The Best Tres Leches Cake

The BEST Tres Leches Cake — This easy tres leches cake melts in your mouth and requires just 15 minutes of hands-on prep work. This is an authentic three milk cake your family will love! 

The Best Tres Leches Cake - Soft, tender, and soaked with three milks! It just melts in your mouth and it's the BEST tres leches cake ever!! You need to try this AMAZING cake!!

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 is the first time I’ve ever made a three milk cake and was skeptical that I could recreate something so decadent at home, but it turns out this Mexican cake is every bit as good as the tres leches cake 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.

Here are couple photos I took on my iPhone last month in Cabo San Lucas at our hotel and one of our favorite restaurants at sunset. 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.

Marina Fiesta - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

The Office on the Beach - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

What’s in Tres Leches Cake? 

This authentic tres leches cake recipe has three main components: the cake itself, the milk mixture that’s poured over it, and the creamy whipped topping that’s spread on last.

To make this easy tres leches cake recipe, you’ll need: 

  • Eggs
  • Granulated sugar
  • Whole milk
  • Vanilla extract
  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Evaporated milk
  • Heavy whipping cream 
  • Cinnamon
  • Confectioners’ sugar

The Best Tres Leches Cake - Soft, tender, and soaked with three milks! It just melts in your mouth and it's the BEST tres leches cake ever!! You need to try this AMAZING cake!!

How to Make Tres Leches Cake

This three milk cake is so easy to make! 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 chill at 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! 

The Best Tres Leches Cake - Soft, tender, and soaked with three milks! It just melts in your mouth and it's the BEST tres leches cake ever!! You need to try this AMAZING cake!!

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. 

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. 

The Best Tres Leches Cake - Soft, tender, and soaked with three milks! It just melts in your mouth and it's the BEST tres leches cake ever!! You need to try this AMAZING cake!!

Tips for the Best Tres Leches Cake

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. 

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.

And 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! 

The Best Tres Leches Cake

The Best Tres Leches Cake

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.

Yield: 20
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Cooling Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 50 minutes

Ingredients

Cake

  • 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

Instructions

Cake 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Add 1/3 cup whole milk, vanilla, flour, baking powder, salt, and beat on low speed until combined, don’t overmix; set aside.
  4. 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.
  5. Gently fold egg whites into the cake batter.
  6. 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.
  7. Allow cake to cool in pan on a wire rack. While cake cools, make the tres leches mixture.

Tres Leches Mixture 

  1. To a medium bowl, add the 3 milks and whisk to combine.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 

  1. 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.
  2. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat to combine.
  3. 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.

Notes

  • 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

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

20

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 229Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 72mgSodium: 139mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 0gSugar: 28gProtein: 6g

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85 comments on “The Best Tres Leches Cake”

  1. I made this for my sisters bday yesterday and came put really well Many thanks for the recipe.I took one cup more flour and adjusted the other ingredients

    Rating: 5
  2. I have just made this… looks good so far! Do you take the cake out of the tin before you spread the whipped cream on top? Or spread it on while it’s in the tin?

  3. I made this cake and it’s insane. There is a Mexican bakery in my town that makes insane tres leches cake. This is my absolute favorite blog for cakes. I make the orange olive oil cake will the time and it’s such a crowd pleaser. So I went straight to Avery for the recipe. The only thing I did different was setting fresh strawberry slices between the cake and whipped cream. Got the idea from the bakery here. They pack their full of all kinds of fresh fruit. I’m a total strawberry fanatic all year round. Make this cake! a very is the master!!!!!! 🍰🍰🍰🍰

    Rating: 5
    • Thanks for the 5 star review and glad you love this cake and my site for cake recipes! Thank you so much for all the praise! I have a Mexican bakery I go to sometimes and they put canned peach slices on theirs. Sounds a little…meh…but it’s actually really good if you like peaches and can’t get fresh ones in the winter.

  4. Great recipe!

    Rating: 5
  5. Can I make the cake one day, poke and add the mixture the next, and then serve the next? Timing issues.

  6. Made this cake for a Hispanic-American Heritage Month/September birthdays party at work and it was a huge hit! Got tons of complements. The cake holds a gorgeous texture with the three milks soak. I topped mine with a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice, sliced peaches, and slices strawberries.

