Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches. Three Milks. See, 3rd through 8th grade (and two college semesters) of Spanish did pay off. That glaring four-year gap? Latin in high school. What can I say? I like to mix things up a bit. Like cakes. Specifically this cake, which made me want to do a little dance around the kitchen to celebrate its existence. I’m undoubtedly way late to the Tres Leches party, as this was my first experience tasting the famed cake. I first saw Alton Brown make one years ago and remember thinking that it looked fabulous and I had to try it. Needless to say, I procrastinated a bit on the “Make Tres Leches Cake” Project. But as Heinz (shameless Pittsburgh plug) always reminds us, good things come to those who wait. And wow, this is better than good!

The cake itself is a basic sponge cake that is baked in a 9×13-inch pan. The real magic happens after the cake comes out of the oven and cools. Using a fork, you poke holes all over the cake and then combine sweetened condensed milk (milk#1), evaporated milk (milk #2) and heavy cream (milk #3) and slowly drizzle the mixture over the cake, allowing it to seep into all of the holes. The result? A spongy, moist cake drenched in the most fabulous, creamy flavor. Top it with freshly whipped cream, throw on a maraschino cherry or two, and you have a simple-looking dessert that is anything but.

Tres Leches Cake

What you see above is a little piece of heaven sitting in a lovely pool of deliciousness. All of that milky, creamy goodness soaking through the cake and leaving a little extra love on the bottom.

If you’re looking for a dessert to celebrate Cinco de Mayo next week, this is perfect. And if you need a dessert to celebrate just about anything you can think of (including it being a random weekday and you have a sweet tooth), definitely make this cake. In fact, you could make it to celebrate the Washington Capitals being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Just sayin’ 😉

Tres Leches Cake

One year ago: Cookies and Cream Cheesecake Brownies
Two years ago: Fluted Polenta Ricotta Cake

Tres Leches Cake

Yield: 12 servings

Prep Time: 40 minutes (active), 30 minutes (inactive)


For the Cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
5 eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup heavy cream

For the Frosting:
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x13-inch baking pan and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolk and ¾ cup granulated sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Add the whole milk and vanilla extract and mix to combine. Pour the egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold together until thoroughly combined.

4. Clean out the bowl and the whisk. Add the egg whites to the bowl and whisk at high speed until soft peaks begin to form. With the mixer still running, pour in the remaining ¼ cup of granulated sugar and beat until the egg whites are stiff but not dry.

5. Working in three batches, gently fold the egg whites into the batter until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a spatula.

6. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn the cake onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

7. Transfer the cake to a rimmed serving plate. Mix together the evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When the cake is cool, pierce the surface of the cake all over with a fork. Slowly drizzle all but 1 cup of the milk mixture over the top of the cake, making sure to get around the edges of the cake. (You can discard the remaining 1 cup of milk mixture.) Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for about 30 minutes.

8. To frost the cake, whip 2 cups of the heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar until thick and stiff peaks form. Spread over the surface of the cake. Garnish with maraschino cherries, if desired.

(Recipe from The Pioneer Woman)


116 Responses to “Tres Leches Cake”

Comment Pages 1 2
  1. Bonnie on April 29, 2010 at 1:03 am

    What a simple, beautiful cake. I’ll eat just about anything with whipped cream and a cherry on top.


  2. jaclyn@todayslady on April 29, 2010 at 1:34 am

    I really want to try this!! Mmmmm it sounds so delicious and I love how there’s “extra love” on the bottom :)


  3. Mary Moh on April 29, 2010 at 1:41 am

    Mmmm…looks very delicious. Love that milk mixture poured over the cake.


  4. roxan on April 29, 2010 at 2:07 am

    Oh that looks so moist and delicious!!!


  5. My Delicious on April 29, 2010 at 3:17 am

    it looks so delicate! and in addition it`s so simply!


  6. Sana on April 29, 2010 at 3:32 am

    oh my! I saw this on the poineer woman website and have been wanting to make this ever since! Now I have one more reason. Thank you for posting the quantities of the condensed and evaporated milk cans as over here we get our milks in different quantities than in the US and I searched so many blogs looking for the weight but everywhere only 1 can was mentioned!!


  7. Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes) on April 29, 2010 at 6:10 am

    I’ve wanted to make this ever since I saw it on Pioneer Woman’s site. It looks delicious!! This is re-inforcing my decision to make it!


