Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake is an ultra decadent Mexican dessert that you simply have to try! A moist, decadent cake soaked in an amazing three milk mixture and topped with homemade sweetened whipped cream.

A slice of Tres Leches cake plated and topped with whipped cream and cinnamonA slice of Tres Leches cake plated and topped with whipped cream and cinnamon

Never Tried Tres Leches Cake? This Easy Recipe Can Fix That!

I’ve never met a cake that I’ve loved more than Tres Leches. If you haven’t tried it yet – seriously, stop what you are doing right now and either make this recipe or find your nearest sweet shop. You MUST try it. 

It is the most dreamy and indulgent of all cakes. It’s impressive to serve to friends and not too technical or difficult for a novice baker to make. You can make it the day before a holiday or event and then ice it with whipped cream and go!

What is Tres Leches Cake?

Tres Leches directly translates from Spanish to English as “three milks”. Tres Leches Cake is a sponge cake that is poked with holes and then drenched in three separate milks. The cake then acts as a sponge and absorbs those milks making for the most insanely moist and sweet cake you’ll ever encounter. 

What Are the 3 Kinds of Milk Used in Authentic Tres Leches Cake?

The three milks used in a truly authentic Tres Leches Cake are:

  1. Evaporated milk
  2. Heavy cream
  3. Sweetened condensed milk

What Type of Cake Do you Use For Tres Leches?

I’ve been working on perfecting my Tres Leches Cake for years. I’ve tested this recipe so many times with every cake base under the sun: butter cake, vanilla cake, cake mix cake, and pound cake.

My recipe for Tres Leches Cake starts with an easy sponge cake. For me, sponge cake works best. It’s a sponge, so it LITERALLY soaks up the milks that are poured on top! With a sponge cake more than any other cake base, the cake is soft and you get the delicious milk combination in every bite. 

Using a cake mix worked well, but not as well as the sponge cake. The texture of a cake baked from a box mix is extremely soft and airy, so it will do in a pinch. 

A homemade vanilla cake base worked okay, but it didn’t absorb the milk as well as I’d have liked. The excess milk pooled at the bottom of the cake, which meant we had a soggy bottom and a dryer top.

Pound cake was altogether too dense for this recipe. 

Take it from me, go with the sponge cake. 

What IS Sponge Cake?

Sponge cake is a cake that’s made with flour, eggs, and sugar, but no shortening. It falls under the category of foam cake (as opposed to butter cake). Sponge cakes are light and fluffy because they have air beaten into the egg whites. 

Bonus: Sponge cake usually has a lower fat content then a butter cake, too!

Recipe Ingredients

For this recipe, the sponge cake base won’t have any surprises. Even if you don’t bake often, you’re likely to have these ingredients in your pantry.

You may need to add your milks to your shopping list in advance, unless you’ve always got evaporated milk and condensed milk on hand.

Here’s everything you’ll need:

  •  eggs
  •  sugar
  •  milk
  •  vanilla
  •  baking powder
  •  kosher salt
  • all purpose flour
  • sweetened condensed milk
  • evaporated milk
  • heavy cream

For the Topping

  • heavy whipping cream
  • powdered sugar
  • ground cinnamon
A collage of images showing the steps to make Tres Leches CakeA collage of images showing the steps to make Tres Leches Cake

How to Make Tres Leches Cake

Prep: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Coat a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray and set it aside.

Mix: In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the 5 egg yolks and 3/4 cup granulated sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, until it becomes a pale yellow color. Scrape the bottom of the bowl once or twice during mixing to ensure the mixture is evenly combined.

Add: Turn the mixer down to medium-low and add in the milk, vanilla, baking powder and salt. Mix for 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Turn mixer to low and add in the flour, mixing until just combined.

Whisk: In another bowl using the whisk attachment on your stand mixer or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. Add in the remaining 1/4 cup of granulated sugar and continue beating until stiff (but not dry) peaks form.

Fold: Fold the egg whites into the prepared batter until combined. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cake is set on top, and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool: Place the pan on a wire rack to cool. 

Combine: When the cake is mostly cooled, combine the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and 1/4 cup heavy cream in a medium bowl.

Poke: Using a fork poke the top of the cooled cake, creating tiny little holes all over. Pour the milk mixture evenly all over on top of the cake, making sure you get the edges.

