This is the best authentic Tres Leches Cake recipe! A light sponge cake soaked in three different types of milk making it sweet, ultra moist, and crazy delicious. There’s nothing quite like this easy traditional Mexican dessert!
We’re a big milk family, going through at least four gallons a week, so it’s no surprise how much we love Tres Leches Cake, where milk is the star ingredient. It’s made with not one, but three different types of creamy milk! It’s truly one of our favorite desserts.
What is Tres Leches?
The literal meaning of Tres leches is “three milks.” It’s a super popular dessert in Mexico and Latin America and a staple when celebrating Cinco de Mayo, but definitely worth making all year round.
This dessert starts with a light sponge cake, similar to angel food cake (another one of my favs!) where there is no oil or butter, and whipped egg whites and the batter are gradually folded together. After poking holes all over the cooked cake, you pour a rich liquid mixture made up of three milks (thus the name “tres leches”) over the top and let it soak overnight, resulting in a texture like vanilla custard. Sort of.
The cake should be very moist and puddle milk when you pierce it with a fork, but not soggy. It’s basically the original poke cake, before poke cakes became a thing!
What are the “three milks” used?
My recipe calls for whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk. This is how my dear friend Roxanna, who is from Mexico, makes it. You could substitute the whole milk with heavy cream for an even richer cake, but I have never found it necessary. You’ll top everything off with luscious whipped cream, so it’s pretty rich enough.
You need all three of these milks to create the perfect Tres Leches cake, so substitutions are not recommended.
Where is the oil and butter?
Tres Leches cake doesn’t include oil or butter! When you look at the recipe and don’t see those ingredients, please know that it is not a mistake. But, trust me, you will not miss it. This cake is so rich and creamy without either.
Is Tres Leches Cake served warm or cold?
Tres leches cake is typically served cold. The cooled cake gets soaked in the milk mixture and then chills in the refrigerator for several hours (ideally overnight), which allows the milk to thoroughly absorb. It’s then finished off with a thick layer of luscious whipped cream. The end result is a sweet, decadent, and refreshing dessert that is simply amazing.
How To Store Tres leches cake
Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 3 days. Freezing the cake is not recommended, since it tends to become rubbery after thawing.
Can Tres leches cake be made ahead of time?
Yep! This cake can be made up to 2 days in advance. I actually prefer it after a day, which gives the sponge cake more time to soak up that wonderful milk mixture. You can store it with the whipped cream on top or wait to spread it on top right before serving.
Other classic Mexican recipes
Watch the video for Tres Leches Cake
Tres Leches Cake Recipe
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 large eggs , separated, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla , divided
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar , divided
- 1 cup whole milk , at room temperature, divided
- 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 5 ounce can evaporated milk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- Fresh sliced strawberries and mint leaves , for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9x13 baking pan with nonstick spray.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat egg whites at medium speed until stiff peaks form.
- With mixer still running, add in 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and 1 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Add egg yolks 1 at a time, until combined.
- Add flour mixture, 2 tablespoons at a time, alternating with 1/2 cup of the milk just until batter is smooth.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer pan to a wire rack and allow cake to cool completely (it will shrink.)
- Poke holes all over the cake with a wooden skewer or fork.
- Whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup milk, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk, and pour over the cake.
- Cover pan and transfer to the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, but ideally overnight. (The more it sits, the more it soaks up the liquid and flavor.)
- With a handheld electric mixer, beat heavy cream with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla, until stiff peaks form; spread over the cake.
- Slice into squares and serve cold with some fresh berries of your choice.
- Watch the video if you need help!
- I prefer this cake after it sits for 1 day, which gives the sponge cake more time to soak up that wonderful milk mixture. It can be made up to 2 days in advance. You can store it with the whipped cream on top or wait to spread it on top right before serving.
- Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 3 days. Freezing the cake is not recommended, since it tends to become rubbery after thawing.