Tres Leches cake is more than just a dessert; it’s an experience. Imagine diving into a slice of heaven, where each bite is a scrumptious blend of moist, rich, and creamy textures. This isn’t just any cake – it’s soaked in a trio of milks that gives it its name and unique taste. It really is a gift to your taste buds.

In this post, I’ll take you through the journey of making your own Tres Leches Cake, sharing not only the recipe but also the tips, tricks and recommendations to ensure this desert is a star at any table. If you’re a fan of this white cake, I know you’ll love my Coconut Cake as well. These two mouth watering cakes are among my most requested for birthdays or celebrations.

The unique blend of flavors in this dessert is truly delightful. Each of the three types of milk infuses the homemade sponge cake with a sweet richness. The topping of whipped cream provides a fluffy, light contrast that enhances the flavor without making the cake too heavy, as traditional frosting might. A sprinkle of cinnamon adds a lovely complexity, while the fresh fruit on top brings a burst of freshness. This cake is a masterful combination of tastes and textures. It’s hard to stop eating it! Try my Cinnamon Macaron recipe if you appreciate cinnamon as much as I do.

Serving up tres leches cake

The Chemistry of Tres Leches

What makes Tres Leches Cake truly unique is its ability to absorb and retain the mixture of three milks without disintegrating. This marvel is all thanks to the sponge cake’s structure – airy and light, with proteins that set just right to create a matrix capable of soaking up the milk blend while maintaining its form. The cake’s moisture is balanced, ensuring every forkful is infused with the creamy, sweet mixture of whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk, complemented by the gentle whisper of cinnamon.

Why use three different kinds of milk?

Each milk brings its own characteristic to the cake. Whole milk adds richness, evaporated milk offers a concentrated dose of creaminess without extra water, and sweetened condensed milk introduces a velvet-like sweetness. Together, they create a symphony of flavors and textures that are unmatched. No need to mess with a great thing, right?

Can Tres Leches cake be made ahead of time?

Absolutely, and I recommend it! Chilling the cake for at least 8 hours allows it to fully soak up the milks and also lets the flavors meld together beautifully. You can even prepare it a day in advance for optimal taste.

Serving up tres leches cake

How do you prevent the cake from getting too soggy?

The secret lies in the sponge cakes structure. Its airiness and the egg’s protein network allow it to absorb the milks without collapsing. It’s pretty amazing actually. Pouring the milk blend evenly and slowly ensures perfect saturation throughout.

What are the best toppings for Tres Leche cake?

While the cake is rich and moist, adding a light topping of homemade whipped cream and fresh berries will actually help cut through the sweetness, providing a refreshing contrast that makes this a truly irresistible dessert. I highly recommend, strongly urge… okay I’m going to actually go ahead and require you to use homemade whipped cream as opposed to any other traditional frosting. Seriously though, any deviation from that would probably do this glorious cake a disservice.

Serving up tres leches cake

What is in tres leches cake?

Egg Whites

Made up of protein and water, it will help leaven your baked good and add moisture.

Egg Yolks

Adding extra egg yolks to your batter will add extra richness and chewiness to your cookie or brownie.

Cream of Tartar

Stabilizes egg whites, ensuring a fluffy rise.

Granulated Sugar

Adds sweetness, provides a caramelized flavor and crisp texture. Sugar assists with rising when creamed with butter. It helps add moisture to your treat and helps it evenly spread as it melts into a liquid in the heat of the oven. Sugar also helps with naturally preserving your baked treat.

Vegetable Oil

100% fat, contains no water and has a higher melting point. This means it will not melt down in your oven, resulting in thicker cookies or brownies. It doesn’t help leaven your treat like butter can, so it can make your treat flatter and greasier.

Vanilla Extract

When using pure vanilla extract, as opposed to imitation flavoring, it will add the deep rich flavor that everybody wants in a treat.

Fine Sea Salt

Enhances flavor, adds balance, masks any bitter flavors. Salt is the most powerful and oldest preservative. Always make sure to use fine sea salt so it melts down at the right speed in the heat of the oven. If you use larger granule salt, it will not melt down fully when baked and will leave salt crystals throughout your treat, making it crunch like you dropped it into sand.

Ingredients

Baking Powder

Puffs up your batter or dough instead of spreading it out. Baking powder contains a little bit of baking soda, an acid & cornstarch. Because of this, it only needs a liquid to react. It also consists of two different acids, so it’s double reacting. It reacts as soon as it’s mixed with a moisture and then again when it’s heated up.

Cake Flour

Has a lower amount of protein and is very fine. It gives your treat a specific flavor and makes them very white or light in color. It’s made of soft wheat so it should not be used in place of all-purpose or bread flour. Only use when your recipe specifically calls for it.

