Mexican Tres Leches Cake Recipe (2022)

Mexican Tres Leches Cake | “Three Milks” Cake

Tres leches cake, or “three milks” cake in Spanish, is a classic dessert served throughout Mexico and other Latin American countries. Soaked in three types of milk and topped with fluffy whipped cream, this light, spongy cake is perfect for birthdays, weddings, Cinco de Mayo, or any celebration that calls for a sweet treat.

Mexican Tres Leches Cake Recipe (1)

What to Expect from This Tres Leches Cake Recipe

Authentic Tres leches cake is a sponge cake made with flour, sugar, eggs and vanilla. It’s soaked in a mixture of sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and cream, and frosted with whipped topping.

The taste is decadent and sweet, yet light and airy because it uses no butter or oil. That means you get spectacular flavor without added cholesterol. And a calcium boost from the milk!

The Cake That’s Worth the Wait

The secret to a fabulous traditional tres leches cake is the time you let the cake soak up the syrupy milk mixture. Soak for at least 8 hours, and preferably overnight. That way when you serve, it will be perfectly moist—but not soggy. Mmmm!

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Where’s the Baking Powder?

While many tres leches cake recipes call for baking powder, ours gets its lift from the 6 beaten egg whites, making it much lighter than other cakes.

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Pastry Chef Eli Pérez Shows You How to Make Tres Leches Cake

Our authentic tres leches cake recipe comes from Pastry Chef Eli Pérez, owner of Casa Marietta Repostería in Moroleón, Guanajuato.

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Ingredients:

For the Sponge Cake

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour or cake flour, sifted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature

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For the Milk Mixture

  • 7 ozs. sweetened condensed milk
  • 7 ozs. light cream or table cream
  • 2 ½ cups evaporated milk

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For the Whipped Cream

  • 1 ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
  • ½ oz. vanilla pudding mix

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For the Garnish

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries

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Best Tres Leches Cake Step-by-Step

Make the Sponge Cake

Preheat your oven to 356 degrees F and bring eggs to room temperature for easier beating. Then, separate the egg whites and egg yolks into two small bowls.

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Fit a fine mesh strainer over another bowl and pour in the flour. You can also pour into a flour sifter if you have one.

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Sift the flour into the bowl by gently hitting your hand against the strainer.

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Pour the egg yolks into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use a large bowl and a hand mixer.

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Add vanilla.

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Add a half cup of sugar.

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Set your electric mixer to high speed.

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Beat egg yolks on high speed. You’ll see the yolks start to lighten in color.

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Continue blending until uniform, pale yellow and doubled in volume.

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The yolk mixture should be smooth, but not runny.

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Pour the yolk mixture into a separate bowl.

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Wash and dry the stand mixing bowl and whisk attachment, add the egg whites to the bowl and beat on high speed. Whipped egg whites are the key ingredient that make your cake light and spongy.

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Slowly add half of the remaining sugar as you beat the egg whites.

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Continue beating until soft peaks form.

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Pour in the remaining sugar.

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Beat on high until stiff peaks form.

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Your egg white mixture should be light and fluffy and stick to the whisk attachment or beaters when you scoop it from the bowl.

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Now you’re ready to finish the cake batter. You should have three bowls: one with the flour, one with the egg white mixture, and the other with the egg yolk mixture.

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Using the egg yolk mixture as your main mixing bowl, you’ll add flour and then egg white mixture little by little, alternating as you fold into the batter. First, add two tablespoons of flour to the egg yolk mixture.

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Fold flour into the yolk mixture.

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Add a scoop of the egg white mixture to your main mixing bowl.

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Gently fold into the flour mixture.

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Add more flour.

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Fold into the cake batter.

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Add more egg white mixture.

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Gently fold in the egg white.

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Continue adding flour and egg white—alternating and folding in after each—until you’ve added everything to the main bowl. The mixture will become lighter in color as you add the ingredients.

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The final cake batter should be smooth, thick and fluffy.

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Grease and flour an 8 ½ or 9 inch pan. We use a 2.5″-high pan in this recipe. Use a pastry brush to spread the butter in the round cake pan.

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Place a cookie sheet under your cake pan. Then, pour the tres leches cake mix into the prepared pan.

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Use the spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl to get every last bit of that sweet goodness into your baking pan.

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Smooth the top of your cake evenly with the spatula.

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Your tres leches cake batter is now ready for the oven!

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Place your cake on the center rack of the oven and bake at 356 degrees F for 40-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

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Remove from the oven, let sit five minutes, and then turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool.

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Line the cooled cake pan with plastic wrap. You’re going to place the cake back in the pan and then cover, so be sure you leave enough wrap on the sides to do so.

