This Tres Leches Cake Is Perfect For Entertaining Guests

Tres leches cake is one of the most unique (and wildly delicious!) sweets, but it certainly doesn't get the recognition it deserves. A traditional Latin American treat, tres leches translates to "three milks" because of the three types of milk used to soak the sponge of the cake. The history of the tres leches cake is a bit murky, but some rumors point to its development thanks to the invention of sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk in the mid-1800s.

The cake is light and refreshing, simply flavored, and has the most incredible texture, with a mouthfeel that's playful with an interesting mix between dense and fluffy. There's just a subtle sweetness that comes through in this cake, allowing the unique flavors of the three milks, along with a hint of vanilla, to speak for itself.

Topped with fresh whipped cream, diced strawberries, and a sprinkling of cinnamon, this soaked sponge cake is as delightful as can be. And now, you can make it at home from scratch for the whole family to enjoy.

Gather the ingredients for this tres leches cake recipe

To get started on making your own tres leches cake, first gather all of your ingredients so you aren't interrupted during the baking process. To make the batter for the cake, you'll need two cups white sugar, two cups flour, two-and-a-fourth  teaspoons baking powder, one teaspoon baking soda, one teaspoon salt, four eggs, three-fourths cup vegetable oil, and one cup milk.

For the milk topping for the cake, you'll need one twelve-ounce can of evaporated milk, one twelve-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk, and a half cup of heavy whipping cream. You'll also need an additional two cups heavy whipping cream to make the whipped cream topping, along with half a cup of powdered sugar and one teaspoon pure vanilla extract.

Mix the dry ingredients for this tres leches cake recipe

To get started on making your cake, first preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Start prepping the batter by first combining the dry ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, add the white sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Use a hand mixer to mix well until combined. If you don't have a hand mixer, a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a mixing bowl with a large wooden spoon will work as well.

Be sure the dry mixture is free of any large clumps before moving onto the next step.

Add the wet ingredients for this tres leches cake recipe

Once the dry ingredients are mixed, it's time to add in the wet ingredients to finish the batter for your tres leches cake. First, add in the eggs one at a time (here's some tips on how to crack them like a pro). Mix in all four of the eggs, and then, mix in the oil. Lastly, mix in the milk until it's fully incorporated into the mixture. Be sure not to overmix at this step. Mix until the last of the milk is just combined, but don't go any further –overmixing will cause the cake to come out dense and dry.

Bake the cake for this tres leches recipe

Once your cake batter is ready, prepare a nine-inch by 13-inch rectangular pan by spraying it generously with cooking spray. This will prevent the cake from sticking to the sides and bottom of the pan. Note: either a glass or metal nine-inch by 13-inch pan will work for this recipe.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan, and then put your cake in the heated oven. Bake the cake for 35 minutes until the top is fully set. Once it's finished baking, remove the cake from the oven and set aside to fully cool.

Make the milk topping for this tres leches cake recipe

The three-milk topping is truly the star of the show in this recipe. And although it may sound daunting to introduce three different milks to a baked cake, putting it together is really quite simple. In a large bowl, add the half cup of heavy cream and the entire can of evaporated milk. Then, pour in the entire can of sweetened condensed milk. Be sure to stir the mixture together well to fully incorporate the sweetened condensed milk, as it's thicker than the other milks.

Pour the milk topping over the tres leches cake

Once the cake has fully cooled, it's ready for the milk mixture. Use a large fork or a skewer to poke tiny holes into the entire cake. It's best to poke the holes all over the interior and outer edges of the cake — but don't poke the fork all the way down to the bottom.

Next, gradually pour the milk topping evenly over the cake. The milk topping will start to seep into the holes, along with a bit around the exterior and then into the bottom of the pan. Pour the entire bowl of milk topping over the cake, and then place the cake in the fridge for a minimum of one hour to allow the milk mixture to fully seep inside so the cake can truly absorb the delicious flavors of the milk.

Make whipped cream to top this tres leches cake

Once your cake is ready and refrigerated, with the milk mixture fully poured on top, it's time to make the whipped cream topping to finish it off.

Pour two cups of heavy whipping cream into a mixing bowl. Use a hand mixer to continuously whip the cream until stiff peaks begin to form. This will take eight to ten minutes with the hand mixer. If you have a stand mixer, feel free to use it with the whisk attachment instead. Once the cream is fully whipped, mix in the half cup of powdered sugar and one teaspoon vanilla extract.

Once the whipped cream is ready, evenly spread it across the top of the cake using a flat spatula. Sprinkle ground cinnamon over the top of the cake and then top it all with diced strawberries, if desired. 

This Tres Leches Cake Is Perfect For Entertaining Guests
5 from 23 ratings
With some condensed milk, evaporated milk and regular milk along with whipped cream topping, you'll be in dessert heaven with this tres leches cake.
Prep Time
1.42
hours
Cook Time
35
minutes
Servings
12
slices
slice of tres leches cake
Ready in 2 hours
Ingredients
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Optional Ingredients
  • Ground cinnamon, for garnish
  • Chopped strawberries, for garnish
Directions
  1. Baking the dry cake:
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add the white sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well until combined.
  4. Add in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the oil, and then mix in the milk until fully incorporated. Be sure not to overmix.
  5. Prepare a 9-inch by 13-inch rectangular pan by spraying it generously with cooking spray. Pour the cake batter into the pan.
  6. Bake the cake for 35 minutes until the top is fully set. Once finished baking, remove the cake from the oven and set aside to cool.
  7. Combine the cup of milk, the can of evaporated milk, and the can of sweetened condensed in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
  8. Once the cake has fully cooled, use a large fork or a skewer to poke holes all over the interior and outer edges of the cake, but don't poke the fork all the way down to the bottom.
  9. Gradually pour the entire milk mixture over the cake. Allow the milk mixture to seep into the cake while pouring.
  10. Place the cake in the fridge for at least 1 hour to allow the milk mixture to set into the cake.
  11. Pour 2 cups of heavy whipping cream into a new mixing bowl.
  12. Use a hand mixer to continuously whip the cream until stiff peaks begin to form.
  13. Once peaks form, mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract.
  14. Top the cooled cake with an even layer of whipped cream topping.
  15. Garnish with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon and chopped strawberries, if desired.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 663
Total Fat 35.9 g
Saturated Fat 14.0 g
Trans Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 129.2 mg
Total Carbohydrates 77.5 g
Dietary Fiber 0.6 g
Total Sugars 61.3 g
Sodium 483.9 mg
Protein 10.0 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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