Tres Leches Cake is an airy sponge cake soaked in 3 kinds of milk, then topped with whipped cream frosting. This recipe includes everything you need to know for making the rich, sweet Mexican dessert at home!
Table of Contents
What is Tres Leches Cake
The name “Tres Leches” literally translates to “three milks” in English, but that description doesn’t do enough to capture the magnificence of this cake.
- Sponge Cake- It starts with a light-as-air vanilla sponge cake (based of our delicious boston cream pie recipe).
- Three different milks: sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream.
- Garnish- homemade whipped cream, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and some fresh strawberries are the perfect complement to today’s cake.
Tres Leches Cake is heavenly sweet and ultra rich, as all the best desserts should be!
When you make this Tres Leches Cake recipe you’ll be amazed by how moist it remains without ever getting soggy. The perfect finish to any Mexican meal or celebration!
After baking, you will poke holes in the cake and pour these “tres leches” (three milks) on top:
- Sweetened condensed milk – This thick, sweet milk gives the cake crumb a sweet, syrupy quality.
- Evaporated milk – Thinner than its sweetened counterpart, it helps carry that sweet, creamy flavor into every nook and cranny of the sponge cake.
- Heavy whipping cream – A MUST for rich creamy flavor. It puts the cake over the top.
The moistness of this cake reminds me of our favorite bread pudding recipe!
Cake Tips & Tricks
It isn’t difficult to make Tres Leches Cake but here are a few pointers for success.
- Poke holes over the entire top of the cake. Try to cover every inch of the sponge cake with holes. This ensures more of the milk mixture will get absorbed by the cake.
- Evenly distribute the milk mixture. Make sure to pour the milk over the sides of the cake as well as in the center so every slice of cake is as moist as can be.
- Make it the day before. Tres Leches Cake tastes best the second day when the three milks have had plenty of time to saturate the sponge cake with all their yummy flavor.
- Keep refrigerated. This Tres Leches Cake should be kept covered and chilled when you’re not eating it. It stays good for up to 3 days.
- Avoid the box. Cake mixes from a box are not the same as a sponge cake. A sponge cake is designed to hold moisture, while a cake mix from a box tends to get soggy and crumble.
- Dinner pairings. Today’s cake is the perfect finale after enjoying a dinner of barbacoa or carnitas! You’ll love the sweet finish.
No, there is no butter included in traditional sponge cake. In Tres Leches Cake, it’s the heavy cream and milks that make it moist and rich. You won’t miss the butter one bit.
You can substitute the homemade whipped cream for a carton of Cool Whip if desired. Keep in mind that Cool Whip is sweeter than the homemade whipped cream which will make the Tres Leches Cake sweeter overall.
If you want to freeze tres leches cake, you should do it before adding the milk mixture. Bake the sponge cake, wrap in freezer bags and keep frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen cake, poke holes in it and add the milk mixture the night before you plan to serve it. Keep it covered in the refrigerator overnight.
I have great news for you: it doesn’t matter what the top of your cake looks like. You will be covering it with whipped cream! No one will be any the wiser.
More Easy Cake Recipes
Tres Leches Cake
For the Cake
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ cup whole milk
For the Milk Mixture
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk 14 ounce
- 1 can evaporated milk 12 ounce
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
For the Topping
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 3 Tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon Cinnamon for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350℉. Lightly butter a 9×13 pan. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- With an electric mixer, combine sugar, eggs, and vanilla on high speed until the mixture is light and airy (about 5 minutes). Add half the dry ingredients, mixing on low, until just incorporated.
- Gradually pour in the milk. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low until just combined.
- Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
- In a large mixing bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy whipping cream.
- Poke holes all over the top of the cooled cake.
- Slowly pour the milk mixture over the cake, letting it seep into the cake through the holes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- With a hand mixer, whip the whipping cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread over the top of the chilled cake and sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.
Whether you’re a long time tres leches lover or just discovering it for the first time, you’ll love this easy Tres Leches Cake recipe!