This authentic tres leches cake is rich, moist, and melt-in-your-mouth good. It’s made with a light and fluffy sponge cake soaked in a sweet milk mixture and topped with a billowy cloud of whipped cream. Two slices of tres leches cake topped with strawberries with the rest of the cake in the back.

What is a tres leches cake?

Tres leches cake is a traditional Latin American dessert commonly served in Mexican restaurants. It’s a cake (typically a sponge cake) soaked in three different types of milk, hence the name three milks cake in Spanish. It’s topped with a lightly sweetened whipped cream and a dusting of ground cinnamon as well.

What 3 milks are in tres leches cake?

Evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and heavy whipping cream.

An overhead view of a whole tres leches cake on a dark blue surface.

Why this recipe is so great:

  • Easy to make – This dessert comes together in 3 simple steps:
    • 1) Bake cake and let cool
    • 2) Poke holes and pour milk mixture over the top
    • 3) Top with whipped cream and cinnamon before serving
  • Tastes amazing – The sweet milk mixture makes this cake ultra-moist and flavorful. The whipped cream topping adds creaminess and richness. The sprinkle of cinnamon adds depth in flavor and enhances the overall taste of this scrumptious, decadent cake.
  • Great make-ahead recipe – This cake is best made the day before to allow the milk mixture to absorb into the cake overnight for an extra moist and luscious cake. The cake is also best served chilled for a refreshing treat.

How to make tres leches cake:

(the ingredient amounts are listed in the printable recipe card further below)

A picture collage of how to make sponge cake.

  1. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow. Mix in the milk and vanilla.
  3. Sift in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir until just combined.
  4. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites, 1/3 third at a time, until combined.
  5. Pour the cake batter into a greased 9×13″ pan. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.
  6. Let cool and poke holes all over the cake with a wooden skewer or fork.
  7. Mix together the 3 kinds of milk and pour over the top of the cake. Let the cake soak for 4 hours or overnight in the fridge.
  8. Top the cake with whipped cream and cinnamon before serving.

A picture collage of how to  make tres leches cake.

Expert tips:

  • Beating the egg whites – Take the time to beat the egg whites to stiff peaks for the lightest and fluffiest cake.
  • Poking the cake – Make sure to poke a lot of holes in the cake so it can absorb as much of the sweet milk mixture as possible.
  • Soaking the cake – Allow the cake to soak in the milk mixture for a minimum of 4 hours or preferably overnight for a super soft and flavorful cake.
  • Serving – Best served chilled. Great served with some fresh berries too.

FAQ:

Is tres leches cake Spanish or Mexican?

Mexican. The origin of this cake’s mainstream popularity happened in the 1930s when Nestle opened its plants in Mexico and had a recipe for tres leches cake printed on the outside of the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and cream cans. (source: Loco Gringo)

Why did my sponge cake shrink?

It’s normal for the sponge cake to shrink a bit because the air bubbles from the beaten egg whites shrink when cooled.

Should tres leches cake be wet?

It should be wet but not soggy. The cake should still be intact when piercing a fork through it but it should puddle at the bottom.

How long does tres leches cake last?

It will last 3 days from full assembly. After that, the cake will get soggy and the whipped cream will deflate.

Can you freeze tres leches cake?

It cannot be frozen fully assembled because the whipped cream and soaked cake will disintegrate after thawing. You can, however, freeze the sponge cake on its own, thaw it, then poke holes in it and finish it with the milk mixture and whipped cream afterwards.

A slice of tres leches cake on a plate with a piece on a fork.

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Tres Leches Cake


  • Author: Lily Ernst
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Cook Time: 30 min
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 15

Description

This authentic tres leches cake is rich, moist, and melt-in-your-mouth good. It’s made with a light and fluffy sponge cake soaked in a sweet milk mixture and topped with a billowy cloud of whipped cream.


Ingredients

Cake

  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Milk mixture

  • 1 can (12oz) evaporated milk
  • 1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream (from the pint below)

Whipped cream

  • 1 pint (16oz) whipping cream, divided (1/4 cup for milk mixture)
  • 3 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ground cinnamon for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9×13″ baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Slowly add 1/4 cup of the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  3. Using the same mixer, beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow. Mix in the milk and vanilla.
  4. Sift in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir until just combined.
  5. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites, 1/3 third at a time, until combined. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Let cool completely and poke holes all over the cake with a wooden skewer or fork.
  8. Mix together the milk mixture and pour over the top of the cake. Cover the cake with and let it soak for a minimum of 4 hours or preferably overnight in the fridge.
  9. When ready to serve, beat the remaining whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until stiff peaks. Spread all over the cake and dust with a bit of cinnamon. 

Notes

Leftovers can be covered and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

  • Category: dessert
  • Method: bake
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Keywords: tres leches cake recipe

Recipe adapted from Tastes Better from Scratch.

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