Cool: Allow the cake to cool completely, and cover it with cling wrap. Place the cake in the refrigerator for at least an hour, or overnight. 

Top: When you’re ready to serve the cake, mix the remaining heavy cream and powdered sugar together in your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until thickened. Spread your whipped cream on top of the cake and dust the cake with ground cinnamon, if desired.

A slice of Tres Leches Cake plated with the first bit on the forkA slice of Tres Leches Cake plated with the first bit on the fork

Why Separate the Eggs?

Separating your eggs will produce a fluffier cake that is better able to absorb our indulgent milk mixture. This is a method that is used regularly in cake baking because it produces a fluffier cake.

I do love to simplify recipes, so I would eliminate this step if doing so still produced a good result. But in this recipe I don’t recommend skipping the separating of the eggs.

The fluffier the cake for Tres Leches, the better! You WANT the cake to absorb the delicious milks.

Tips for the Best Tres Leches Cake

Be sure to follow these simple tips for the best Tres Leches Cake you’ve ever had!

  • Line your baking pan with parchment paper. This will allow you to remove your slices from the pan with, no prob. 
  • Use room temperature eggs instead of cold, straight outta the fridge eggs. Room temperature eggs combine more easily and help to make your baked goods more airy. 
  • Only poke holes in the top. Be sure your fork poked holes don’t go all the way to the bottom of the cake. Poking your holes to the bottom of the cake is a sure fire way to end up with all of your milks at the bottom.
  • Tres Leches is best served cold, not warm or room temp. 
A slice of Tres Leches cake plated and topped with whipped cream and cinnamonA slice of Tres Leches cake plated and topped with whipped cream and cinnamon

Topping Ideas

For me, a simple topping of whipped cream dusted with cinnamon is simply perfection. These other topping ideas are great, too:

  • maraschino or fresh cherries
  • any type of berries
  • kiwi
  • mini chocolate chips or chocolate curls
  • dusting of cocoa powder
  • toffee bits
  • shaved coconut
  • caramel sauce or bits

How to Store this Cake

This cake stores nicely in your refrigerator for up to 3 days. Some people even say it’s better on day 2! Be sure you cover it tightly or keep it in an airtight container. 

Print

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A slice of Tres Leches cake plated and topped with whipped cream and cinnamonA slice of Tres Leches cake plated and topped with whipped cream and cinnamon

Description:

This Easy Tres Leches Cake is a light sponge cake soaked in 3 milks! Completely delicious, this is the best Tres Leches Cake I’ve ever had! 


Ingredients:

Cake

  •  5 large eggs, separated
  •  1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  •  1/3 cup milk
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla
  •  1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  •  1/2  teaspoon kosher salt
  •  1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 (14- ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12- ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Topping

  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • Optional – ground cinnamon for dusting on top

Instructions:

  • Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine 5 egg yolks and 3/4 cup granulated sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, until pale yellow. Scrape the bottom of the bowl once or twice during mixing, to ensure mixture is evenly combined.
  • Turn the mixer down to medium-low and add in the milk, vanilla, baking powder and salt. Mix for 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  • Turn mixer to low and add in the flour, mixing until just combined.
  • In another bowl using the whisk attachment on your stand mixer or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. Add in the remaining 1/4 cup of granulated sugar and continue beating until stiff (but not dry) peaks form.
  • Fold the egg whites into the prepared batter until combined. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cake is set on top, and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Place the pan on a wire rack to cool. 
  • When the cake is mostly cooled, combine the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and 1/4 cup heavy cream in a medium bowl.
  • Using a fork poke the top of the cooled cake, creating tiny little holes all over. Pour the milk mixture evenly all over on top of the cake, making sure you get the edges.
  • Allow the cake to cool completely, and cover with cling wrap. Place cake in the refrigerator for at least an hour, or overnight. 
  • Topping: When you’re ready to serve the cake, mix the heavy cream and powdered sugar together in your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until thickened. Spread on top of the cake and dust with ground cinnamon, if desired.

Notes:

Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Keywords:: tres leches cake recipe, how to make tres leches cake, best tres leches cake, authentic tres leches, mexican dessert recipe, easy mexican desserts

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