The Best Tres Leches Cake
I wanted to make one in advance of Cinco de Mayo because it’s one of my all-time favorite cakes.
This is the first time I’ve ever made one and was skeptical that I could recreate something so decadent at home, but it turns out this cake is every bit as good as tres leches cake I’ve had in Mexico and in fact the best ever.
It’s an absolute dessert highlight of my year and I highly recommend it.
Tres leches cake gets its name because after making a soft, tender cake (which ironically has no butter or oil but you won’t miss them) you poke holes in the cake before pouring over a mixture of three milks – sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream.
I like to think of it as the original poke cake. It’s ridiculously moist, beautifully sweet, and perfectly tender. It just melts in your mouth.
While it’s not traditional, if you’re making this cake for a party or event and it’ll be set out for hours at room temp or in warm (outdoor) conditions, you may consider using whipped topping (Cool Whip) rather than real whipped cream for the topping. Real whipped cream is more prone to deflating and melting than whipped topping.
We were there for my daughter’s spring break week and can’t wait to go back but in the meantime so glad I can make tres leches cake at home.
The Best Tres Leches Cake
Whenever I’m in Mexico, tres leches cake is a must. I wanted to make one in advance of Cinco de Mayo because and this one is every bit as decadent as cake I’ve had in Mexico and in fact the best ever. Tres leches cake gets its name because after making a soft, tender cake you poke holes in it before pouring over a mixture of three milks – sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream. The cake is ridiculously moist, beautifully sweet, perfectly tender, and melts in your mouth.
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- one 14-ounce can sweetened and condensed milk
- one 12-ounce can evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- cinnamon, optional for garnishing
- Cake – Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9×13-inch pan with aluminum foil, spray with floured cooking spray or grease and flour the pan; set aside.
- To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl and handheld electric mixer) add the 5 egg yolks, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and beat on medium-high speed until pale yellow and doubled in volume, about 4 minutes. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add 1/3 cup whole milk, vanilla, flour, baking powder, salt, and beat on low speed until combined, don’t overmix; set aside.
- To a medium bowl, add the egg whites and beat with a handheld electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form but egg whites are not dry.
- Gently fold egg whites into the cake batter.
- Turn batter out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula. Bake for about 32 to 35 minutes (I baked 33 minutes) or until cake is set in the center, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter.
- Allow cake to cool in pan on a wire rack. While cake cools, make the tres leches mixture.
- Tres Leches Mixture – To a medium bowl, add the 3 milks and whisk to combine.
- Using a fork, poke holes all over the top of the cake. I stuck the cake with the fork about 100 times. Slowly pour the tres leches mixture over the top of the cake letting it soak in as you go. Try to pour as much over the cake as possible, without neglecting the edges. All of the milk mixture for my cake soaked in, but if yours is pooling excessively and you have any leftover, the milk mixture is wonderful served in a small ramekin alongside the cake.
- Allow cake to cool at room temp for a 1 to 2 hours before covering and refrigerating until chilled, at least 2 hours, or overnight. Tip – If making the cake in advance of an event, don’t add the whipped cream topping until the day of.
- Whipped Cream Topping – To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a large bowl and handheld electric mixer) add the heavy cream and beat on high speed until thickened and spreadable.
- Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat to combine.
- Evenly spread the whipped cream over cake and optionally garnish with a sprinkling of cinnamon and serve any extra tres leches mixture on the side. Serve immediately. Cake will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 4 days, noting the whipped cream will lose volume as time passes and the bottom of the cake will become increasingly moist.
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
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Collection of my favorite Mexican Recipes
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Easy Yellow Cake with Buttercream Frosting – If you’ve never made a scratch cake, try this one!! Fast, easy, foolproof, one bowl, and tastes so good! It’s a keeper!
Easy Homemade Funfetti Cake – Move over storebought cake mix!! This easy cake only takes minutes to make and tastes wayyyy better!!
Lemon Buttermilk Cake with Lemon Glaze – An easy little cake with big lemon flavor! Soft, fluffy, and foolproof if you like puckering up!
The Best Pineapple Upside-Down Cake – So soft, moist and really is The Best! A cheery, happy cake that’s sure to put a smile on anyone’s face!
Caramelized Banana Upside-Down Cake – Have ripe bananas? This cake has their name all over it! Dripping with rich, buttery, caramel sauce!
Peaches and Cream Fluffy Muffin Cake – The softest, moistest peach cake you’ll find with a tender, fluffy crumb just like peach muffins!
Pineapple Poke Cake with Pineapple Glaze – Fast, easy, one-bowl, no mixer, from-scratch cake that’s easier than a mix! The glaze soaks into every inch and you’ll be in juicy pineapple heaven!