My Tres Leches Cake is designed to be soft, perfectly moist, and NOT soggy! It’s made with a homemade vanilla cake soaked in three milks and topped with whipped cream. You’ll be amazed at how incredible this tastes! Recipe includes a how-to video.
The Best Tres Leches Cake Recipe
Tres leches cake or “Three Milks” cake should be soft, moist, and super flavorful. My recipe checks every box, with a fluffy vanilla sponge cake soaked in three different types of milk and topped with whipped cream. With all that liquid, it’s easy to assume this cake would be soggy–but don’t worry, my recipe has been tested and perfected to be perfectly balanced and NOT soggy!
This is a cake that took me a long time to get just right. Because we’ll be drenching it with a mixture of milks, the base of this cake is critical (and is what took me the longest to perfect).
It needs to be light and airy, but sturdy enough that it doesn’t become a soupy mess. Pound cake is too dense, and classic vanilla cake disintegrates. Ultimately, a variation of my grandmother’s hot milk cake did the trick, and while the cake ingredients are almost identical, you’ll notice the technique is quite different (as is the resulting cake!). You’re going to love it!
What You Need
Here are the key ingredients in my recipe. Some of them may surprise you!
- Eggs. We’ll be using both the egg whites and yolks, but you’ll need to separate them first. Whipping the egg whites adds airiness to the cake without making it so delicate that it dissolves from the moisture of our three milks.
- Butter. Many tres leches cakes do not use butter, but after a lot of testing I’m firmly standing by this version. It produces a light but wonderfully flavorful cake that’s spongy, but sturdy enough to absorb all of the milk.
- Flour. I use all-purpose flour. Cake flour could be substituted if done properly.
- Milks. Precisely three of them. We’ll be using condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream along with just a drop of vanilla extract for our three milks. We’ll also need whole milk for the cake itself.
- Heavy cream. Some recipes use a third milk for the tres leches mixture, but I actually prefer heavy cream. It creates a perfect consistency and doesn’t make the cake soggy or soupy.
SAM’S TIP: I like to top off my cake with a sprinkle of cinnamon (freshly ground, if you have it!), but this is optional.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make It
- Whip the egg whites and 1 cup of sugar to stiff peaks, then set this aside.
- Beat together the butter and remaining 1 cup of sugar until creamy, then stir in the egg yolks and vanilla extract.
- Whisk together dry ingredients, then alternate stirring the whole milk and dry ingredients into your into egg yolk mixture.
- Gently fold in egg whites, then pour into a prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes.
- Let the cake cool for an hour, poke holes all over, and slowly drizzle with the three milks mixture.
- Cover and chill for a few hours or overnight before frosting with whipped cream and serving.
SAM’S TIP: If you’ve never whipped egg whites to stiff peaks before, it simply means that the egg whites don’t fold over or fall back into themselves when you pull your whisk straight out of the mixture. If you’ve made my meringues or white cake you’ve done this before! For a visual, check out my video below.
With most of my cakes I encourage you to play around with different frostings on top, but not so with today’s recipe. You need something light that pairs well with the milks-drenched cake and the whipped cream frosting is a classic for a reason!
Frequently Asked Questions
The true origins of this cake are actually widely disputed. Many Latin American countries have been named as possible points of origin, and some sources even cite Nestle as perpetuating this milk-heavy recipe as a way to sell more of their condensed and evaporated milk (a delicious marketing ploy, if you ask me).
Here’s an article that discusses the origins of tres leches cake if you’re a fellow food nerd like me and would like to take a deep dive!
Kind of. I don’t recommend freezing the cake after you’ve soaked it in the milk mixture. However, if you’d like to make this cake in advance you can bake the cake, cool it completely, and then tightly wrap it and freeze as you would any other cake.
Several hours to 1 day before you are ready to serve, thaw the cake and then follow the instructions in the recipe for drenching with milk and topping with whipped cream.
Traditionally this cake is made with evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk. However, I found that using whole milk tends to make the cake a bit more soggy than is desirable, so for my tres leches cake recipe I use heavy cream instead.
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
Tres Leches Cake Recipe
- 14 oz sweetened condensed milk (397g)
- 12 oz evaporated milk (340g)
- ½ cup heavy cream (118ml)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream (355)
- ½ cup powdered sugar (65g)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Ground cinnamon for sprinkling optional
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and spray a 9×13 glass baking dish with baking spray. Set aside.
- Place egg whites in a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer and use an electric mixer or your stand mixer’s whisk attachment to beat until foamy. Gradually increase mixer speed to medium-high and add just 1 cup (200g) of sugar, adding about 2 Tablespoons at a time and allowing about 10 seconds after each addition. Increase mixer speed to high and beat until egg white mixture is thick and glossy and you achieve stiff peaks¹ (much like you are making a meringue).
- If you used a stand mixer, scoop egg whites into a separate clean bowl and set aside and carry on using the same bowl for the next step (no need to clean the bowl). If you used an electric hand mixer, just grab a new bowl at this point.
- Place softened butter and remaining 1 cup (200g) of sugar in bowl. Beat until creamy and well-combined.
- Add egg yolks, one at a time, stirring after each addition.
- Stir in vanilla extract.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Using a spatula and stirring by hand, alternate adding milk and flour mixture to your egg yolk mixture (I usually do this in about 4 parts, about ¼ cup of the milk at a time and ¼ of the flour mixture at a time).
- Once milk and flour have been stirred into egg yolk mixture, grab your egg white meringue from earlier and use a spatula to gently fold meringue into batter. Make sure it is completely combined and no white spots of egg remain, but use a gentle hand to not deflate the egg whites or over-mix the batter or you'll have a dense cake.
- Spread batter evenly into prepared 9×13 pan and transfer to 350F (175C) oven and bake for 35-40 minutes.
- Once cake has finished baking, allow to cool for about 30-60 minutes.
- Once cake has cooled (do not invert it, leave it in the cake pan), prepare topping by whisking together condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, and vanilla extract.
- Use a large fork or a wooden skewer to poke holes all over the cake (poke down to the bottom of the cake pan). Pour milk mixture slowly and evenly over cake. Cover and transfer cake to refrigerator and allow to chill for at least several hours or overnight.
- Once ready to serve, prepare whipped cream:
- Combine heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract in a large bowl and use an electric mixer to beat until thickened and you achieve stiff peaks and a Cool Whip consistency.
- Spread whipped cream over tres leches cake and sprinkle with ground cinnamon, if desired.
- Slice and serve! Enjoy!
¹Stiff PeaksStiff peaks simply means that if you lift the beater straight out of the batter, the peak that forms will not recede back or melt back into itself. It should hold a tall, stiff peak, and if you turn the beater upside down the peak that has formed on the end of it should hold its shape as well. See photo in post or video for visual!
How to StoreStore Tres Leches cake covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
Recipe originally published September 2019, it has been updated to include more information but the recipe is unchanged.