This easy tres leches cake recipe features a fluffy sponge cake soaked with 3 milks – sweetened condensed, evaporated and whole milk. Top with whipped cream and fresh fruit for a dreamy Mexican-style cake.
This tender Mexican tres leches cake is an absolute crowd pleaser with its melt-in-your-mouth crumb and ultra moist texture. The name “tres leches” means three milks in Spanish, referring to the soaking liquid made with sweetened condensed, evaporated and whole milks. When poured over the flaky sponge cake, an irresistible flavor transformation happens. The result is a creamy dessert with a subtle caramel note that dissolves on your tongue.
While cakes soaked in a decadent mixture of dairy are found across Latin cultures, tres leches cake as we know it today originated in Nicaragua. It has since become a beloved celebration dessert across Mexico, Central America, and the United States. The tres leches soaking method helps prevent the bright white sponge cake from drying out, transforming it into the quintessential bakery-style cake texture we all crave. Drizzled with even more sweetened condensed milk and topped with billowy whipped cream, this cake is sure to be the star of any gathering.
Can I make the cake ahead of time?
Yes! Prepare the sponge cake and milk mixture 1-2 days in advance, then whip cream and assemble right before serving.
What kind of pan should I bake this in?
Use a light-colored aluminum baking pan for best results. Dark pans can overbrown edges.
What milk alternatives can I use?
Try coconut or almond milk for a dairy-free cake. Half-and-half or cream also work nicely.
My cake came out dry, what went wrong?
Be sure to poke sufficient holes for milk to soak in. And allow cake to chill 1 hour minimum after soaking to fully absorb liquid.
How long does the cake last in the fridge?
Tightly wrapped tres leches cake keeps well for 4-5 days refrigerated.
Can I freeze the cake?
Yes! Wrap pieces tightly then freeze — it will last for up to 2 months frozen. Thaw overnight in fridge.
- 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 3⁄4 teaspoon baking powder
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 1 1⁄4 cups (250g) granulated sugar, divided
- 1⁄2 cup (120mL) milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 12 oz (1 can) evaporated milk
- 2/3 cup whole milk
- 14 oz (1 can) sweetened condensed milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- Strawberries for garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan with butter or baking spray.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
- Separate the egg whites and yolks into two separate bowls. Set aside the whites for now.
- Beat the egg yolks on high speed until pale, thickened and doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. Gradually beat in 1 cup of the sugar until fully incorporated. Reduce speed to low and beat in the milk and vanilla.
- Pour the egg yolk mixture into the dry ingredients and gently fold together until just combined. Do not overmix.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed until foamy. Gradually sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating continuously until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 3 minutes.
- Gently fold half the egg whites into the batter to lighten, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until no streaks remain.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and gently smooth the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- While the cake bakes, whisk together the evaporated milk, whole milk and sweetened condensed milk in a bowl. Set aside.
- Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes, then use a fork to generously poke holes all over the top of the cake. Slowly pour the milk mixture evenly over the top of the cake until absorbed.
- Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before frosting to allow cake to chill. Recipe by Ineskohl.info
- Just before serving, beat the heavy cream and powdered sugar in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. Spread over the chilled cake.
- Garnish with sliced fresh strawberries if desired. Slice and serve chilled. Enjoy!
- Be sure to generously poke holes all over the cake after baking to allow the milk mixture to soak in. This is key for a moist tender crumb!
- Mix the milk combination until uniform before pouring over cake. This ensures the sweetened condensed milk incorporates well.
- Use a combination of whole milk and evaporated milk for best flavor. The evaporated milk lends a creamy note.
- Whip the heavy cream right before assembling just until stiff peaks form. Overwhipping will cause it to look curdled.
- Garnish with fresh fruit like mango, pineapple or strawberries. Toasted coconut or cinnamon are also delicious additions.
- For best texture, chill the assembled cake overnight before slicing. This allows time for flavors to meld.
- Store leftover cake covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. Enjoy cold or at room temperature.