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Carefully place your cake bottom up into the lined baking pan.

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Make the Milk Mixture

Gather your condensed milk, evaporated milk and light cream (or table cream) in separate bowls, as well as a large bowl, measuring cup and wire whisk.

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Pour the cream into the measuring cup.

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Add the sweetened condensed milk.

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Pour in the evaporated milk.

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Empty the measuring cup contents into a large bowl.

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Whisk the three milks until combined, and then pour back into the measuring cup.

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Soak the Cake

Using a fork, poke holes into the cooled tres leches cake.

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Pour the milk mixture into the holes and all over the surface of the cake. Don’t forget the edges.

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Lift and fold over the flaps of the plastic wrap to cover the soaked cake.

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Once your cake is completely covered, place in the refrigerator and let rest for at least 8 hours. Overnight is best.

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Make the Whipped Cream

Once the cake has rested, make the whipped topping. Start by gathering your ingredients: heavy whipping cream made from whole milk, clear vanilla extract, sugar and vanilla pudding mix.

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Fit your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Then add the whipping cream to the mixing bowl.

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Pour in the sugar.

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Add the vanilla extract. The frosting uses a clear vanilla extract to keep it from changing color.

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Finally, pour in the vanilla pudding mix. Unlike meringue which holds its shape, whipped cream can quickly deflate. The pudding creates a stabilized whipped cream so you won’t have to worry about it melting all over your cake in the refrigerator.

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Turn your electric mixer to medium speed.

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Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Take care not to over beat. If you do so, the cream could separate.

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The cream should be light and fluffy.

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Decorating Tres Leches Cake with Strawberries

Remove your tres leches cake from the refrigerator and prepare a serving dish or cake pedestal.

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Turn out your cake into the center of the dish.

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Carefully separate the pan from the cake.

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Slowly unwrap the plastic wrap by folding the wrap over itself.

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Remove the plastic wrap completely from the cake.

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Begin frosting the cake with the whipped topping using a frosting spatula. Start with the sides of the cake.

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Continue frosting around the cake.

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Carefully frost the top of the cake, being careful not to let the spatula touch the cake directly. You don’t want the cake crumbs to show up on your beautifully frosted cake.

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Be sure to cover every last bit of your cake with the whipped cream.

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Now the fun part. Decorating! Gather your garnishes. You can use berries, maraschino cherries or any kind of fruit.

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If you’re using strawberries, slice them in half and make a ring around the center of the cake, pressing the tops of the berries gently into the cake, cut side up. Fill in the ring with more strawberries, then sprinkle with raspberries and blueberries.

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Behold. Have you ever seen a more beautiful cake? It definitely tastes as good as it looks.

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Best Tres Leches Cake

This gorgeous tres leches cake is one of our favorites. So sweet. So creamy. So airy. And so yummy! Go ahead, try a slice!

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Mexican Tres Leches Cake Recipe (77)

Print Pin

4.04 from 33 votes

Mexican Tres Leches Cake Recipe

Tres leches cake is a sponge cake made with flour, sugar, eggs and vanilla. It’s soaked in a mixture of sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and cream, and frosted with whipped topping.

Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Cook Time 1 hour

Resting Time 8 hours

Total Time 10 hours 30 minutes

Author Chef Elizabeth Pérez Camarena

Equipment

  • Mesh Strainer or Flour Sifter

  • Prep Bowls

  • Mixing Bowls

  • Stand Mixer or Hand Mixer

  • Measuring Cup

  • Wire whisk

  • Silicone Spatulas

  • Round cake pan - 8 ½ or 9 inch

  • Pastry Brush

  • fork

  • Wire Rack

  • Plastic Wrap

  • Frosting Spatula

  • Serving Dish or Cake Pedestal

Ingredients

Sponge Cake

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour or cake flour sifted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs room temperature

Milk Mixture

  • 7 ozs. sweetened condensed milk
  • 7 ozs. light cream or table cream 18-30% milk fat
  • 2 ½ cups evaporated milk

Whipped Cream

  • 1 ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
  • ½ oz. vanilla pudding mix for a stable whipped cream

Garnish

  • Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or other fruit

Instructions

Make the Sponge Cake

  • Preheat oven to 356 degrees F and bring eggs to room temperature for easier beating. Separate egg whites and egg yolks into two small bowls.

  • Sift flour using a fine mesh strainer or flour sifter.

  • Pour egg yolks, vanilla and ½ cup sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, or use a hand mixer.

  • Beat egg yolks until uniform, smooth, pale yellow and doubled in volume. Pour mixture into a separate bowl.

