Tres Leches Cake

Desserts, Holiday, Winter

This Tres Leches Cake is absolute perfection. It’s airy, light, decadent and delicious. This Latin American dessert consists a sponge cake topped with a three milk mixture. After the milk is absorbed it’s topped with fluffy whipped cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon!

I’ve made this cake for years, YEARS and I only recently realized that I haven’t shared it on this blog. So here we are. Let’s dive into it, shall we! The basics:

What is Tres Leches Cake?

Tres Leches literally translates in english as “three milks.” This cake consists of a single cake layer. A lot of times the sponge is airy and light, other times it’s heavy and dense. People have different styles of this same cake so there is no “right way.” Depending on what country you’re from or even what region you’re from within said country, the styles and texture of the sponge may vary.

My favorite iteration is a super light and airy sponge. Though I’ve tried other super rich and buttery cake versions that are delicious too.

After the cake layer is baked, the sponge cools on the kitchen counter. Next, you poke small holes in the top of the sponge. The three milks are mixed together and then poured over cake.

Where is Tres Leches Cake From?

Tres Leches is a cake that derives from Nicaragua.  A lot of different countries have slightly different iterations and takes on this cake. This is my version!

How to Make Tres Leches Cake?

The best part about tres leches is that it can be made ahead. It truly does need some time to cool and soak. If you don’t soak the cake long enough, the cake will be a bit dry and a lot of the milk will be at the bottom or top of the cake.

  1. Whisk together the dry ingredients – for this cake it’s pretty standard: all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar – you really want to emulsify the egg yolks with the sugar and beat the two together until ribbons form and the color of the egg yolks turns to pale yellow.
  3. Mix in the vanilla extract and milk – You then want to add the milk and vanilla extract to the egg yolks and whisk until they’re smooth.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients – You want to use a bit of a folding technique to combine the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Tres Leches Cake

  • Beat the egg whites – You want to clean your mixing bowl thoroughly. And dry it. If there’s any water, it may not beat until light and fluffy.
  • Fold the egg whites in – Lastly, you want to fold the fluffy egg whites into the batter until you no longer see any egg white bits. You really want to be gentle with this step as to not deflate the egg whites.
  • Bake it! – Next comes baking. This cake will shrink when it cools. That’s a-ok.
  • Mix the milks – Add all of the milks to a large measuring cup, and whisk them al together.
  • Poke holes in the cake – Using a fork or a skewer, poke a bunch of holes in the cake.
  • Pour the milk mixture over the cake – It will seem like A LOT of milk, but don’t worry, it will eventually be all soaked up by the cake.

Tres Leches Cake

How to Decorate Tres Leches Cake

While I love to add all sorts of buttercream flowers and such to random cakes, I keep this authentic tres leches cake recipe as simple ass possible. So this means, whipping heavy cream with a teeny bit of powdered sugar and smoothing it on top. And then I’ll dust a bit of ground cinnamon on top.

Tres Leches Cake

Tips and Tricks

Can you freeze tres leches cake? Yes! That’s the best part. I would suggest baking the cake, allowing it to cool completely and then wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap. You can freeze it for up to 3 months.

To thaw the cake, I would transfer it to the fridge until it comes up to temperature. And then proceed with the soaking with the milks. You can actually place the cake back into the 9×13 pan to do this to avoid messes.

Other Versions of Tres Leches:

  1. Pumpkin Tres Leches
  2. Horchata Tres Leches

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake Recipe

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5 from 8 votes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Soaking Time 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 40 minutes
Serving Size: 12 servings
Calories: 209kcal
This Tres Leches cake recipe is a Latin American classic. A sponge cake that is soaked in a mix of three milks and then topped with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon.

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Tres Leches:

  • 1 (14-ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12-ounce) can of evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Topping:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Directions

To Make the Tres Leches Sponge Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch pan and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In a stand-up mixer with paddle attachment, beat egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow and double in volume. Mix in the vanilla and the milk on low speed just until combined, then fold the egg yolk mixture into the flour mixture.
  • Clean and dry the egg yolk bowl. We’re doing this because the egg whites won’t have height if the bowl has any remnants of egg yolk and/or water. Add the egg whites and beat with the whisk attachment on high until stiff peaks about 3 to 4 minutes.
  • In two batches, fold the egg white mixture into egg yolk and flour mixture until you no longer see any bits of egg white.
  • Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for about 30 minutes.