  8. Jessica @ How Sweet It Is on April 29, 2010 at 6:32 am

    Best cake ever. Beautiful pics, girl!


  9. Melanie @ Heavenly on April 29, 2010 at 6:33 am

    All I can say is YUM, YUM YUM!!! Fab fotos too. thanks for a wonderful post.


  10. Stacey on April 29, 2010 at 7:02 am

    Looks so great and moist. I will definately get to testing this recipe out, Thanks~


  11. Brenda on April 29, 2010 at 7:05 am

    Oh this looks fabulous! I love the addition of the whipped cream frosting. I know what I’m making for dessert next week!


  12. bunkycooks on April 29, 2010 at 7:27 am

    This has to be good with all the moistness and sweetness in the cake. Yum! I have never had this either. Maybe now is the time to give it a try!


  13. Lauren on April 29, 2010 at 10:18 am

    I love tres leches! But the Caps elimination is nothing to celebrate! I forgot you’re a Pens fan. I am not. We can still be internet buddies though.


  14. Jenny Flake on April 29, 2010 at 10:35 am

    YUM! That’s all I have to say….drool!


  15. Michelle on April 29, 2010 at 10:53 am

    I love Three Milk Cake! Our little local Mexican Restaurant went out of business several years ago and they had the best Tres Leches Cake! Guess I should just make my own.


  16. Cookin' Canuck on April 29, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Believe it or not, I have never tried a tres leches cake, but now it is definitely on my list. The texture of the cake in your last photo got my salivary glands working overtime.


  17. Maria on April 29, 2010 at 10:59 am

    I have been wanting to try this recipe for awhile now. Thanks for the reminder. It looks wonderful!


  18. Heather (Heather's Dish) on April 29, 2010 at 11:01 am

    oh my goodness…i was already drooling when i read the title, but that picture of the cake with all the moisture at the bottom just did me in. HOLY yum!


  19. Baking is my Zen on April 29, 2010 at 11:07 am

    When I make this for my family gatherings, it is ALWAYS a hit!


  20. LilSis on April 29, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Oh my goodness! A little slice of heaven, no doubt! This is my kind of cake. I’m going to have to make this for my guys. They’re so deprived of sweets since I’m not a big baker.


  21. Jelli on April 29, 2010 at 11:36 am

    I like to make 3 Leches, because all my Costa Rican friends think I’m pretty acculturated then. Hehe. The only addition to this recipe that I usually make, which takes the cake from great to “holy heck good” is adding a bit of cinnamon to the cake and/or whipped cream and rum or rum extract to the milk mixture or whipped cream. Yum!


  22. Monica on April 29, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    I been making this cake as long as I can remember, was taught by one of my friends mom, who is Nicaraguan and use to make it for one of the best Nicaraguan restaurants in Miami… to make this even better? 1 tablespoon of rum with the milk combination and instead of whipped cream as a toping, do a 7-minute frosting toping… it takes it to a whole different level.


  23. Carly on April 29, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    What a wonderful cake! It’s the first i’ve heard of it! I imagine swapping out the evaporated milk for coconut cream would taste fabulous too!!! I love your site, i check it often, keep up the great work!!!


  24. Tracy on April 29, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Mmm, wonderful! Love it!


  25. Married to an Aussie in OK on April 29, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Yeah I’m late to the Tres Leches party, too, but at least I know what goes in it now! Sounds delish!


  26. Allison on April 29, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Everyone has been making this cake, lately! My worry is that the cake gets soggy…was that your experience?

    Beautiful pictures, as always! =)


    • Michelle on April 29th, 2010 at 2:53 pm

      Hi Allison,

      Well, soggy is a relative term here when you drench a cake in liquid 😉 The cake becomes incredibly moist, but I covered it with plastic wrap and refrigerated the leftover and the next day the cake was still just as fabulous, and not soggy at all.


  27. Julie M. on April 29, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Oh Man does that look amazing. We just happen to be having a Cinco de Mayo party next week, and this will definitely be having a seat at the table.


  28. Margaret on April 29, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Amo realmente Tres Leches pastel. I think that is right. I took Spanish, and then Latin, and then German – one I could actually pronounce.

