Tres Leches Cake has a soft and ultra-moist crumb. It is soaked with a 3 milk mixture and topped with a lightly sweetened whipped cream. This is an authentic Tres Leches Cake recipe and the best we have tried. It beats any store-bought version all day long!
We love the simple, crowd-pleasing desserts that come together in a casserole dish like classic Tiramisu, our popular Strawberry Pretzel Salad, and of course this easy Tres Leches Cake. They are easy to make and perfect to bring to potlucks and parties. They transfer well and are always the first to disappear.
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What is Tres Leches Cake?
Tres Leches is a popular authentic Mexican cake. I am a fan of moist cakes and this Tres Leches Cake blew me away. The syrup is made of – you guessed it – tres leches (which means three kinds of milk). You poke holes into the cake before pouring over the syrup so every bite is decadently moist. The cake is rich but has a light feel to it and is balanced by the lightly sweetened whipped cream. We even bravely turned it into a Layered Tres Leches Cake!
My cousin Katerina sent me this Tres Leches Cake recipe a (long) while back and I finally found time to make it. It was adapted from the Pioneer Woman.
Tres Leches Ingredients:
This recipe calls for very simple ingredients, most of which are refrigerator and pantry staples. It has 3 kinds of milk poured over the cake: evaporated milk, heavy whipping cream, and sweetened condensed milk. It’s topped with a 2-ingredient whipped cream frosting. We love adding fresh berries like strawberries and raspberries over the top for a prettier presentation.
Tips for the Best Tres Leches Cake:
- Watch the video tutorial below before beginning to gauge the process and tools needed before starting.
- Measure dry and wet ingredients correctly. For the flour, spoon it into dry ingredients measuring cup and level off the top.
- Cold eggs are easier to separate into whites and yolks.
- Fold the batter with a spatula just until it is well incorporated then stop. Do not overmix since the cake relies on the volume of the eggs to rise.
- While cooling the cake to room temperature, avoid any outdoor draft. Any egg-based cake can take on an “eggy” aroma if it gets outdoor air.
- Let the cake rest 30 min after pouring on the syrup so it can absorb every drop.
- Bake in a ceramic or glass casserole dish for the best rise and it’s easier to serve right out of the casserole dish.
Answering Your Burning Questions:
How long does tres leches cake last? You can fully assemble and make a tres leches cake 1 to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Add fresh berries just before serving, especially if berries are sliced.
Is Tres Leches supposed to be soggy? It is supposed to be very moist. The cake base is a sponge cake so it takes on the generous amount of syrup without getting soggy. This is why I avoid using a boxed white cake mix which can quickly become “soggy” since it’s not meant to absorb liquid.
Can Tres Leches Cake be frozen? You can make the cake base ahead of time. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature then cover the casserole dish tightly with a couple of layers of plastic wrap and freeze the tres leches cake base up to 2 months. Thaw the cake in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter before using it. It is not recommended to freeze the cake once the syrup and frosting are added.
How to Make Tres Leches Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350°F and butter a casserole dish. Set up 3 mixing bowls.
- Sift the dry ingredients into the first bowl. Separate egg whites and yolks into the other 2 bowls.
- Using an electric hand mixer beat yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed, until pale yellow (2 min). Stir in 1/3 cup milk and vanilla.
- With clean and dry egg beaters, beat whites on high speed until soft peaks form (1 min). With the mixer on, add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat on high speed until whites are stiff but not dry (1 min).
- Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and use a spatula to blend together. Gently fold in egg white mixture until just combined. Pour batter into prepared casserole and bake 30-35 minutes.
- When the cake has cooled, pierce all over with a fork and slowly drizzle on the 3-milks mixture. Let rest 30 minutes then top with whipped cream and berries.
This has to be one of the moistest cakes around. It goes down easy and you’ll savor every bite. Make this for your next party and you will become known for your Tres Leches recipe!
Our Best Potluck Desserts:
If you’re looking for more party favorite desserts that are simple to make, transport well and can even be made ahead, you will love these dessert recipes.
- Strawberry Pretzel Salad – A dangerously good jello dessert
- Tiramisu – a no-bake authentic Italian dessert
- Baklava – this can even be frozen months ahead
- Chocolate Cake – with the best chocolate frosting
- Mini Caramel Cheesecakes – beautiful and so easy
- Fruit Salad – a healthy “dessert” with honey syrup
Watch Natasha Make this Tres Leches Cake:
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Tres Leches Cake Recipe
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 cup berries, to garnish, optional
How to Make Tres Leches Cake Base:
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F and butter a 9x13 casserole pan. Set up three mixing bowls.
- In a large bowl, sift together 1 cup flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 salt. Separate egg whites and yolks into the other two bowls.
- Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar with an electric mixer on high speed, until yolks are a pale yellow (2 minutes). Stir in 1/3 cup milk and 1 tsp vanilla.
- Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form (1 minute). With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat on high speed until egg whites are stiff but not dry (1 minute)
- Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and combine gently with a spatula.
- Gently fold in egg white mixture with the spatula until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface and bake at 350˚F for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
For the 3-Milk Syrup:
- In a large measuring cup (or a bowl with a pouring lip), combine 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream, 12 oz evaporated milk and 9 oz condensed milk. When the cake is cool, pierce the surface all over with a fork. Slowly drizzle the milk mixture over the cake.
To Make the Whipped Cream Frosting:
- Pour 2 cups cold heavy whipping cream and 2 Tbsp sugar into a large chilled mixing bowl and beat on high speed 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until thick, whipped and spreadable. Spread over the cake with a spatula then decorate with berries if desired.
Nutrition Per Serving
If you make this recipe, I’d love to see pics of your creations on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! Hashtag them #natashaskitchen
We first published this recipe in 2011. We updated the photos and recipe Dec 2019, baking and serving out of a casserole dish and adding a little more evaporated milk to achieve that signature moistness of an authentic tres leches cake. Here is what the original photo looked like: