Spoil yourself and the ones you love with the rich and creamy goodness of Tres Leches Cake, a traditional Latin American dessert made with three different types of milk. Learn how to make this decadent treat at home with our easy recipe.

My favorite way to eat it is with a sprinkle of cinnamon AND chocolate shavings with fresh berries. I’m telling you, it’s the best!

a photo of a slice of tres leches cake on a small dessert plate topped with two slices of strawberry and shaved chocolate

Tres Leches Cake is Spanish for “3 milk” cake.  There is evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and a little bit of heavy cream.  The cake base itself is a chiffon, spongy light cake, which is perfect for absorbing all three milks, making it super moist and enjoyable!  If you look closely at the cake in the picture above, you can see some of the milk pooling at the bottom of the cake, it’s dripping-ly moist!

What is a Chiffon Cake?

I have a strong opinion about chiffon cakes by themselves.  If you ask me, I would straight up tell you I hate them.  The cake itself can be so dry.  People want moist, chewy cakes like they get from a box mix. So for this chiffon cake recipe, the cake soaks in all the milk and it is moist and absolutely delicious. It’s the only way I’ll eat a chiffon cake. We love and devour this cake!

What Does Tres Leches Mean?

Tres leches means 3 milk bread. It is a sponge cake—or a butter cake—soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream.

a photo of a moist piece of tres leches cake topped with sliced strawberries and shaved chocolate with a bite removed by a fork

Ingredients for a Tres Leches Cake

A tres leches cake is essentially a poke cake, just like our popular lemon jello cake. You’re going to need basic cake making ingredients, the 3 milks, and then ingredients to make the whipped cream on top and whatever garnishes you might want to add. Here is everything you will need:

For the Cake:

  • Flour: just regular all-purpose flour is all you need
  • Baking Powder: acts as a leavening agent to give the cake rise and fluffiness
  • Salt: enhances all the flavors
  • Eggs: you’ll separate the eggs and add the egg yolks and egg whites separately into the batter
  • Sugar: just regular white granulated sugar
  • Whole Milk: helps bind all the ingredients together
  • Vanilla: adds flavor

Leches

  • Evaporated Milk: can be found in the grocery store on the baking aisle
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk: can be found on the baking aisle
  • Heavy Cream: whole milk also works if you don’t have cream

For the Icing:

  • Heavy Whipping Cream: the base for the whipped cream
  • Sugar: adds sweetness
  • Vanilla Extract: adds flavor

Decoration:

  • Strawberries: sliced thin
  • Cinnamon: just a little sprinkle over the top adds a great pop of flavor and warmth
  • Shaved Chocolate: see section below for instructions on how to shave chocolate

The measurements for each ingredient can be found in the recipe card down below. Keep scrolling for all the details.

a photo taken over the top of a piece of tres leches cake on a small white dessert plate topped with sliced strawberries and shaved chocolate

How to Make Tres Leches Cake

This recipe might seem a little overwhelming at first glance, but it’s super easy and I’m going to walk you through each step…

  1. Prep: preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Dry Ingredients: combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Separate: In two medium bowls, separate the eggs into egg whites and yolks.
  4. Beat: Add some sugar to the egg yolks and beat with a hand mixer until the yolks are pale yellow.
  5. Stir: Add the milk and vanilla and stir to combine.
  6. Fold: Pour the egg yolks mixture over the dry ingredients and fold together until almost combined.
  7. Beat: Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form, then add the remaining sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
  8. Fold: Add the egg whites mixture to the batter and fold gently until small streaks of flour remain.
  9. Bake: Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread the batter evenly in the pan, then bake for 30-35 minutes.
    • TIP: A toothpick should come out clean.
  10. Combine: While the cake bakes, combine the 3 milks together in a small pitcher or bowl and whisk to combine.
  11. Cool: Allow the cake to cool completely.
  12. Poke: Once cool, poke holes all over the cake with a fork.
  13. Drizzle: Slowly drizzle the milk mixture all over the cake, especially around the edges.
  14. Rest: Let the cake rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes so the milks can absorb into the cake.
  15. Whip: Combine all the ingredients for the whipped cream topping until it is thick then spread it all over the top and sides of the cake.
  16. Serve: Cut the cake into squares and top with sliced fresh strawberries, shaved chocolate and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

These complete instructions can also be found in the recipe card at the end of the post.

a photo of a pieces of tres leches cake with a bite removed so you can see the inside of the moist cake topped with whipped cream, sliced strawberries and shaved chocolate

Where Does Tres Leches Cake Come From?

