This light Tres Leches Cake is a super moist and tender cake soaked with 3 different kinds of milk, topped with a fluffy and lightly sweetened whipped topping and a dusting of cinnamon. This authentic Tres Leches Cake recipe is one of the most decadent Mexican desserts you’ll ever have.
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Authentic Mexican Tres Leches Cake Recipe
One would think that a cake this incredible would require a lot of ingredients, special techniques and a ton of steps but, this tres leches cake recipe is very easy to make, uses simple ingredients and delivers a moist cake sure to become one of your favorite desserts.
Once you try the light sponge cake, doused in a creamy and sweet milk mixture and luscious whipped topping, you will know why it has become such a popular dessert cake that is served at so many celebratory events in Mexico, and many Latin American countries.
What’s Tres Leches Cake and How Does it Taste?
Tres Leches Cake, milk cake or pastel de tres leches in Spanish is a very popular sweet sponge cake similar to angel food cake. After the airy sponge cake has finished baking it’s drenched in three different types of milk, whole milk, sweetened condensed milk and canned evaporated milk. The process is very similar to the way you make pour and poke cake.
This easy tres leches cake recipe makes an incredibly moist, light and airy cake that tastes like buttery, sweet vanilla with a hint of cinnamon. Although the cake is not overly sweet, it has a rich taste that comes from the combination of the three types of milk.
Why You’ll This Love Tres Leches Cake Recipe
- Easy: Even though its heavenly flavor and texture makes it feel like it took forever to make, this fluffy cake is actually simple and easy.
- Versatile: You can serve this simple cake for any occasion and expect to impress guests.
- Convenient: All of the ingredients are easy to find at the grocery store if you don’t already have them handy in your pantry.
Ingredients and Substitutions
For the complete list of ingredients and quantities, check the printable recipe card below.
- Flour: I tested this recipe with all-purpose flour only. If you wish, you can experiment with flour alternatives like almond flour.
- Baking powder – This leavening agent will give the perfect rise to this Mexican tres leches cake.
- Eggs – I use large eggs at room temperature
- Whole milk – You’ll want this cake to be super rich and moist so use regular milk instead of reduced fat or fat free milk. Having the right type of milks is the key to a moist but not soggy cake.
- Evaporated milk: Canned evaporated milk is one of the key ingredients in this dessert recipe.
- Sweetened condensed milk: This ingredient adds sweetness and richness to this milks cake.
The Whipped Topping and Garnishes
Resist the temptation of switching up the frosting used in this recipe. Whipped cream is light which makes it the perfect topping for this cake.
- Heavy whipping cream: This full-fat dairy will be smooth and luscious once whipped.
- Granulated sugar or powdered sugar: Powdered sugar gives the topping its silky smoothness but you can use granulated sugar if you don’t have powdered on hand.
- Vanilla extract: Vanilla gives the whipped topping flavor and helps to bring out the sweetness of the other ingredients.
- Ground Cinnamon: Traditionally, this cake gets a dusting of ground cinnamon on top.
- Strawberries (optional): I love topping tres leches cake with strawberries for color and to add freshness to the cake.
How do you make Tres Leches Cake?
Here’s the quick version of how to make this easy Mexican tres leches cake. Find all of the details on the printable recipe card below.
- Preheat the oven and spray a cake pan with cooking spray.
- Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
- Separate eggs, placing yolks in one bowl and the whites into a separate bowl.
- Pour sugar into the bowl of egg yolks and with a handheld electric mixer, beat until the yolks are a pale yellow color.
- To the egg yolk mixture, add whole milk and vanilla and stir to combine then, pour the yolk mixture over the dry ingredients and mix to combine.
- Next, using a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until soft peaks are formed. Add the remaining sugar and continue to mix until the egg white mixture becomes stiff but not dried.
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg white mixture into the yolk and flour mixture being careful not to deflate the egg whites.
- Pour cake batter into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven. When done, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Three Milks Mixture:
- Sir together evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and whole milk in a large measuring cup or pitcher.
- After the cake has come to room temperature, poke holes using a fork or slim skewer.
- Pour milk mixture gradually over the top of the cake and around the sides.
- Refrigerate the cake to allow the milk to moisten the cake.
Whipped Cream Topping:
- Add heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla to a large bowl and whip until stiff peaks can be formed.
- Using a spatula, spread the fresh whipped cream mixture on top of the cooled cake, ensuring that it’s even.
- Add a sprinkle of cinnamon and strawberries as garnish, if desired.
Common Questions About Tres Leches Cake
Why Did my Tres Leches Cake Didn’t Rise Properly?
