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    The Best Tres Leches Cake

    This Tres Leches Cake recipe is the softest, most moist cake you will ever have. A super light and fluffy sponge is soaked in a three milk mixture to create a melt-in-your-mouth cake like no other. Topped with a light and fluffy stabilized whipped cream frosting and a dash of cinnamon, this Tres Leches Cake will be your go-to dessert when you need to please a crowd!

    tres leches cake

    What is Tres Leches Cake?

    Tres Leches Cake is literally one of the best desserts in the world! If you’ve never heard of it or tried it before, then I am BEYOND excited to share exactly what it is with you (and hopefully entice you enough to try it out!) 🙂

    Tres Leches Cake is a popular dessert in Latin America. The name translates to “three milks” in English, reflecting the key characteristic of this cake: its soaked in a mixture of three types of milk. Below are the main elements of a Tres Leches Cake:

    Base Cake: The cake itself is usually a simple sponge cake. It has a light and airy texture, designed to absorb the milky mixture without falling apart. Heavier butter or oil cakes (like my vanilla cake) are typically not used.

    Three Milks: The cake is traditionally soaked in a combination of evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk or heavy cream.  I prefer using heavy cream over whole milk, as it’s slightly thicker and in my opinion makes the cake less soggy.

    Toppings: After soaking, the cake is typically topped with whipped cream or meringue, often with a sprinkle of cinnamon for additional flavor and decoration. Some variations include fruit (I love mine with fresh strawberries!), caramel, or chocolate.

    Serving: Tres Leches Cake is typically served chilled. It’s sweet and rich, with a moist, almost pudding-like consistency due to the milk mixture. This makes it a refreshing dessert – perfect for summer!

    What makes this the best Tres Leches Cake recipe?

    When developing this recipe, I wanted to make it one of the lightest Tres Leches Cake recipes you will come across, that melts away in your mouth like no other cake you’ve had!

    To achieve this, I decided to use my 5 star rated light and airy sponge cake as a starting point for the sponge. I made some slight adjustments to make the sponge a little firmer so that it was strong enough to soak in the additional milk that would be added in, while still retaining a light and fluffy texture.

    TRES LECHES CAKE

    One thing I always do when trying to achieve a super light and airy sponge, is to allow the sponge to cool upside down immediately after it’s taken out of the oven. Sponge cakes tend to deflate while cooling, so allowing the cake to cool upside down will prevent this from happening due to the help of gravity! This little trick always leaves me with the most soft and light sponge cakes.

    When it comes to the three milk mixture, one thing I was adamant on was the milk not being too sweet. Typically a 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk is used for a 9×13 inch Tres Leches Cake. I decided to reduce this (I know, it’s a little annoying to have some left over condensed milk – but trust me it’s worth it if you’re someone who doesn’t like overly sweet cakes!). I also wanted to make sure the milk mixture was super creamy and rich, so opted to use heavy cream instead of whole milk.

    When it came to the frosting, I wanted to make sure it was light, but stable. I opted to use my incredibly delicious stabilized whipped cream frosting that uses mascarpone as a stabilizer. It is my absolute favorite way to stabilize whipped cream and it means that your whipped cream won’t become watery or lose its shape the next day!

    How to Make Tres Leches Cake

    Sponge Cake

    Preheat oven to 180 °C (350°F) conventional (see note 2 if using a convection oven with a fan) and lightly grease only the bottom of a 9×13 inch cake pan. Leave the sides of the pan ungreased and do not line them.

    The purpose of leaving the sides of the cake pan ungreased is so that the sponge cake sticks to the sides of the pan as it rises while baking. Once the cake is baked, you will then flip the cake tin over and allow the cake to cool upside down to prevent it from deflating. Because the cake is stuck to the sides of the pan it won’t fall out, and by using gravity to prevent the cake from deflating, it’s going to help retain the cakes light and fluffy texture.

