Tres Leches Cake

This easy Tres Leches Cake recipe is a cool, sweet treat made from a tasty sponge cake, a creamy mixture of three different milks, and homemade whipped topping.

This cool, delicious dessert is perfect served all year long, but especially with any Mexican meal. For more hispanic desserts, check out our Arroz con Leche and Churro Bites.

A slice of tres leches cake topped with fresh strawberries

A Sweet Summertime Favorite

Everyone loves cake, and one of our favorite variations is Tres Leches Cake!

If you’ve never had Tres Leches Cake before you are in for a sweet treat! It’s the perfect dessert to share with family and friends this summer at all your barbecues and fiestas.

This cake is so flavorful and delicious and is the perfect addition to any Mexican meal or Cinco de Mayo party.

Mixing batter for tres leches cake recipe

Why is it called Tres Leches Cake?

In case you didn’t already know, Tres Leches is Spanish for “three milks”.

No one is really sure where the recipe for Tres Leches came from, but it is popular in Latin American countries (hence the Spanish name).

If you’ve ever made a poke cake before, this is super similar! The base of the recipe is a really yummy sponge cake that is poked with holes and then covered with a creamy glaze made from 3 different types of milk:

  1. sweetened condensed milk
  2. evaporated milk
  3. heavy cream

Sounds amazing, right? And trust me, it’s as simple to make as it is tasty!

Using a fork to poke holes in the baked tres leches cake

How to Make Tres Leches Cake

This tres leches cake is easier to make than you think.

BATTER. In a small mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt, then set aside. In a large bowl, or the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter at high speed until creamy and then gradually add in the sugar and beat until fluffy.

Stir in the vanilla and then one egg at a time, mixing each one completely in before adding the next. Fold the flour mixture to the eggs about ½ cup at a time, until almost combined (scrape down sides of bowl as needed with a rubber spatula).

BAKE. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-22 minutes at 350°. You’ll know it’s ready when you insert a toothpick into the center and it comes out clean.

POKE, DRIZZLE + CHILL. Once the cake has cooled, poke holes (several) in it with a fork. Next, mix the three milks together and pour it over the cake a little at a time, letting it soak in before adding more. Then just cover and pop it in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.

TOPPING. To finish, make the homemade whipped topping and spread over the milk soaked cake.

You can either serve the cake immediately, or refrigerate it until you’re ready to serve. I like to top mine with fresh berries mixed with a little bit of sugar. SO yummy!

What other toppings can be used? Strawberries are a classic topping for this cake. Some other delicious fruits to try are: blueberries, sliced kiwi, raspberries, blackberries, sliced bananas, maraschino cherries. You can even sprinkle a little cinnamon or grate dark chocolate on top.

Ingredient Variations

  • Substitute whole milk for the heavy cream if you want a less decadent milk mixture.
  • Some people enjoy using coconut milk or coconut cream in place of the heavy cream for a sweet coconut flavor.
How to Make Tres Leches Cake by pouring milk mixture over the cake

making a cupcake version:

Follow the recipe as written except pour the batter into a cupcake pan. Be sure to either use foil liners (be cautious using paper liners as the milk may soak through them) or pour the batter directly into a well greased cupcake pan.

Bake for 15-20 minutes watching carefully. Let cool and follow the recipe to finish them off (poke, drizzle with milk mixture, chill and then add whipped cream).

Add fruit right before serving. 😉

Shortcut Version:

If you are really looking to speed things up, you can use a cake mix as shortcut version. You’ll just need the following:

  • 1 package yellow cake mix (regular size)
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the cake, beat the cake mix, eggs, milk, butter and vanilla with a hand mixer for about 30 seconds on LOW. Bake at 350 for about 30-35 minutes – and then follow our directions for the rest of the recipe. 😉

Tres Leches Recipe with strawberries on top

Storing + freezing

Tres Leches Cake is best when eaten within 48 hours of being made.

Having said that, if covered with Saran Wrap and placed in the fridge, it can be STORED in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. The fruit topping may not last quite as long—simply scoop the fruit off top and replace it with fresh fruit.

You can definitely FREEZE tres leches cake. We recommend making it and then freezing it without frosting it. Be sure to cover tightly and place in the freezer for 2-3 months. Let it thaw in fridge overnight and then top with whipped cream.

Easy Tres Leches Cake topped with fresh strawberries

for more cool treats, check out:

Tres Leches Cake Recipe

Tres Leches Cake
5 from 19 votes
This easy Tres Leches Cake recipe is a cool, sweet treat made from a tasty sponge cake, a creamy mixture of three different milks, and homemade whipped topping. Serve Tres Leches Cake with fresh fruit for an extra refreshing dessert!
Course Dessert
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Refrigerating Time 4 hours
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 18
Calories 399 kcal
Author Lil’ Luna

Ingredients

For the Cake

For the Milk Glaze

  • 1/2 c heavy whipping cream
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk

For the Whipped Topping

For the Garnish

  • fresh strawberries sliced
  • sugar

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.
  • In a small mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until creamy and then gradually add in the sugar and beat until fluffy. Mix in the vanilla and then one egg at a time, mixing each one completely in before adding the next.
  • Add the flour mixture to the eggs about ½ cup at a time, mixing each addition until almost combined (scrape down sides of bowl as needed).
  • Pour batter into pan and spread evenly. Bake for 20-22 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
  • Let cake cool completely and then poke all over with a fork.
  • Mix all Milk Glaze ingredients together discard ½ cup and then gently pour over the cake in 3 batches, waiting in between for the milk to soak in. You can tilt the pan back and forth it if pools at the edges.
  • Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

For the Whipped Topping

  • Whip the heavy cream, granulated sugar, and vanilla together until stiff peaks. Spread over the cake. Serve or refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Sprinkle strawberries lightly with sugar and mix. Let sit for 10 minutes
  • Slice cake and top with strawberries.

Video

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About Melanie

Melanie is the cook and photographer behind the blog Garnish & Glaze. When she’s not playing princesses with her two little girls, she’s experimenting in the kitchen. She takes simple ingredients and creates everything from healthy dinners to indulgent desserts.

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Comments:

  1. Going to attempt to make this tonight and was wondering if I should leave the cake covered or uncovered in the refrigerator overnight? I Plan on applying the icing tomorrow. I’m guessing covered so it does not lose moisture?

    1. Hi Jason! I imagine you have already done this now, but I would have recommended to cover it in the refrigerator. I hope the cake turned out well!

  2. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for sharing this amazing tres leches cakerecipe! Will surely have this again! It’s really easy to make and it tasted so delicious! Highly recommended!

  3. hello if I would want to make 1 6×3 round pan and cut into layers should i half the recipe? the pan holds about 3 cups of batter but i am unsure of the bake time and if it would bake all the way through or come out over cooked.

    1. You could certainly half the recipe (even that may be too much batter for a 6 inch cake pan). But that would be a good start. Just make sure to only fill the cake pan about 2/3 full so there is room to rise. As far as baking times go, I imagine the full time will be too long. I’d say to keep an eye on it and just check using a toothpick. Start checking around 10 minutes, maybe? And then when the toothpick comes out clean/with just a few crumbs, it will be done. I haven’t tried this recipe in a 6 inch pan so I don’t have exact measurements/times, but those would be my best guesses. Good luck! You’ll have to let us know how it turns out. 🙂

  4. I have a request to bake this for a friend and they were wanting an 8” 2-layer cake. Should I adjust the baking time? If so, what would you recommend?

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