If your cake did not rise properly is most likely because the batter was overmix. This cake recipe uses whipped egg whites as leavening agent. Incorporating the foamy whipped egg whites GENTLY into the cake batter is a must to keep the fluffy air bubbles intact.
Do You Use Butter or Oil in Tres Leches Cake?
No, tres leches cake doesn’t include butter or oil as part of the ingredients. Tres Leches is made with a type of cake named “sponge cake or foam cake”, which is light and uses the whipping of eggs as leavening. Butter or oil would make the cake dense preventing it from soaking the milks.
Why is My Tres Leches Cake Not Absorbing the Milks?
Most likely, the cake is not absorbing the milks because it was overmixed. Tres leches cake is like a sponge with light air bubbles that allow the cake to absorb any liquid. Like a soufflé, overmixing and gently folding the fluffy egg whites into the cake batter is of the most importance.
Is Tres Leches Cake Soggy?
As long as you use the correct type of milks, the cake should not be soggy at all. The cake itself seeps up the three milks so that is custardy and moist.
Why is Tres Leches Cake Special?
Besides being delicious, it’s a fairly easy cake to make with budget friendly ingredients and the chosen cake to celebrate big events in many Latin American countries.
Is Tres Leches from Spain or Mexico?
Three milks cake or pastel de tres leches is incredibly popular and loved by people from many countries. Some historians believe that the origins of this delicious 3 milk-soaked cake is Nicaragua. I think we may never know the truth as so many countries like Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba have made the same claims. Yes! It’s so good that even Britain claims it was inspired by their hedgehog pudding!
When Should I Eat Three Milks Cake (Pastel tres leches)?
Tres leches cake is known as a celebratory dessert in Mexico so it’s certainly perfect for any special occasion. This simple cake is also the perfect dessert to serve on birthdays, holidays such as Cinco de Mayo, for graduations, potlucks, etc.
What to Serve With Tres Leches Cake
I like to serve a hot cup of coffee and a fresh fruit salad alongside this decadent cake. You can also serve it with ice cream.
Storing and Freezing Tres Leches Cake
How to Store Tres Leches Cake? Because the cake contains dairy, it should always be stored in the refrigerator. Store it in an airtight container or covered in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Can you Freeze Tres Leches Cake? Many recipes on the internet say that you can freeze this cake without any problem. I personally only freeze the cake before pouring the milks over the cake. After the cake is drenched in milk, I only store it in the fridge. The cake without the milks or frosting will last in the freezer for 3 months if properly wrapped.
Tres Leches Cake Recipe Tips for Success
- Use cold eggs as they are easier to separate.
- Gently folding the egg whites into the batter is of the most importance. This cake doesn’t use any leavening agents such as baking soda and baking powder. The air in the egg whites is what lift the cake while it bakes. Be gentle and try not to overmix the batter to preserve the egg whites’ airy bubbles.
- After soaking the cake with milk, allow it to rest in the fridge for at least two hours before serving it (it will be hard but you can do it!)
- While not necessary, the addition of cinnamon adds a special touch of warmth and spice to the cake.
- To make this sheet cake, we use a 9×13 baking pan to make this cake. This pan have tall enough sides that can hold the sweet milk mixture.
Take a Look at These Other Cake Recipes
- The Best Coconut Cake Recipe
- Sock It To Me Cake
- Butter Pecan Cake
- French Apple Cake
- Lemon Blueberry Cake
- Lemon Poke Cake
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Tres Leches Cake
- 1 12-ounces can evaporated milk
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 pint heavy whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar or powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Ground Cinnamon and/or Fresh Strawberries
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly spray a 9×13 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
- Using two separate bowls, separate the eggs. Placing the egg whites in one bowl and the egg yolks into the other bowl.
- Add 3/4 cup of sugar to the bowl with the egg yolks and with an electric hand mixer, beat on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Add the 1/3 cup whole milk and the vanilla and stir to combine.
- Pour the egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir gently just until combined.
- With a handheld mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form (about 1 minute). With the mixer on medium-low, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and then, beat on high speed until egg whites are stiff but not dry.
- Gently, fold the egg whites into the batter, just until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread the batter with a spatula to even out the surface.
- Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool completely.
- In a large measuring cup or a pitcher combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk.
- Once the cake has cooled use a fork to poke holes all over the top of the cake.
- Slowly pour the milk mixture over the top of the cake, making sure to pour the milk mixture near the edges and all around.
- Place the cake in the refrigerator and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight, to allow the milk to soak in.
- In the meantime, whip the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form.
- Spread the whipped topping evenly over the top of the cake. Garnish with ground cinnamon and fresh strawberries, if desired.