  • Wash and dry the stand mixing bowl and whisk, add egg whites to the bowl and beat on high speed. This is the secret to a light and spongy cake.

  • Slowly add half of the remaining sugar and beat until soft peaks form.

  • Add remaining sugar and beat on high until stiff peaks form. Mixture should be light and fluffy and stick to the whisk attachment or beaters when scooped from the bowl.

  • Gather your three bowls: one with flour, one with egg white mixture, and the other with the egg yolk mixture. Using the egg yolk mixture as your main mixing bowl, you’ll add flour and then egg white mixture little by little, alternating as you fold into the batter.

  • First, add two tablespoons of flour to the egg yolk mixture.

  • Fold flour into the yolk mixture.

  • Add a scoop of the egg white mixture to your main mixing bowl.

  • Gently fold into the flour mixture.

  • Add more flour.

  • Fold into the cake batter.

  • Add more egg white mixture.

  • Gently fold in the egg white.

  • Continue alternating and folding in flour and egg white until you’ve added everything to the main bowl. Mixture will become lighter in color as you add ingredients and the final cake batter should be smooth, thick and fluffy.

  • Grease and flour an 8 ½ or 9 inch pan. Use a pastry brush to spread the butter in the round cake pan.

  • Place a cookie sheet under your cake pan. Then, pour the tres leches cake mix into the prepared pan.

  • Use the spatula to scrape the batter from sides of the bowl into the pan.

  • Smooth the top of your cake evenly with the spatula.

  • Place your cake on the center rack of the oven and bake at 356 degrees F for 40-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

  • Remove from the oven, let sit five minutes, and then turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool.

  • Line the cooled cake pan with plastic wrap. You’re going to place the cake back in the pan and then cover, so be sure you leave enough wrap on the sides to do so.

  • Carefully place your cake bottom up into the lined baking pan.

Make the Milk Mixture

  • Gather your condensed milk, evaporated milk and light cream (or table cream) in separate bowls, as well as a large bowl, measuring cup and wire whisk.

  • Pour the cream into the measuring cup.

  • Add the sweetened condensed milk.

  • Pour in the evaporated milk.

  • Empty the measuring cup contents into a large bowl.

  • Whisk the three milks until combined, and then pour back into the measuring cup.

Soak the Cake

  • Using a fork, poke holes into the cooled tres leches cake.

  • Pour the milk mixture into the holes and all over the surface of the cake. Don’t forget the edges.

  • Lift and fold over the flaps of the plastic wrap to cover the soaked cake.

  • Once your cake is completely covered, place in the refrigerator and let rest for at least 8 hours. Overnight is best.

Make the Whipped Cream

  • Once the cake has rested, make the whipped topping. Gather your ingredients: heavy whipping cream, clear vanilla extract, sugar and vanilla pudding mix.

  • Fit your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Then add the whipping cream to the mixing bowl.

  • Pour in the sugar and vanilla extract. The frosting uses a clear vanilla extract to keep it from changing color.

  • Pour in the vanilla pudding mix.The pudding creates a stabilized whipped cream so you won’t have to worry about it melting all over your cake in the refrigerator.

  • Whip the cream on medium speed until soft peaks form. Take care not to over beat. If you do so, the cream could separate. The cream should be light and fluffy.

Decorate Your Cake

  • Remove your tres leches cake from the refrigerator and prepare a serving dish or cake pedestal.

  • Turn out your cake into the center of the dish.

  • Carefully separate the pan from the cake.

  • Slowly unwrap the plastic wrap by folding the wrap over itself.

  • Remove the plastic wrap completely from the cake.

  • Frost the sides of the cake with the whipped topping using a frosting spatula.

  • Carefully frost the top of the cake, being careful not to let the spatula touch the cake directly. You don’t want the cake crumbs to show up on your beautifully frosted cake.

  • Gather your garnishes. If you’re using strawberries, slice them in half and make a ring around the center of the cake, pressing the tops of the berries gently into the cake, cut side up. Fill in the ring with more strawberries, then sprinkle with raspberries and blueberries. Serve cold.

Notes

Substitutions

While some recipes may call for using coconut milk, you’ll get the most authentic flavor with cream made from whole cow’s milk.

You can also make this as a layer cake, using two standard 9" pans. Simply separate the batter evenly between your pans and bake. Then soak each piece with half the milk mixture before refrigerating overnight. Don't skip refrigeration, as it keeps your cake from falling apart!

More Mexican Dessert Recipes

  • Pan de Muerto
  • Arroz con Leche – Rice Pudding
  • Pan Fried Bananas with Lechera
  • Vegan Strawberry Tamales

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