The BEST Caramel Tres Leches Cake! Dulce de leche is whisked into the three-milk mixture and then swirled into the whipped cream on top.
Friday is May 5th… Cinco de Mayo! I love the excuse to eat lots of chips and salsa, tacos, and splurge on tres leches cake.
If you’ve never had it, you MUST make it! The first version I made was way back in 2010 and while it was delicious, I couldn’t pass up Alton Brown’s version when I saw it last year. I was obsessed with his show about ten years ago, and his tres leches cake did NOT disappoint. It was definitely an improvement over my old one, and best of all? His whipped cream topping has become my go-to whipped cream for almost everything. It’s way sweeter than most, but is super stable and can easily be piped. I love it!
However, THIS cake… this caramel tres leches cake… blows the other ones out of the water.
First things first… all of the tres leches cakes that I’ve made or tried are a very short sponge cake baked in a quarter sheet pan. While they are delicious, they aren’t much to look at, to be honest. But this caramel tres leches cake bakes up super high in a springform pan and takes on a TON of three-milk (plus dulce de leche!) mixture for a truly WOW presentation. Topped with fresh whipped cream and more swirls of dulce de leche, and you have an utterly amazing cake that will have people fighting for leftovers.
While looks aren’t everything, it IS awesome to hear oooh’s and ahhh’s when you set a dessert down on the dining room table. Plus, looks aside, this is, by far, the most amazing tres leches cake I’ve ever had.
I love how high this cake is, and I love the combination of flavors in the milk mixture… there’s regular milk and sweetened condensed milk (both standard for a tres leches cake), but there’s also buttermilk. I hadn’t seen it used before, but it gives the cake just a slight tang and is a good balance to all of the sweetness from the cake, the sweetened condensed milk, and the dulce de leche.
When you’re pouring the mixture over the cake, go slowly so the cake has time to absorb it. I still had some pooling around the edges once I was done, and I was fearful that when I unmolded the springform pan I would have milk running everywhere. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had all been absorbed and there was zero mess, whew!
This caramel tres leches cake was a wild success a couple of weeks ago, and I guarantee it will be a showstopper whenever you serve it!
Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla extract on medium speed for 8 to 10 minutes, or until very pale and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Stir the batter with a rubber spatula to ensure all of the ingredients are incorporated.
Transfer the cake batter to the prepared springform pan and baking until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and allow the cake to cool completely in the pan.
Make the Three-Milk Mixture: Place the cake pan on a rimmed baking sheet lined with wax paper or parchment paper. Using a skewer, poke holes all over the top of the cake. In a large pitcher, whisk together the whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, buttermilk, dulce de leche, and vanilla extract until combined. Very slowly, pour the milk mixture all over the cake. (It will seem like A LOT, but go slowly add use everything.) Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours, or overnight, ensuring that all of the milk mixture is absorbed. Remove the cake from the springform pan and place on a serving plate.
Finish with Topping: Place the cream in a large bowl and either by hand or using an electric mixer, whip on medium speed until soft peaks form. Spread the whipped cream on top of the cake, then drizzle and swirl the dulce de leche into the whipped cream. This is best served the day it is assembled, but can be refrigerated for up to 1 more day.
If you can't find dulce de leche at your grocery store, you can buy it online, or use caramel sauce (store bought or homemade).