    Sift together all purpose flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Mix until well combined and set aside for now.

    tres leches cake

    In a medium bowl add in egg whites and using an electric mixer (hand mixer or stand mixer are both fine), whip on a medium high speed for 30 seconds until foamy (see note 4). Once foamy, gradually add in 1/2 a cup (100g) of the sugar and then continue mixing until you reach stiff peaks (this should take about 3-4 minutes). Set aside.

    In a large bowl add in the remaining 1/2 cup (100g) of white sugar and warm water. Mix so that the sugar is coated in the water. Add in the egg yolks and vanilla, and with a hand or stand mixer, whip on a medium high speed for 2 minutes until the yolks are pale and slightly thickened.

    Stream the vegetable oil into the egg yolk mixture while mixing on a medium speed. Mix until well combined.

    tres leches cake

    Add in half of your egg whites to your egg yolk mixture, and using a spatula gently fold until just combined – do not overmix. Next add in the flour mixture from earlier and fold until just combined. Finish off by adding in the remaining egg whites and fold until just combined.

    You can use your spatula to break up any large chunks of unmixed egg whites by pushing them gently up against the sides of the bowl, but try not to push out too many of the air bubbles and do not overmix.

    tres leches cake

    tres leches cake

    Distribute the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Drop the cake tin lightly on the counter twice to remove any large air bubbles and bake for 25 minutes.

    To test whether the cake is done, gently touch the top and it should create a little indent which slowly bounces back. You can use a toothpick to check the cake too – if it comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs the cake is ready.

    tres leches cake

    Once the sponge is done, immediately drop the cake tin on your counter from a height of about 10cm to help release some of the steam, and then turn it upside down (while still in the baking tin) on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes (see note 5).

    tres leches cake

    Milk Mixture

    While the cake is cooling, prepare the milk mixture. In a jug (or something that will allow you to easily pour the milk) stir together the evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream.

    Once the cake has been cooling for 30 minutes, turn it upright and run a knife along the edges of the cake tin to release the cake from the sides. Use your fingers to gently rub off the top layer of brown ‘skin’ on the sponge (see video for demonstration).

    Once the top is removed, use a fork to poke holes all over the top of the cake (only poke about 3/4s of the way into the cake – not all the way to the bottom). 

    tres leches cake

    Pour the liquid mixture evenly over the top of the cake. Try and do this as evenly as possible and make sure the entire top of the cake is soaked in milk, including the edges.

    tres leches cake

    Cover with cling wrap and place into the fridge to rest for a minimum of 2 hours (ideally overnight if you have the time).

    tres leches cake

    Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting

    Once the cake is ready to be served, prepare the whipped cream frosting.

    In a large bowl, combine the mascarpone, powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds, and then turn up the speed to a medium high and mix until well combined. If using a stand mixer use the whisk attachment.

    Add in the whipping cream and mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds (to allow everything to combine without the cream splattering), and then turn up the speed to a medium high and whip until you reach stiff peaks. Keep a careful eye on the mixture as you don’t want to overwhip the cream.

    tres leches cake

    Spread the whipped cream out evenly over the top of the cake, and sprinkle some cinnamon on the top using your fingers – you don’t want too much cinnamon. Slice and serve as is or with fresh fruit!

    tres leches cake

    tres leches cake

    How do you store Tres Leches Cake?

    Due to the milk and whipped cream, Tres Leches Cake does need to be kept refrigerated. Luckily though, Tres Leches Cake is meant to be served chilled, so you can have it straight from the fridge (no need to let it come to room temp!).

    tres leches cake

    The Best Tres Leches Cake

    This Tres Leches Cake recipe is the softest, most moist cake you will ever have. A super light and fluffy sponge is soaked in a three milk mixture to create a melt-in-your-mouth cake like no other. Topped with a light and fluffy stabilized whipped cream frosting and a dash of cinnamon, this Tres Leches Cake will be your go-to dessert when you need to please a crowd!
    5 from 13 votes
    Print Pin Rate Watch Video
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: 25 minutes
    Resting Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
    Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
    Servings: 20 people

    IMPORTANT: For accuracy, I would recommend using the gram measurements provided as those are the exact quantities I use. Cup measurements are given as estimates (based on US cup measurements) to make it easier for those who do not have a scale.

