Light and Airy Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake
"Tres Leches" means "three milks," and this cake is soaked with a mixture of evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream. photo (c) Nancy Borja / EyeEm / Getty Images
  • 50 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins,
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Yield: 1 cake (serves 8-10)
Ratings (4)

This rendition of Pastel de Tres Leches—literally, “three milk cake”, often called Tres Leches Cake in the United States—is not quite as rich and dense as traditional version is. This fluffy cake is, in the typical style for this dessert, soaked in three types of milks and topped with a deliciously fresh whipped cream.

What You'll Need

  • 1-1/2 cups cake flour*
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • 6 large eggs (carefully separated into yolks and whites)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons white sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons good quality Mexican vanilla extract, divided
  • 1 can (12 ounces / 355 milliliters) evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 1 tablespoon rum (or brandy optional)
  • Ground cinnamon for garnish

How to Make It

*If you do not have cake flour handy, you can make an acceptable substitute with all-purpose flour: carefully measure the 1 and ½ cups of flour needed for this recipe. Remove 3 tablespoons of that flour, and replace them with 3 tablespoons of corn starch. Mix thoroughly, then sift the mixture 5 or 6 times in order to loosen the particles and make it lighter. Use this mixture in the recipe in place of the cake flour.

  1. Make the cake: Turn your oven on to 325 Fahrenheit / 163 Celsius so that it can pre-heat.

    Sift (or mix thoroughly) the cake flour and baking powder together in a large bowl.

  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks until they become frothy. Whisk one cup of the sugar, the whole milk, and one teaspoon of vanilla into the yolks.

    Mix the yolk mixture into the flour mixture by folding it in with a large wooden spoon.

  3. In a chilled mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

    Use a large spatula to fold the yolk and flour mixture into the beaten egg whites a little at a time. Do this carefully so as to leave the batter as fluffy as possible.

  4. Immediately pour the batter into a greased and floured 9x13-inch (about 22x33 centimeters) baking dish. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean

  5. Let the cake cool—still in the baking pan—until it reaches room temperature

    Pierce the cake with a fork 20-30 times.

  6. Make the Cream Syrup and Soak the Cake: Whisk together the evaporated milk, the sweetened condensed milk, and 1/3 cup of the heavy cream (these are the “three milks” of the recipe name), together with the rum or brandy, if you choose to use it.

  7. Leaving the cake in the baking pan, pour the liquid over the cooled cake. Do this slowly, giving the syrup time to drain into the holes you poked and penetrate the cake.

  8. Refrigerate for at least three hours, preferably overnight.

  9. Top and Serve Your Tres Leches Cake: In a chilled mixing bowl, combine 2/3 cups heavy cream with the remaining teaspoon of vanilla and 2 tablespoons white sugar. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Spread this creamy topping in a thin layer over the cake.

  1. Sprinkle ground cinnamon (in any amount you desire) over the topping as garnish.

  2. To serve, cut cake into squares with a sharp knife. Use a spatula to dish out the portions, spooning a bit of the “loose” liquid onto the plate for each slice. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Alternate Toppings for Tres Leches Cake

If you like, omit the cinnamon and top your cake with

  • Fruit, either fresh or canned. Whole raspberries or sliced strawberries or kiwi are the best fresh fruits for this, or try well-drained canned sliced peaches or maraschino cherries.

  • Cocoa powder, shaved or grated dark chocolate, or chocolate syrup from a squeeze bottle.

  • Colorful candy sprinkles and/or chocolate shot.

  • Slivered almonds or chopped pecans.

Edited by Robin Grose