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.

best tres leches cake recipe

Homemade Tres Leches Cake

There are some desserts that are truly just best when homemade. Store bought and restaurant versions often just 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. Thankfully, that is easy to do!

Making Tres Leches at home may seem intimidating, but it’s easy and totally addicting! This cake is refreshing, lightly sweet yet full of flavor. It holds the milks so well without being too dense or falling apart. A big winner!

tres leches cake slice on plate

What is 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. It’s a popular cake in Mexico and Latin America and is perfect for celebrating Cinco de Mayo!

As far as texture, it’s a super light cake that gets a lot of it’s texture from whipped egg whites. You might notice that it lacks a common cake ingredient – butter – and has a unique method for mixing the batter. You absolutely do not miss the butter in the slightest and the mixing method gives it it’s super light texture. I tried making it with the more common creaming method using butter and this version was BY FAR the best!

This cake is also sort of like the original poke cake because after baking it, it’s poked with holes all over and then the milks are poured over the cake and soak into it.

bite of tres leches cake

How to make a Tres Leches Cake

Make the cake

To get started making this cake, combine your dry ingredients and set them aside. Then separate your eggs into the yolks and the whites. Set the whites aside for later.

Add some of the sugar to the yolks and beat on high speed until the yolks are pale yellow and have doubled in volume. When you lift the beater out of the mixture, it should drizzle down in a thick ribbon when it’s done. Add the whole milk and vanilla extract and combine.

Combine the egg yolk mixture with the dry ingredients and don’t over mix.

Next, grab your egg whites from earlier and whip them until they reach soft peaks, then slowly add the remaining sugar and whip until you reach stiff peaks.

Gently fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, being careful not to deflate the whites. Pour the batter into your cake pan and bake until nice and golden.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely before poking holes into it. I know it will be tempting to go ahead and poke the holes, but 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.

tres leches cake steps

Add the Three Milks Mixture

Poke the holes into the cooled cake with a fork – lots of holes. You’ll combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and whole and then pour it over the cake making sure not to miss the sides and corners.

Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour or overnight. This is actually a great cake for making ahead because it gets even better after sitting overnight and letting the milks soak in.

Tres leches cake recipe

Whipped Cream Topping

You can add the whipped cream topping right away or wait until just before serving.

Add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. For more help with making whipped cream, check out my Homemade Whipped Cream Tutorial.

Finally, sprinkle some ground cinnamon over the cake and top it with some fresh strawberries. It’s the perfect final touch to a wonderful cake! It really is so addicting and 100% worth trying if you’ve never made it at home before! You’ll fall in love!

recipe for tres leches cake

More Great Cinco De Mayo Recipes

Spicy Sriracha Shrimp Tacos
Margarita Cake
Mexican Chicken Casserole
Shrimp and Crab Nachos

Print
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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: 1215 slices 1x
  • 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!


Scale

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.

Keywords: tres leches cake, mexican cake, mexican dessert

Recipe originally from Pioneer Woman.

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Recipe rating

23 Comments
    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.

  1. 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 ?? 

  2. 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!

  3. 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? 

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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 mom to twin boys, a baby girl and a sweet black lab with a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the sugar!

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“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12