Tres leches cake originates from 19th century Mexico where a sponge cake soaked in wine and topped with custard. It is believed to be influenced by English trifles and Italian tiramisu. It eventually evolved to the cake we love today.

    How to Make Shaved Chocolate

    I melt a handful of chocolate chips in the microwave and then spread very thin with an offset spatula on the back of a cookie sheet and place in the fridge. As soon as it’s set, scrape it with an upside down metal spatula to create shavings or curls depending on your mood.

    Storage Tips

    Tres leches cakes should be store in the refrigerator. With all the dairy involved you don’t want the cake to come to room temperature for very long. It will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

    Can Tres Leches Cake Be Frozen?

    Yes, tres leches cake can be frozen.

    It should be wrapped well in plastic or foil before freezing.

    a photo taken over the top of a serving of tres leches cake topped with whipped cream, sliced strawberries and shaved chocolate flakes.

    This easy homemade tres leches cake is like a fiesta in your mouth with all the flavors and texture you crave in a delicious cake!

    More Cake Recipes to Try:

    Tres Leches Cake

    No ratings yet
    Servings: 12
    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 45 minutes
    Additional Time: 30 minutes
    Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

    Ingredients 

    For the Cake:

    • 1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
    • 5 Eggs, separated
    • 1 Cup Sugar, divided
    • 1/3 Cup Whole Milk
    • 1 teaspoon Vanilla

    Leches

    • 1 Can Evaporated Milk, 12 ounces
    • 1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk, 14 ounces
    • 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream, or whole milk

    For the Icing:

    • 1 3/4 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
    • 3 Tablespoon Sugar
    • 1 teaspoon Vanilla

    Decoration:

    • 1/2 lb Strawberries, sliced
    • Chocolate, shaved (optional)
    • Cinnamon, (optional)

    Instructions

    • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
      1 Cup All-Purpose Flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder, 1/4 teaspoon Salt
    • Separate eggs.
      5 Eggs
    • Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow.
      1 Cup Sugar
    • Stir in milk and vanilla.
      1/3 Cup Whole Milk, 1 teaspoon Vanilla
    • Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and fold very gently until combined.
    • Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form.
    • With the mixer on, pour in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff, but not dry.
      1 Cup Sugar
    • Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently, until just combined (no more white streaks).
    • Pour into prepared pan and spread batter evenly.
    • Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
    • Combine evaporated milk, condensed milk and 1/4 cup heavy cream in a small pitcher.
      1 Can Evaporated Milk, 1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk, 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
    • When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle the milk mixture all over the cake, especially around the edges.
    • Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
    • Whip heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla until thick and spreadable.
      1 3/4 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream, 3 Tablespoon Sugar, 1 teaspoon Vanilla
    • Spread over the top and sides of the cake.
    • Cut into squares, top with sliced strawberries, chocolate and cinnamon and serve.
      1/2 lb Strawberries, Chocolate, Cinnamon

    Notes

    *The heavy cream needed for this recipe is equivalent to 1 pint or 2 cups for the cake and icing.
    Store, covered, in the refrigerator

    Nutrition

    Serving: 1pieceCalories: 298kcalCarbohydrates: 51gProtein: 8gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 89mgSodium: 151mgPotassium: 339mgFiber: 1gSugar: 42gVitamin A: 271IUVitamin C: 13mgCalcium: 216mgIron: 1mg
    Author: Sweet Basil
    Course: 500+ Best Dessert Recipes

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