    Rating: 5
  7. Thank you for this recipe! It is truly the best. It will be my go to going forward. My husband said omg after every bite lol. Def a keeper!

    Rating: 5
  8. Hi I have been asked to make a Tres Leche birthday theme cake. I have never made a Tres leche cake before and I am not sure it the cake is firm enough to cover it with buttercream frosting and fondant. Is it firm enough or am I just a worry wart?

    • Tres leches doesn’t have buttercream. If the person has requested a tres leches cake, then they would likely know that. I wouldn’t add buttercream, fondant, etc. That is not what this cake is all about. And likely will not support it. I would make this cake as is, stick some candles in it, sing happy birthday, and enjoy this cake for what is is – AMAZING!

  9. Thanks again for another household hit! My family really enjoyed this, and I didn’t change a thing.

    Rating: 5
  10. I used the cake and milk soak recipe for my Pineapple Filled Tres Leches cake and I have to say it made an exceptional cake! Everyone raved about it. I have made a lot of cakes and this is the simplest and best tres leches cake recipe! Thanks for sharing.

    Rating: 5
  11. I’m excited to make this for a Mexican themed dinner I’m having. I am confused about the aluminum foil and am not a fan of baking on that. Is it necessary or can I just grease and flour the actual pan? Thanks!

  12. I just wanted the basic cake part :::: I have my own Leche recipe (I simmer milk with a cinnamon stick and 1 clove for 25 min, in lieu of the condensed milk, then mix in the sweet condensed milk and a bit of whipping cream ) ::::: and I LOVE how it turned out ! Perfect texture for absorbing the Leche . Beating the egg whites seperate was key . Thank you! The only thing I’ll change is less sugar next time . Thanks for your post and I can’t wait to try some of your other ones .

  13. Baked this on May 5, 2019. I used turbinado sugar in the cake batter and in the meringue, instead of standard white sugar. Also, I weighed out the sugar and flour, rather than measuring. I let the cake soak in the fridge until May 7, then made the whipped topping and put it out on our snack table at work. Instant hit! Everybody loves it!!! I suspect making in the style of an angel food cake with the French meringue folded in makes all the difference. The cake absorbed all of the tres leches mix and none pooled on the bottom. This recipe rocks, Averie. Thanks so much for sharing it.

    Rating: 5
    • Thanks for the 5 star review and glad that this was a winner with everyone!

      • I’m reading the tres leches recipe and do you leave it in the baking pan. It states to line aluminum foil with floured cooking spray, but no where is it noted to remove cake from pan. I read the directions over and over. Please advise.
        No where does it say when to remove cake from pan. Only to leave in pan to cool.
        Fran C.

      • You remove cake from pan when you are ready to eat it.

  14. This was delicious! I successfully halved the recipe, using an 8″ square pan and 2 extra large eggs. My aunt, who loves tres leches cake, said it was even better than her favorite restaurant’s. Thank you!

  15. Hi I used your cake recipe yesterday and got the most amazing results! Thank you! This is going to be my go to sponge recipe from now on. I did not poke holes and also used coconut milk, regular milk and condensed milk.

    Rating: 5
  16. Hi! I’m looking forward to making this for cinco de mayo! I need to make it the day before, does it keep well in the fridge with the milks on, or would you soak it (and then frost) right before serving? Wasn’t sure if it would be difficult to cut into pieces if it soaked overnight…

  17. I had been planning to make just such a cake for the upcoming holiday so it’s fun that you have posted your version. I, too, have never made it before. First, I referenced the Pioneer Woman’s original recipe that you worked from and noticed that she only lists a quarter cup of heavy cream for making the tres leches mixture, and then calls for topping the cake with just a portion of that with one cup left unused. I wonder what kind of difference these two changes have on the finished cake? Did you make the original first and felt the cake needed a “heartier” milk topping as well as more of it?

  18. We’re missionaries to Mexico and Nicaragua, have made this cake many times. In my cookbook I’ve included a recipe very similar but my GO TO is to use a cake mix instead, then adding the 3 milks. I also don’t poke holes (as I learned in h.s.) but just pour over cake. Soaks right in.

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