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!!

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 one 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 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.

What is Tres Leches Cake? 

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.

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! 

Tips for the Best Tres Leches Cake

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 - 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!!

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

More Mexican Recipes to Try: 

  • Skinny Mexican Bean and Corn Salad — Two kinds of beans, juicy corn and tomatoes, crisp peppers, and green onions are tossed in a lime-chili-cumin vinaigrette that’s perfectly light.
  • Easy 30-Minute Chicken Fajitas — This easy recipe comes together in no time and is packed with flavor! 
  • Loaded Beef Skillet Nachos — These nachos are LOADED with taco-seasoned ground beef, black beans, corn, cilantro, and lots of cheese.
  • Grilled Mexican Corn — Fresh sweet corn is covered in crema, cheese, and finished with chili, lime juice, and cilantro. So good!
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: 1 cake
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 and 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:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 499 Total Fat: 26g Saturated Fat: 16g Trans Fat: 1g Unsaturated Fat: 9g Cholesterol: 158mg Sodium: 241mg Carbohydrates: 56g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 48g Protein: 11g

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69 comments on “The Best Tres Leches Cake”

  1. I’ve seen this before but didn’t realize it was really a poke cake…and I’ve been to Mexico a few times but don’t know how (or why) I could have passed it up! The lightly sweetened whipped cream on top sounds heavenly.

  2. Your photos from Cabo are stunning! And this cake – omg! I’d love a slice right now! 

  3. Your tres leches looks phenomenal! The hubby and I are trying to figure out where to take a little vacay and you’re inspiring me to suggest somewhere south of the border! :)

  4. Oh yes, I need this in my life. I’ve only had this cake once – with you – so I definitely need to make it!

    • Girl. One of the best cakes I have EVER made. I hoarded this one for my own personal stash. Loooooved it. And it was definitely better than the cake we shared! Night and day if I do say so :)

  5. I always order Tres Leches cake when I go to a Mexican restaurant. It tastes perfect with espresso! I am very intrigued to try your recipe, Averie! Pinned, Yummed and Stumbled! :-)

  6. Hi Averie……these cake recipes look soooooo good, I cannot wait to try then, especially  ( tries leche cake )…… THanks a lot !!!!!!

  7. My family loves tres leches cake. I have a friend who recently discovered she is allergic to dairy. I was wondering if you think this would work using variations of coconut milk instead. She loves tres leches cake, but it doesn’t agree with her.

    • I think that it could work with coconut milks. I would definitely use full-fat, canned coconut milk for sure. Don’t rely just on the refrigerated kind that comes in a carton because solely using that I think could be a little thin. You’d also have to make coconut whipped cream (google if you don’t know how). The taste, overall, of the cake will change with all that coconut milk, but if your friend is okay with that, I think it’s do-able. LMK if you try and how it goes!

  8. This cake looks incredible! All of your cake recipes are always inspiring…your photographs are amazing btw!

  9. Oh boy this looks so good! You have me inspired to go make one now!!

  10. Jorge looooooves Tres Leches Cake.  He got a recipe from one of his cousins who is a baker in Chiapas.  We’ve got that on the must-make list.  Adding this as well!

  11. This cake shrunk ALOT in the pan when I made it, any suggestions to combat this next time?

    • Possibly overbaked? I know that when it was in the oven my cake was pretty puffy and upon cooling, it did shrink, as all cakes do. But it was a bit more dramatic because I think of the beaten egg whites in the batter which causes it to rise really well in a hot oven and then the cool air will cause natural deflation. I wouldn’t worry about it too terribly much and would try baking slightly less next time.

  12. Because this is the Pioneer Woman’s recipe, there is a great step-by-step video of  Ree Drummond making it on the Food Network’s website. You can see exactly what your mixes should look like as you go. I have made it many, many times and it always comes out perfect! I love this cake!