    Ingredients
     

    Sponge Cake

    • 1 cup (120 g) flour - plain, all purpose
    • ¼ cup (30 g) cornstarch
    • tsp baking powder
    • ¼ tsp salt
    • 5 large eggs - room temperature, white and yolks separated
    • 1 cup (200 g) white granulated sugar - separated in half (1/2 for the egg whites & 1/2 for the egg yolk mixture)
    • tbsp warm water - not boiling
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract/essence
    • 2 tbsp (30 g) unflavored vegetable oil - I use canola oil

    Milk Mixture

    • cups (425 g) evaporated milk - You will need two 12 oz cans (there will be some left over)
    • 1 cup (305 g) sweetened condensed milk - You will need one 14 oz can (there will be a little left over)
    • ¾ cup (180 g) heavy cream

    Stabilized Whipped Cream (or see note 1 for simple whipped cream recipe)

    • 1 cup (225 g) mascarpone - cold
    • ½ cup (55 g) powdered sugar - also known as confectioners/icing sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla essence/extract
    • cups (335 g) heavy cream - cold
    • ground cinnamon - for sprinkling on top

    Instructions

    Sponge Cake

    • Preheat oven to 180 °C (350°F) conventional (see note 2 if using a convection oven with a fan) and lightly grease only the bottom of a 9x13 inch cake pan. Leave the sides of the pan ungreased and do not line them (see note 3).
    • Sift together flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Mix until well combined and set aside.
    • In a medium sized bowl add in egg whites and using a hand or stand mixer, whip on a medium high speed for 30 seconds until foamy (see note 4). Once foamy, gradually add in 1/2 a cup (100g) of the sugar and then continue mixing until you reach stiff peaks (this should take about 3-4 minutes). Set aside.
    • In a large bowl add in the remaining 1/2 cup (100g) of white sugar and warm water. Mix so that the sugar is coated in the water. Add in the egg yolks and vanilla, and with a hand or stand mixer, whip on a medium high speed for 2 minutes until the yolks are pale and slightly thickened.
    • Stream the vegetable oil into the egg yolk mixture while mixing on a medium speed. Mix until well combined.
    • Add in half of your egg whites to your egg yolk mixture, and using a spatula gently fold until just combined - do not overmix. Next add in the sifted dry ingredients from earlier and fold until just combined. Finish off by adding in the remaining egg whites and fold until just combined. You can use your spatula to break up any large chunks of unmixed egg whites by pushing them gently up against the sides of the bowl, but try not to push out too many of the air bubbles and do not overmix.
    • Distribute the batter evenly into the prepared cake pan. Drop the cake tin lightly on the counter twice to remove any large air bubbles and bake for 25 minutes. To test whether the cake is done, gently touch the top and it should create a little indent which slowly bounces back.
    • Once the sponge is done, immediately drop the cake tin on your counter from a height of about 10cm to help release some of the steam, and then turn it upside down (while still in the baking tin) on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes (see note 5).

    Milk Mixture

    • In a jug (or something that will allow you to easily pour the milk) combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream.
    • Once the cake has been cooling for 30 minutes, turn it upright and run a knife along the edges of the cake tin to release the cake from the sides. Use your fingers to gently rub off the top layer of brown 'skin' on the sponge (see video for demonstration). Once the top is removed, use a fork to poke holes all over the top of the cake (only poke about 3/4s of the way into the cake - not all the way to the bottom).
    • Pour the milk mixture evenly over the top of the cake. Try and do this as evenly as possible and make sure the entire top of the cake is soaked in milk, including the edges.
    • Cover with cling wrap and place into the fridge to rest for a minimum of 2 hours (ideally overnight if you have the time).

    Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting

    • Once the cake is ready to be served, prepare the whipped cream frosting.
    • In a large bowl, combine the mascarpone, powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix on a low speed for 10 seconds, and then turn up the speed to a medium high and mix until well combined. If using a stand mixer use the whisk attachment.
    • Add in the heavy cream and mix on a low speed for 10 seconds (to allow everything to combine without the cream splattering), and then turn up the speed to a medium high and whip until you reach stiff peaks. Keep a careful eye on the mixture as you don't want to overwhip the cream.
    • Spread the whipped cream out evenly over the top of the cake, and sprinkle some cinnamon on the top using your fingers - you don't want too much cinnamon. Slice and serve as is or with fresh fruit!

    Video

    YouTube video

    Notes

    Note 1. If you prefer to use a non-stabilized whipped cream frosting, you can use the following recipe:
    • 2 cups (480g) heavy cream
    • 2 tbsp white granulated sugar
    • 1 tsp of vanilla extract/essence. 
    Whip all the above together until you reach stiff peaks. Be careful not to overwhip the cream. 
    Note 2. If using a convection oven with a fan, bake at 160C/320F
    Note 3. The purpose of leaving the sides of the cake pan ungreased is so that the sponge cake sticks to the sides of the pan as it rises while baking. Once the cake is baked, you will then flip the cake tin over and allow the cake to cool upside down to prevent it from deflating. Because the cake is stuck to the sides of the pan it won't fall out, and by using gravity to prevent the cake from deflating, it's going to help retain the cakes light and fluffy texture. 
    Note 4. When whipping egg whites, make sure there is no fat on the bowl or attachments you use to whip the egg whites (as well as no yolks in the egg whites). Any fat residue will prevent the egg whites from whipping to stiff peaks. 
    Note 5. By placing the sponge upside down to cool while still in the baking tin, it's going to prevent the sponge from deflating. This will retain its light and airy texture.  

    Nutrition

    Calories: 349kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 103mg | Sodium: 139mg | Potassium: 183mg | Fiber: 0.2g | Sugar: 26g | Vitamin A: 749IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 168mg | Iron: 1mg

    Nutritional information are estimates only as they are automatically calculated by a third party application. Actual values may differ based on brands and types of products used.

    Keyword: 3 milk cake, mexican cake, three milk cake, tres leche cake, tres leches, tres leches cake, tres leches cake recipe, tres leches cake recipes, tres leches cake with fruit, tres leches cake with strawberries, tres leches dessert
    Tried this recipe?I love hearing from you! Tag me @cakesbymk.nz on instagram so I can see your amazing creations 🙂

     

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    18 Comments

    • sobia

      5 stars
      I have made this cake with the same recipe, and it’s to die for. I used simple whipped cream on top, and everything turned out just perfect.

      • Cakes by MK

        Yay! So so happy to hear you loved the recipe Sobia 😀 its one of my favs!!

    • Hajir

      5 stars
      Your recipes are amazing. I tried this last week and it turned out INCREDIBLE!!!! Everyone loved it. Your strawberry cake recipes is still everyone’s number one!!!

      • Cakes by MK

        Thank you so much Hajir! So happy to hear you’re enjoying the recipes and that both the Tres Leches and strawberry cake have turned out wonderfully 😀
        Really appreciate the feedback 🙂

    • ghanyah

      thanks for your amazing recipe. i have tried your marble cake it was so yum…made it thrice cuz everybody enjoys it alot. i want to try your tres leches cake on mother’s day. plz help if i want to make half of the recipe, what should be the tin size. if you are not sure, just make a guess but do tell me. thanks

      • Cakes by MK

        Hi Ghanyah! So happy to hear you’re enjoying the recipes, particularly the marble cake 😀
        If you wanted to make half the recipe, then I think a 7 or 8inch square cake tin would work best, though you could make a round cake too 🙂
        Hope you enjoy the recipe!

    • Pooja

      What can I use as a substitute for evaporated milk..”.?