    And I pronounce this cake delicious. You should try it with cuppys. Little containers of yum!!!


  29. Hazel on April 29, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    ohmy. That looks beyond amazing – I’ll have to give it a try soon :) Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe!!


  30. Sarah from 20somethingcupcakes on April 29, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Yum! Looks so good. The cherries make it so fun. How would you feel about this in a cupcake? I used a recipe for that in a Miami-Cuban theme dinner party, so fun! May have to switch it up to this, much more classic. xxSAS


  31. Dinah on April 29, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    I find this 5 de mayo thing odd, I’m from mexico, born and raised and I dont know anyone here (mexico) who celebrates these day, but seems like in the usa people do… how odd hehe


  32. Jen @ How To: Simplify on April 29, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    My mouth just watered looking at the photos. Wow, this looks so good!


  33. citronetvanille on April 29, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Oh Funny I’ve had this a few weeks ago in a French restaurant, and I really liked it, even though I tend to prefer savory stuff than sweets.Yours looks even better than the one I had! very moist, I didn’t know about that there were 3 milks poured into the cake. Delicious! beautiful job!


  34. TripleScoop on April 29, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    How can you go wrong with that much sweetness. Looks delicious!


  35. Fuji Mama on April 29, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    This is one of my favorite desserts! Normally I’m all about chocolate, but this is one of those exceptions…I mean, how can you NOT make an exception for this cake? Yours looks FABULOUS!


  36. leslie on April 29, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    mmmm.I love Tres Leche cake.
    ARe you from Pittsburgh? I was born there!


  37. Carol on April 29, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    It’s interesting that you posted this today. Yesterday I was having a conversation with our soon to graduate college student and she asked for Tres Leches rather than a traditional sheet cake for her graduation party. I was just thinking how expensive it was going to be if I had to pick one up from Churrascos (restaurant in Houston). Maybe I will attempt to make it instead…


  38. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction on April 30, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Beautiful cake… I have never made Tres Leches cake, but I need to give it a try!


  39. Kerstin on April 30, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    So gorgeous! I’ve never made a Tres Leches cake before but I’m saving this recipe :)


  40. justine on May 1, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    I made tres leches for my birthday last year and it was amazing- this is definitely one of my favorite types of cakes


  41. Dinners and Dreams on May 1, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    A Hispanic coworker makes this all the time. Love it!!

    Have a great weekend!



  42. Katrina on May 2, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Yum! I love this cake, and your recipe is perfect.


  43. Wendy on May 2, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Excellent choice! I love this cake.

    The pictures came out amazing. What camera/lens do you use?


  44. Nancy aka SpicieFoodie on May 2, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Hi Michelle,
    I’m really happy that my country’s cake is finally catching on, it is so good! (as you have already seen :) )
    And by the way I’m celebrating with you that the Capitals were eliminated! The Penguins are my 2nd favorite team!!


  45. Brad on May 2, 2010 at 10:53 am

    That is a little slice of heaven


  46. Anna on May 2, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    I’ve been making this cake since I saw it posted on the Pioneer Woman’s site – it’s sooo easy to whip up (always have a can of condensed and evaporated milk in my cupboard) and disappears in one sitting, I’ve only ever had leftovers once which keeps in the fridge very well. Adding cinnamon to the sponge as a variation sounds really good too!


  47. Vera on May 3, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    OMG – Jason’s brother made this yesterday, didnt see his recipe so cant compare it to yours….but it was AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!


  48. Daniella on May 4, 2010 at 12:47 am

    I just made this for my boyfriend and his roommate and it was absolutely delicious!
    I’m Hispanic and grew up loving tres leches and have to say that this is one of the most authentic versions I’ve had. It’s just delicious!


  49. Kaitlin on May 5, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    I just made this. I’m Hispanic, as are all my friends, and we all loved it. It was devoured quite savagely. ;]


  50. Kaitlin on May 5, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Oh – and I had some issues with the fact that I didn’t have a stand mixer, but I worked through those. I whipped the egg whites by hand – I don’t recommend that, by the way xD – and then, to make the frosting, I mixed the heavy cream and salt and then just added flour tablespoon by tablespoon until it was the consistency of the frosting in the picture. It lost some of the sweetness, though, so I experimented with adding sugar AND some of the extra milk mixture to the frosting until it tasted how I wanted it to. :]


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