped Cream Topping

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 3/4 cup (86g) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Ground cinnamon, optional for garnish
  • Fresh fruit, optional for garnish

Instructions

Make the Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9×13 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. I recommend a ceramic or glass pan, as the cake bakes and rises much better in that type of pan.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Separate the eggs into two separate bowls. Egg whites in one and egg yolks in another.
  4. Add 3/4 cup (155g) sugar to the bowl with the egg yolks and mix on high speed until the yolks are pale yellow and have doubled in volume. When you lift the beater out of egg yolks, it should drizzle down in a thick ribbon.
  5. Add the milk and vanilla extract and gently stir to combine.
  6. Add the egg yolk mixture to the flour mixture and gently fold together just until combined. Don’t over mix.
  7. Whip the egg whites on high speed until they reach soft peak stage, then gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup (52g) of sugar as you continue whipping. Whip until the egg whites reach stiff peaks, but aren’t dry.
  8. Add the egg whites to the egg yolk mixture and gently fold to combine so that you don’t deflate the egg whites.
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly so that it bakes evenly.
  10. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow cake to cool completely.

Make the Three Milks

  1. Combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk in a medium bowl. Poke holes all over the top of the cake using a fork.
  2. Pour the milk mixture over the the top of the cake, making sure to pour it all over the top and edges.
  3. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour or overnight to allow it to soak up the milks.

Add the Topping

  1. To make the topping, add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl. Whip on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  2. Spread whipped topping evenly over the top of the cake. Garnish with cinnamon and fresh fruit, if desired.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 522
  • Sugar: 41.9 g
  • Sodium: 375.3 mg
  • Fat: 14.2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 75.6 g
  • Protein: 23.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 83 mg

Categories

Recipe originally from Pioneer Woman.

Enjoy!

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33 Comments
    1. Lindsay

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I’m not sure about a chocolate version. You would probably want to swap out some flour for cocoa powder, but without testing it’s hard to say for sure what exactly to change.

  1. Laura

    Wow! This was SO good! I have a favorite bakery that makes an amazing tres leches cake and I was trying to find something close to it to make at home and this is it! So tasty and not too sweet! This will be an amazing dessert in the summer!






  2. Ranjana Mishra

    I really love your recipes and I’ve tried your vanilla cake recipe.Everyone loved it.Just want to know can I make this cake in to two layer cakes?

    1. Lindsay

      Glad to hear that! I’m not sure about this cake as a layer cake. If you soak the cake in milk prior to stacking it, the layers are gonna be pretty difficult to move around. You could try just soaking it from the top after you layer it.

  3. Ada

    I loved it, not too mushy at the end and not so sweet either and the combination of the cinnamon and the fruits is divine. Thank you for the wonderful recipes!!!!






  4. Mayanka Khetarpal

    Hi Lindsay,

    If we have to make half the recipe , how do you divide the eggs since doing 2 1/2 is very tricky.

    Please let me know

    Thankyou,
    Mayanka






  5. Elaine

    It is so good. I made it using glass pan and it is perfect. I plan on making on aluminum pans, will it work?

    1. Lindsay

      Glad you enjoyed it! In my experience, the glass and ceramic pans work best. Others seem to make the cake fall.

      1. Elaine

        I did it with aluminum pan and the cake didn’t fall on me. I was so happy. Great recipe. It was amazing.Everyone loved it. i will try to make your tiramisu next time

    1. Lindsay

      If you used the right kind of pan, then it probably had something to do with the egg whites. Maybe over mixing?

    2. Jessica

      I am really excited to try this but was wondering if it would work to bake in 2 8 inch pans and then layer them? 

      1. Lindsay

        I didn’t test it that way, so I can’t say for sure. The cake definitely bakes best in a glass or ceramic pan, so if you have those types of pans in that size, then it might be ok.

  6. Kathy Apfel

    The recipe was so easy and fast. I never made this cake before and I did take steps to reduce calories and it was still great and it gets better after a couple of days. Thanks Lindsay






    1. Rachana Reddy

      I loved it . the cake did shrink a little . U think it’s because of the over mixing or beating of the egg whites ?? How do we know when to stop with the egg whites ?? 






  7. Jessica C.

    I made this recipe for Cinco de Mayo, and my family LOVED it! It has just the perfect amount of milk and is just absolutely amazing. THANK YOU for having the best recipes ever!






  8. Janet

    I just finished making the cake. But my cake didn’t rise as much as yours did. Could it be I didn’t beat the egg whites enough? Or where was my mistake? 

  9. Chelsea

    Oh. My God. I love tres leches cake but have never made it! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I think I know what I’ll be doing this weekend… 🙂
    Also, I just have 2% milk on hand (not whole). Do you think that would be okay to use?

    1. Lindsay

      Whole milk is thicker and has a more full flavor so if you substitute it, just be aware of that. I hope you enjoy it!

  10. Irene

    This was fabulous. I made one small change that to me is an essential on tres leches cake. I drizzled melted chocolate over the topping. That’s how I remember it from when I was a kid.






  11. Natasha

    I just did this cake 3 days ago and it was amazing!!! This is the exact same recipe my grandma uses and being Hispanic/ Latino this is definitely the real deal. The cake is so fluffy and moist with the three milks, sweet but not overwhelming in flavor. Love it!!!

Lindsay
About Lindsay

I'm a wife and a mom to twin boys and a baby girl! And I've got a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the treats!

Scripture I’m Loving

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29