Tres Leches Cake

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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 an EASY recipe your family will love! Perfect for Cinco de Mayo or anytime you are craving THE BEST tres leches cake!

Two slices of homemade tres leches cake on white plates

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.

Love Tres Leches Desserts?

I also have a recipe for tres leches cupcakes that I think you’ll love! 

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: 

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

Note: Scroll down to the recipe card section of the post for the ingredients with amounts included and for more complete directions.

A slice of tres leches sponge cake, with a bite missing.

How to Make Tres Leches Cake

This tres leches cake recipe 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 the egg whites 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! 

Recipe Tips

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! 

Recipe FAQs

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.

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 Cake Flour be used instead of all-purpose?

I avoid using specialty flours because I simply don’t want extra ingredients taking up space in my pantry. You might be able to use cake flour in this recipe, but I can’t say for certain since I’ve only tested it using all-purpose flour.

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! 

Storage Instructions

This authentic tres leches cake should be stored in the fridge, covered. It will last for up to 4-5 days, but note that the whipped cream topping will deflate over time. If you use Cool Whip or another whipped topping, not quite as much.

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 You Freeze Tres Leches Cake?

No, you cannot freeze the assembled cake. The tres leches mixture will make the frozen cake unpleasantly soggy.

You CAN, however, bake the cake and then let it cool completely before freezing. When ready to finish assembling, thaw on your counter before continuing with the recipe (i.e. pouring over the tres leches mixture, chilling, and topping with whipped cream). Although personally this isn’t a recipe I’d recommend for freezing.

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The Best Tres Leches Cake

By Averie Sunshine
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.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Cooling Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes
Servings: 20
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Ingredients  

Cake

  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Tres Leches Mixture

  • one 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • one 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream

Whipped Cream Topping

  • 2 cups 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • cinnamon, optional for garnishing
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Instructions 

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.

Video

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

Serving: 1, Calories: 229kcal, Carbohydrates: 33g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 72mg, Sodium: 139mg, Sugar: 28g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe originally posted in 2015 and reposted April 29, 2020, April 30, 2021, and May 3, 2024 with updated text.

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Please note: I have only made the recipe as written, and cannot give advice or predict what will happen if you change something. If you have a question regarding changing, altering, or making substitutions to the recipe, please check out the FAQ page for more info.

Recipe Rating




Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Made it for my husband’s birthday.  He’s typically not a sweets kind of guy but boy did he love it!  His family loved it too! 

    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and I am glad your husband loved it and that it was a great birthday treat for him!

  2. 4 stars
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  3. 5 stars
    I’ve made this tres leches cake and it was absolutely amazing 
    Just  wondering  can we make this with chocolate cake 

  4. 5 stars
    I’ve made this tres leches cake and it was absolutely amazing 
    Just  wondering  can we make this with chocolate cake 

    1. Glad it was amazing! There are versions of chocolate tres leches out there. I am not sure how you’d exactly adapt this to become that but I’m sure with trial and error it can be done.

  5. haven’t yet made a recipe but this is a great site. Very well arranged and clearly written recipes. Planning to make the Tres Leces for my grandsons’ birthday.

  6. 5 stars
    I bake this for everyone when there’s an occasion and they really all say it’s the “best tres leches cake” ever. My family prefers it to be not so sweet so I usually add an extra 1/4 cup of cream to the milk mixture, since they love it to be oozing milk as well. Thank you for making this!

  7. 5 stars
    I bake this for everyone when there’s an occasion and they really all say it’s the “best tres leches cake” ever. My family prefers it to be not so sweet so I usually add an extra 1/4 cup of cream to the milk mixture, since they love it to be oozing milk as well. Thank you for making this!

    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad this has been deemed the best tres leches cake ever by your friends and family! And ooohhh I am allll about the oozing milk and the extra 1/4 c of cream sounds perfect!

  8. 5 stars
    This tres leches was fabulous! Not too sweet, just right. The only thing I did marginally different was with the heavy cream. I purchased 1 quart of cream, used the 1/2 cup it calls for for the tres leches mixture then used the remainder for the top so just had less cream on top so I wouldn’t have to buy more and I thought that was plenty of cream for the top.

  9. 5 stars
    Love this recipe!! It’s out family go to for birthday cakes!
    I make it in a round pan and seem to always have problems with it dropping down in the centre after it’s baked. Is that because im trying to make it too thick?

  10. 5 stars
    Love this recipe!! It’s out family go to for birthday cakes!
    I make it in a round pan and seem to always have problems with it dropping down in the centre after it’s baked. Is that because im trying to make it too thick?

    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad you love it!

      Yes to your second question, this is 100% a cake that needs to be baked in a 9×13 otherwise it is underbaked in the center and will fall upon cooling.

      1. Today I actually made it in two shallower round pans and stacked them and it turned out great!

  11. 5 stars
    Thank you. This is a great recipe! It’s not too sweet at all and the texture is perfect. My oven cooks things faster so it only took about 25 minutes. It came out delicious – friends and fam loved it – and it was fun to make! :)

  12. 5 stars
    Thank you. This is a great recipe! It’s not too sweet at all and the texture is perfect. My oven cooks things faster so it only took about 25 minutes. It came out delicious – friends and fam loved it – and it was fun to make! :)

    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad this was fun to make and that everyone loved it too!

  13. Hi there,
    Just a very general question, 1 cup seems like a lot of sugar but that’s just me. Have you had anyone comment it was too sweet?

    1. It’s a 9×13 inch cake. Check cakes of similar size, this is not a lot of sugar for the size of the cake. No it’s not too sweet and tastes like traditional tres leches cake tastes, if you like tres leches cake in general, you’ll love this recipe.

  14. 5 stars
    Made this last night and it was excellent. We have a cuban restaurant we go to here and we love their tres leches. This recipe was equally as good. So glad to know I can make it at home now. Thank you!