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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
  • 1/2 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

Recipe FAQ

How long does it take for tres leches to absorb milk?

The cake needs to absorb the milk for a minimum of three hours, but you can make it up to a day in advance to really let all the liquid absorb.

Can tres leches cake sit out overnight?

Because this cake contains so much milk and dairy, you need to keep it refrigerated. Plus, it’s traditionally served cold anyway!

for more cool treats, check out:

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Tres Leches Cake
5 from 37 votes

Tres Leches Cake

By: Lil’ Luna
This tres leches cake recipe is a cool treat made from a tasty sponge cake, a creamy 3 milk mixture, and a homemade whipped topping.
Servings: 18
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Refrigerating Time: 4 hours
Total: 5 hours

Ingredients 

Cake:

Filling and Topping:

  • 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
  • ¼ cup heavy cream

Topping:

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Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.
  • In a medium bowl, add flour and baking powder (and cinnamon, if desired) and mix to combine.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, beat ¾ cup sugar and egg yolks until light in color and doubled in size (about 3 minutes).
  • Stir in dry ingredients, milk and vanilla and mix until just combined.
  • In a glass bowl, beat egg whites (make sure no yolk is in there) on high speed until soft peaks form (about 5 minutes). Gradually, add ¼ cup remaining sugar, continuing to beat on high speed until medium peaks form (about 3 minutes).
  • Slowly, add the egg whites into the yolk mixture, carefully stirring with a spatula until the batter is just combined and there are no more yellow or white streaks.
  • Pour the batter in to the prepared pan and bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cake cool completely (it will deflate a bit).
  • One cake is cooled, make your milk mixture by mixing together the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream in a medium bowl.
  • Poke cake all over with a fork and slowly pour the milk mixture over the entire cake making sure to get inside the fork holes. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  • Once ready to serve, whip the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla together until stiff peaks form in a cold, large metal bowl (we like to use our Kitchen-Aid). Spread over the cake. Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve.

Video

Notes

STORE. Cover with plastic wrap and store 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.
FREEZE. We recommend making it and then freezing it without frosting it. Cover tightly and place in the freezer for 2-3 months. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight and then top it with whipped cream.

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice, Calories: 223kcal, Carbohydrates: 25g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 0.004g, Cholesterol: 80mg, Sodium: 29mg, Potassium: 135mg, Fiber: 0.3g, Sugar: 17g, Vitamin A: 515IU, Vitamin C: 0.2mg, Calcium: 66mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Mexican
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For more great recipes by Melanie, head on over to Garnish and Glaze! ENJOY!

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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5 from 37 votes (18 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




37 Comments

  1. Erin says:

    5 stars
    Yum, this is such a yummy cake!

  2. Laura Reese says:

    5 stars
    This looks delish! I love all your dessert recipes.

    1. Kristyn Merkley says:

      Thank you so much 🙂

  3. Joy says:

    5 stars
    this cake is so soft & good! I love the whipped topping with fruit on top. It is the perfect spring/summer dessert!

  4. Anna says:

    5 stars
    This cake is absolutely amazing! I can’t wait to make it again!

  5. misty says:

    5 stars
    This is one of my husbands favorite desserts. He asks me to make it at least once a month!

  6. marion says:

    5 stars
    lunaaaaaaaa! I made this cake in addition to my “regular” thanksgiving desserts & I must say…no one ate the “regular” stuff & I wasn’t upset. I have always wanted to make this but I thought it too hard. it wasn’t! what was hard was the waiting! I followed it almost exactly except I didn’t have a whole can of evaporated milk ( hubby & friend used a bit for their coffee) so I used coconut milk. it was awesome! since strawberries are out of season I didn’t have any but you don’t miss it. the one thing I will do is make a little extra topping…you make me want to smack you it’s so good so I smacked my 2 sons lol. I love the topping, I could eat it by itself! anyway, thank you so much an easy cake & I look forward to making more of your recipies!

    1. Kristyn Merkley says:

      HAHA!!! That is too funny! I am so glad you liked it!! Thank you so much!

  7. Marie says:

    5 stars
    this cake is so moist and easy to make! favorite cake recipe by far!

  8. Joy says:

    5 stars
    This cake was so soft & spongy! The cream on top was so good!! I love that you can add whatever fruit you want on top. I am a chocolate person, but my hubby prefers fruity dessert, so this was right up his alley & I have to say, I loved it!

  9. Marie says:

    5 stars
    This cake is by far one of my favs! so moist and full of flavor!

  10. Katherine says:

    We love Tres Leches Cake! It’s a holiday tradition with my husband’s family.