      • Cakes by MK

        Hi Pooja! 🙂 I would recommend using the evaporated milk if possible, otherwise you can use heavy cream or regular milk, though this may change the texture/taste of the final cake slightly. Hope you enjoy the recipe! 🙂

    • Judy Bruce-Brand

      I will definitely try this recipe which sounds wonderful. Thank you so much for your past recipes. Both your carrot and lemon cake had been a great success. I also appreciate your very helpful instructions

      • Cakes by MK

        Hi Judy! Thank you so much for the wonderful feedback 😀 so happy to hear you’re enjoying the recipes and finding the detailed instructions helpful 🙂
        Hope you enjoy this Tres Leches Cake 😀

    • Charlotte

      5 stars
      I just made your Tres Leches cake for some friends. (an early Cinco de Mayo celebration)
      Could you please tell me if you used a 9″x13″ pan? Your cake looks so much larger than mine. Also, when I dropped the tin on the counter and flipped it on the wire rack, the cake slid out of the pan. I did not grease the sides but I think my cake pan is non-stick. Do you recommend using another kind of pan? Thank you so much for the information and sharing the delicious recipe with us. I’m sure my friends will love it.

      • Cakes by MK

        Hi Charlotte! So happy to hear you decided to try out the recipe 😀
        Yes I did use a 9×13 inch cake pan in the video/pictures provided 🙂 my pan is quite square so if yours is a bit more round on the edges then perhaps thats why it may look a bit smaller? If the batter fit well in the cake tin then it’s likely that we are using the same pan size – sometimes the camera angle can also make things look smaller/bigger 🙂
        When it comes to flipping the cake over, ideally you do want it to stick to the sides. If you found that the cake was still very light and airy then that’s allgood, but if you found that it maybe shrinked a bit too much then yes I would recommend using a different non stick pan for best results 🙂
        Hope that helps and hope you all loved the recipe!

    • Agnes

      Hi MK, I only have a table top oven so it’s not possible to place 2 trays at one time for layered cakes. Can I bake one layer first and leave the other layer to bake after the first layer is done? Will it affect the batter while waiting? Many thanks ❤️

      • Cakes by MK

        Hi Agnes! 🙂
        Yes you could get away with doing that, just be sure to place the second cake layer in as soon as the first one is finished 🙂
        Ideally you would want to get them both in at the same time, but if you don’t leave the batter sitting too long it should be okay. You could also half the recipe if you would prefer one 8 inch cake 🙂
        Hope that helps!

    • Ranie

      Hi MK thanks for this recipe sounds so good. Can it be made a day before.
      Thanks

      • Cakes by MK

        Thanks so much Ranie! 🙂 Yes absolutely – it’s actually best to make the cake the day before and allow it to soak overnight so that the sponge has time to soak up all the milk evenly 🙂
        If making my stabilized whipped cream frosting then you can also frost the cake the day before, however if using a regular whipped cream that isn’t stabilized then I recommend making the frosting just before serving the cake 🙂
        Hope you enjoy the recipe!

    • Desi

      5 stars
      Hey MK, love your recipes! curious, can this cake be made as a layer cake? I’m thinking 2 8” rounds instead of the 9×13. Also, how do u think it would turn out as cupcakes? Thanks!

      • Cakes by MK

        Hi Desi! So happy to hear you’re loving the recipes 😀
        Hmmm good question! I’ve never tried a layered Tres Leches before, but I imagine if you soak the cakes while you’re assembling the layer cake and then let it sit for a while to soak up the milk it should work fine? It would probably be too hard to move the cake layers if they’re soaked beforehand – if that makes sense! I’ll have to try it out sometime and maybe share a recipe 😀
        I think as cupcakes it would work great! You would just need to reduce the cooking time of the sponge, and use some good quality cupcake cases that won’t disintegrate from the liquid 🙂
        Hope that helps!

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    About me

    Welcome to my blog! My name is Maryam and I LOVE baking! :) I hope to provide you with the tools (i.e. simple, from-scratch, quality tested recipes), so that you can confidently bake up delicious treats to share with your family and friends!

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