The BEST Tres Leches Cake — This easy authentic three milk cake melts in your mouth and requires just 15 minutes of hands-on prep!! This is a recipe your family will love! Perfect for Cinco de Mayo!!
What is Tres Leches Cake?
Whenever I’m in Mexico, in addition to lots of guacamole, salsa, black beans, and margaritas, tres leches cake is a must. I wanted to make one in advance of Cinco de Mayo because it’s one of my all-time favorite cakes.
This Mexican cake is every bit as good as the tres leches cakes I’ve had in Mexico — in fact, it’s 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.
Ingredients for Tres Leches Cake
This authentic tres leches cake recipe has three main components: the sponge cake itself, the three types of milk that are poured over it, and the creamy whipped topping that’s spread on last.
To make this easy tres leches cake recipe, you’ll need:
- Granulated sugar
- Whole milk
- Vanilla extract
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Sweetened condensed milk
- Evaporated milk
- Heavy whipping cream
- Confectioners’ sugar
How to Make Tres Leches Cake
This three milk cake is so easy to make! You can use a hand mixer or a good old wooden spoon.
The cake itself is similar to your average cake recipe; the one major difference is that there’s no oil or butter in the batter. Instead, you have to whip egg whites until soft peaks form and then gently fold them into the batter.
This tres leches cake needs to bake for around 32 to 35 minutes. You’ll know when it’s ready to be taken out of the oven when the center is set but springs back when you gently press a finger into it.
Once the cake is out of the oven, make the tres leches mixture. Just combine the three milks in a bowl and whisk thoroughly to combine.
Then, poke lots of holes into the cake with a fork and pour the milk mixture over top. Let the cake cool completely to room temperature for a few hours before making the whipped cream topping and spreading it onto the cake.
I like the finish my tres leches cake with a sprinkle of cinnamon, but that’s totally optional!
Tip: I also have a recipe for tres leches cupcakes that I think you’ll love!
Can I Make This Recipe Dairy-Free?
Possibly, but the texture and flavor of this three milk cake would definitely change.
You could maybe use full-fat canned coconut milk and make your own coconut whipped cream for topping the cake, but I’ve only ever made this authentic tres leches cake as written so I can’t say for certain.
Can I Make This Gluten-Free?
Possibly, but again since I have only made the cake as written, I can’t speak to the results using gluten-free flour. If you try, I would only suggest using a cup-for-cup style replacement of all-purpose flour. No almond flour for this one.
How to Store Tres Leches Cake
This authentic tres leches cake should be stored in the fridge, covered. It will last for up to four days, but note that the whipped cream topping will deflate over time.
The bottom of the cake itself will become extremely moist as the milk has time to soak into it more. Leftovers are delicious, though!
Can I Prep Tres Leches Cake in Advance?
Yes! If serving to a crowd, you’re welcome to make this cake the day before and keep it in the fridge overnight. The topping won’t deflate too much in just one day.
How to Serve Tres Leches Cake
I like to dust the three milk cake with ground cinnamon and enjoy as is. However, you can also serve sliced strawberries or other fresh berries on the side!
Tips for the Best Tres Leches Cake
Line your pan: To make clean-up a breeze, line your baking pan with foil before pouring in the cake batter. Tres leches cake is quite a “wet” cake since it’s a poke cake, and the foil makes serving the cake and cleaning up afterwards so much easier.
Whipped cream vs Cool Whip: While it’s not traditional, if you’re making this cake for a party or event and it’ll be sitting out for hours at room temp or in warm (outdoor) conditions, you may want to 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.
Make-ahead tip: If you’re making this cake in advance, I recommend waiting until the last minute to add the whipped cream topping. Again, you want the topping to be super fluffy when you serve this cake!
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- 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
Tres Leches Mixture
- one 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- one 12-ounce can evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Whipped Cream Topping
- 2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream
- cinnamon, optional for garnishing
- 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 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.
- Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 229Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 72mgSodium: 139mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 0gSugar: 28gProtein: 6g
Even More Easy Cake Recipes:
Caramel Cream Poke Cake — Poke cakes are always supremely moist and this one reminds me of a cheater’s version of Tres Leches Cake because it’s sweet and creamy.
Sweet Cream Vanilla Coffee Cake – You’ll never guess what special ingredient keeps this fast and easy cake so soft and moist!
Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Bean Browned Butter Glaze – You won’t miss chocolate at all after trying this cake! The glaze is just heavenly!
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, store-bought 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!
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!
Recipe originally posted in 2015 and reposted April 29, 2020 and April 30, 2021 with updated text.