How to make tres leches cake

Tres Leches Cake is one of my favorite Mexican desserts! It a deliciously rich and moist, milk soaked cake that always gets compliments every time I make it. It’s sweet and refreshing and even picky eaters love this tempting cake!

Slice of Tres Leches Cake on a small black dessert plate. Cake is a creamy yellow color with a white whipped cream frosting. It's garnished with fresh strawberry slices and mint on top.

You’ll Love the Buttery Version

If you search for recipes on the web you’ll find about half contain one stick of butter the other half container no butter. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

That’s just offensive. I’m totally kidding, but when there’s a choice I say butter all the way! Butter makes everything better. It adds a wonderful richness and flavor.

Overhead image of tres leches cake in process. Cake is poked with fork all over to soak up three milk mixture.

Ingredients You’ll Need for 3 Milk Cake

  • Cake flour – base
  • Baking powder – leavener
  • Unsalted butter, vanilla (regular or real Mexican), salt – flavor
  • Granulated sugar – sweetener
  • Eggs – binding and lift
  • Sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, milk – moisture and richness

Tres Leches Cake in baking dish, shown after adding whipped cream topping.

How to Make Tres Leches Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350. Butter a baking dish.
  • Sift cake flour and whisk in baking powder and salt.
  • In an electric mixer cream butter with sugar until fluffy.
  • Mix in eggs (1 at a time) and vanilla.
  • Blend in flour in additions.
  • Spread in pan and bake until set, about 25 minutes. Cool.
  • Poke cake all over with fork.
  • Blend milks (only using 1/2 cup cream), pour over cake.
  • Chill 12 hours so it has time to absorb milks.
  • Top with sweetened whipped cream.

Three slices of tres leches cake on dark dessert plates set over a dark granite surface.

Tips for This Recipe

  • Use cake flour in place of all-purpose flour for a better texture and absorption.
  • Don’t skip the 12 hour soaking time. Otherwise the cake won’t be the same.
  • Keep it cold. This cake is always best served well chilled, plus those milks need to be refrigerated anyway.
  • Top with fresh strawberries or cinnamon for even more deliciousness!
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More Mexican Dessert Recipes You’ll Love

  • Churros
  • Cheater Fried Ice Cream
  • Mexican Wedding Cookies (AKA Snowballs)

Print

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 13 hours 35 minutes

Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups (200g) cake flour* (scoop and level to measure)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Milk mixture

  • 1 1/4 cups (295ml) milk (anything but skim)
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk

Topping

  • 2 cups (473ml) heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Fresh sliced strawberries or cinnamon, for garnish

  1. For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13 by 9-inch baking dish, set aside. 

  2. Sift cake flour into a medium mixing bowl. Add in baking powder and salt and whisk 20 seconds, set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together butter and sugar until very pale and fluffy.

  4. Mix in eggs one at a time, blending until well combined after each addition. Mix in vanilla. 

  5. Add in flour in 3 additions mixing just until combined after each addition. Remove mixing bowl from stand mixer and scape down sides and bottom of bowl and fold until evenly incorporated. 

  6. Pour batter into prepared baking dish and spread into an even layer (it will seem like a thin layer).
  7. Bake in preheated oven until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 24 – 28 minutes. 
  8. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack, about 45 minutes. Once cool pierce cake many times all over with a long-pronged fork.

  9. For the milk mixture: In a large mixing bowl whisk together milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream, the sweetened condensed milk and the evaporated milk until blended.
  10. Pour evenly over cake then cover and chill at least 12 hours** or up to 2 days.

  11. For the topping: In a large mixing bowl using an electric hand mixer (or using the stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment) whip heavy cream until soft peaks form. 
  12. Add in sugar and vanilla and whip until stiff peaks form. Spread over chilled cake. 
  13. Cut cake into slices and serve cold garnished with strawberries or dust with cinnamon if desired. Store cake in refrigerator.

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  1. Cake flour offers a better texture here and better absorption. You can generally find it by the all-purpose flour in the baking isle.
  2. Be sure to allow at least 12 hours for the milks to soak into the cake otherwise it won't have enough time to soak in.
  3. Recipe source: loosely adapted from allrecipes.

Nutrition Facts

Tres Leches Cake

Amount Per Serving

Calories 338 Calories from Fat 180

% Daily Value*

Total Fat 20g 31%

Saturated Fat 12g 60%

Cholesterol 106mg 35%

Sodium 107mg 4%

Potassium 231mg 7%

Total Carbohydrates 34g 11%

Sugars 25g

Protein 6g 12%

Vitamin A 14.9%

Vitamin C 1.2%

Calcium 16.3%

Iron 2.1%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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