    • I tweaked it slightly but yes it’s pretty close to her recipe and having step shot is always nice…bless her heart that she has the patience to do all of those, mid-mixing, pouring, etc.! So glad you’ve made this cake before and that you love it as much as I do!

  13. My dad doesn’t even like dessert that much and he had 3 pieces of this cake! 

  14. WOW. I tasted this in a Mexican restaurant, and was somewhat underwhelmed. HOwever, faced with ha glut of eggs, I searched for recipes which use lots and came across your recipe. THe result is truly  delightful. SUch lovely sweet milky flavours but still light and refreshing. One to  print and repeat, having converted some of your measurements into UK terminology: still use the cups measures as it makes it much faster.

    THANK YOU for sharing this. MAy now have to visit South American to see if their versions are as good as yours.

  15. i made this recipe over the 4th of july weekend and it was a huge hit with my whole family.  thank you so much for sharing!

  16. I’ve tried making tres leches before and it turned into a soggy mess of a puddle! Used your recipe this time around – came out beautifully. Everyone at the dinner I brought it to gave me lots of complements. This recipe was extremely easy to make and nearly fool proof. Thanks Averie!

  17. Hello Avie, I have a little tip for the next time you make it, to avoid the cake “suck” the 3 milk, let it cool, for about 1hr, then poke it, the cake will absorb it and let some of it remain on the bottom, also, you can add 2 tbs of dark rum to them, so it will bring an amazing scent and taste. I am from a latin country so this is a very traditional cake in here.

  18. hi averie,,,i baked this cake and it was yummy,,,absolutely fantastic .i baked it for husband’s birthday(he does not really like sweet stuff…weird right:)) and he loved it !!!!in fact my entire family and friends loved it.the party was a hit thanks to your fab recipe…i have to bake it again for a friends birthday in two weeks…..i sprinkled it with cinnamon powder ,wow,,
    thanks once again.

  19. Hi averie,
    Second time success. ..god this cake is yummy in my tummy..?
    Can we half this cake and prepare a smaller cake ?
    Thanks in advance for your reply
    DV

  20. Thank you for the recipe! Tres Leches cake is my mom’s favorite. I made your recipe for her birthday last year and again today for Mothers Day. Followed the directions exactly and they came out perfect each time. She loves hers with fresh thinly sliced strawberries on top!

  21. Hi Averie,

    DV here again…i must tell you this cake is a big big big hit in my family…everyone just simply loves it….
    I had two doubts
    The recipe states 5 large eggs if we have to use medium eggs do we use 6 eggs.

    And if on the carton it says Egg size medium-large,then do i stick to 5 or 6 eggs

    Please advise need to bake it again

    Thanks in advance for your help

    DV

    • If your eggs are smaller than a what is called a ‘large egg’ then you may need to use an additional egg but since I’ve only made the recipe with large eggs, I can’t say for sure. Glad you love the cake.

  22. Averie.

    I baked this yummy cake for a friend’s birthday. It was a HUGE hit.

    I’ve made several of your recipes and they are always so delicious

    Thankyou so much for your wonderful blog

    Sue

  23. This looks amazing! Do you think this would work as a muffin/ramekin recipe? If so, what (if any) tweaks would you suggest? As always, thanks for sharing such deliciousness! :)
    Liz

  24. Hi Averie! I’ve been comparing yours and The Pioneer Woman’s recipe ahead of baking it myself. Does the foil lining help with removing the cake and putting it in a serving platter? Do you think parchment paper would work? Just wondering for presentation!

    • I personally prefer foil to parchment paper because I feel like I can get it to seal and stick on the pan tighter than I can with parchment, but you can use whatever you prefer and yes I definitely recommend using something to help with the sticking and transferring onto a serving platter.

  25. I was looking for the recipe for a cake that we used to buy from the Mexican store in the city. Still haven’t found it but I tried this one tonight and WOW! Easy and delicioso! I sided it with my favorite strong cup of coffee using the left over heavy cream. Perfect pairing. Definitely my familias new favorite. Gracias.

    Rating: 5

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