The Three Milks

A divine combination that gives this cake its iconic taste and texture.

Cinnamon

A seasoning that adds a nice spice to your treat.

Heavy Whipping Cream

Makes a softer, more spreadable frosting. When melted with chocolate it adds more fat and moisture to the mixture, resulting in a silkier blend.

Powdered Sugar

Is just finely ground granulated sugar. It will absorb moisture in your batter or dough. It dissolves easily, ensuring a smooth texture without grittiness. Because it is so fine, it can melt quickly in the oven and spread cookies out more. Powdered sugar also stabilizes and thickens the frosting, thanks to the small amount of cornstarch it contains.

Mixed Berries

Adding a tart topping

Storage Tips

When you store the cake in the refrigerator, you can enjoy it for up to 2 days. The moist nature means it doesn’t last as long as other cakes, but when stored properly, you can extend its life to ensure every slice is as delicious as the first.

Freezing

While Tres Leches Cake is best enjoyed fresh, you can freeze it before adding the milk soak. Wrap the sponge cake tightly in plastic wrap and freeze. When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator, then proceed with the milk soak topping.

Serving up tres leches cake

Making Ahead

For the best flavor and texture, prepare the sponge cake a day in advance. After baking and cooling, wrap it tightly and store it at room temperature. The next day, add the milk soak and refrigerate as directed. This allows for easier planning and a stress-free dessert that’s ready for any occasion.

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Why make Tres Leches?

In crafting this Tres Leches cake, you’re not just baking; you’re creating a piece of baked art that speaks to the soul and the stomach. It’s a dessert that brings people together, promising smiles and satisfaction with every creamy, dreamy bite. Plus, it’s different than your normal cake. It’s fun to challenge yourself and branch out. Enjoy the process, relish the flavors, and share the love that only amazing homemade desserts can convey.

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Tres Leches

5 from 1 vote
Author: Madison Reid
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Chill Time: 8 hours
Servings: 16
This Tres Leches recipe combines delicious sponge cake soaked in 3 milks (whole milk, sweetened condensed & evaporated milk). Topped off with homemade whipped cream & berries.

Ingredients 

Sponge Cake

  • 6 eggs *separated
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour

Milk Soak

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Topping

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • mixed berries *fresh

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees
  • In a standing mixer, and a small separate bowl, divide the eggs. Put the egg whites into the standing mixer bowl and the egg yolks into the small separate bowl.
  • Add cream of tartar to the standing mixer and turn the mixer on medium speed. Once bubbles form, turn the mixer on high and whip until soft peak.
  • While the egg whites are whipping, take a whisk and whip the egg yolks until they are lighter in color.
  • Once the egg whites are at a soft peak, turn the mixer off and pour in the whisked egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and vegetable oil.
  • Mix only for a few seconds on low speed to just fold these ingredients in. This way you won't pop too many of the air bubbles you just created with the egg whites.
  • With the mixer off, add the salt, baking powder and cake flour
  • Turn the mixer on low and mix until the cake batter is smooth.
  • Pour the cake batter in a greased and parchment paper lined 9×13 pan or the Chunky Pan
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes until the center is firm and no longer jiggles when the pan is tapped.
  • Remove and allow the cake to fully cool.
  • Once the cake is cooled, whisk together all of the ingredients for the milk soak in a medium bowl. Poke holes all over the cooled sponge cake and slowly pour the milk soak over the top of the cake. You want to try to pour it evenly over the cake so all parts of the cake are soaked. **TIP** make sure you leave the cake inside the pan for this part so that the soak does not run all over your counter.
  • Cover the cake with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.
  • Once the cake has chilled, remove from the fridge and make the topping.
  • In a medium bowl with a hand mixer whip the whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla until it reaches stiff peak.
  • Spread the fresh whipped cream all over the top of the cake.
  • Decorate with fresh mixed berries. Slice & serve or cover up with plastic wrap and place back in the fridge until you are ready to enjoy. This cake must be served chilled.

Nutrition

Calories: 523kcal Carbohydrates: 54g Protein: 9g Fat: 31g Saturated Fat: 12g Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g Monounsaturated Fat: 8g Trans Fat: 0.1g Cholesterol: 112mg Sodium: 209mg Potassium: 270mg Fiber: 1g Sugar: 40g Vitamin A: 671IU Vitamin C: 1mg Calcium: 224mg Iron: 1mg

Have you tried this recipe?

I’d love to see it! Follow @_mrs.madi_ on Instagram and tag your photos with #mrsmadi.

Serving up tres leches cake