To Assemble + Topping:

  • In a large serving bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and whole milk.
  • When the cake is cool, using a fork, poke holes in the top of the cake. I did it about 20 times, you really want to give a way for the milks to be absorbed by the cake. Pour the milk mixture over the cake (it may seem like a lot but it will absorb!). Transfer to the fridge to 2 to 3 hours, ideally overnight.
  • Just before serving, make the whipped cream! To a bowl, using an electric mixer, mix the heavy cream, sifted powdered sugar and salt until soft peaks form. Top the cake with the fluffy whipped cream. Garnish with a bit of ground cinnamon, if you like.
  • This cake stays good for about 3 days when stored in the fridge.
CourseDessert
CuisineAmerican, Latin America, Latino Food
Keywordbest tres leches cake recipe, how to make a tres leches cake, three milks, tres leche cake, tres leches, tres leches cake
Calories: 209kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 29mg | Sodium: 114mg | Potassium: 109mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 324IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 60mg | Iron: 1mg
Did you make this Recipe? Tag me Today!Tag @acozykitchen on Instagram and hashtag it #acozykitchen

Tres Leches Cake

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Looking for more Latin-inspired recipes? Here are some other favorites:

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21 Comments

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  • Reply Andrea July 2, 2020 at 5:42 am

    My husband has been talking about having me make a tres leches cake for about three years ever since a family friend made one. Sunday is his birthday and I’m going to surprise him so the fact that this cake is better hidden in the fridge overnight is perfect! I can’t wait to try this!

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme July 2, 2020 at 10:50 am

      let me know how it goes! 🙂

      • Reply Andrea July 6, 2020 at 2:49 pm

        Omg it was amazing!! Incredibly light for how rich this dessert normally is. Even my 2 year old closed her eyes and said mmm in such a sincere way haha. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Reply Mitra May 6, 2020 at 6:44 am

    5 stars
    I have been wanting to make this for a while and last night to celebrate Cinco de Mayo seemed the perfect opportunity. The recipe was easy enough to make with your fantastic step by step instructions. I did use a metal baking pan and had to increase the bake time by about 10 minutes. Like others, if I hadn’t the middle wouldn’t have been cooked. Everyone loved this and I loved it so much I had it for breakfast with coffee this morning.

  • Reply marge April 26, 2020 at 4:06 am

    this looks delicious 🙂

    i don’t have a mixer, can i use a food processor to mix things or would it be better to mix by hand? thanks!

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme April 26, 2020 at 9:11 am

      unfortunately a food processor won’t work. you have to beat the egg whites until they’re stiff and they definitely requires a mixer of some kind (whether it be an electric hand mixer OR a stand-up mixer–sorry)

  • Reply Stephanie April 25, 2020 at 10:22 am

    How many eggs are you using on this recipe? Maybe I missed it lol
    I want to try it

  • Reply Kasi January 19, 2020 at 12:46 pm

    5 stars
    Super delicious and will definitely be making this again. I do want to share this: I baked the cake in a 9 x 13 stoneware dish which I have previously baked many cakes in but I had to add an extra 5 mins on top of the suggested 18-20 mins baking time. It was a light golden color and I did the finger test which the cake did bounce back. After letting it cool for an hour, I poked the cake with a fork and found that the middle of the cake was under baked and even had a few pockets of raw batter. Will add more baking time next time. Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme January 19, 2020 at 7:33 pm

      Oh that’s a bummer. Yeah, I baked this is a metal baking pan and that conducts heat much faster. Interesting that it might need 5 to 7 minutes longer. Hopefully it tasted ok!

  • Reply Areanne January 13, 2020 at 9:34 am

    5 stars
    Years ago when I was in middle school, I was at a friend’s birthday party, and her mom made Tres Leches for her birthday cake, and it was SO good. I have been wanting to make this for a long time, so thank you for sharing your recipe. We are having some people over for dinner, and this will be the perfect dessert to share!

    • Reply Gloria June 25, 2020 at 4:49 pm

      If I don’t have powdered sugar can I use regular cane sugar?

  • Reply Nick January 7, 2020 at 10:56 am

    I love this cake. When my wife and I spent some time in Nicaragua about a decade ago this cake was very popular at birthday parties and in storefronts. Thanks for bringing back some memories!

  • Reply Where is Portugal January 4, 2020 at 10:46 am

    5 stars
    Super helpful! I’d love to see you how you laid out the kitchen – it’s GORGEOUS but I always wished people showed what they used different cabinets for, drawer organizers, etc. THANKS!

  • Reply Sabrina January 3, 2020 at 8:46 pm

    5 stars
    my kind of cake, light and tasty, but have never made it, now I will, thank you for the recipe!

  • Reply Scarlet January 3, 2020 at 10:01 am

    My daugther had a tres leches cake during her Spanish class party and now she want to make one so thanks for this recipe. It looks so pretty too!

  • Reply Abi January 1, 2020 at 5:46 pm

    5 stars
    I am from Nicaragua and I like your recipe for the cake. However, the topping in Nicaragua is always merengue not cream and always decorated with maraschino cherries (that need to be super dry before placing them ) so that each piece served will have a cherry on top. Also, try using heavy cream instead of milk for the leches part.

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme January 3, 2020 at 10:05 am

      Hi, I’m not making a traditional Nicaraguan tres leches cake==I’m making it the way I prefer. I like using whole milk vs. heavy cream because I think the texture is a bit lighter with the milk. I also don’t love it with meringue topping and prefer it with whipped cream. Tres Leches is made in a lot of places besides Nicaragua and people make it in various iterations. 🙂

  • Reply Renee December 29, 2019 at 11:42 am

    Can you believe I’ve never made or even had tres leches cake? How is this even possible. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to make this soon.