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Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake Recipe

Authentic Recipe for Tres Leches.

I found this poster on, a fantastic bakery in Miami.  Not only is it a funny slogan, it's also sooo true!  You will definitely want to save room for this cake!  In the picture on the left you will see the cake we had for our wedding. Three big cakes of pure tres leches perfection.  Obviously, if you haven't guessed it already, my family doesn't mess around when it comes to our tres leches!
Nobody really knows the origin of the tres leches cake.  Some say the cake originated in Nicaragua, others will tell you El Salvador, and still others insist that it came from Mexico.  Really the only thing that everyone does agree on is that this cake is definitely from Latin America. Pastel tres leches, as it is known down south, is eaten frequently in El Salvador and is often served at fancy occasions such as bodas (weddings), quinceaneras (sweet 15 birthday parties for girls), and other holidays.

The most difficult thing about making a great tres leches cake is getting the cake batter right.  If the cake batter isn't good, the entire tres leches cake will be ruined and you would be better off throwing it away and starting over then wasting ingredients and continuing to move on.  A tres leches cake should taste like a combination of sponge cake and a vanilla butter cake.  Some recipes make strictly a sponge cake using a lot of eggs, usually nine or more, and leave out the butter and milk.  Other recipes use a combination of the three ingredients and use anywhere from four to six eggs and a half a stick of butter or more.  I personally have never been fond of recipes that use my entire carton of eggs.  I have also found that the strictly sponge cake recipes with no butter or milk tend to be too stiff and don't absorb the three milks well.  Based on all of this, I prefer cakes that have a combination of both milk and egg.

In my recipe, I keep the egg number to five to give the cake just enough fluff, but not too much, and I add milk to give the cake a more flavorful and creamy taste.  I have seen people use crema or heavy cream instead of milk.  This will make the cake more moist but you want to be careful about making it too moist because the cake will not absorb the milk mixture properly if it is already very saturated.

After baking, holes are punched into the top of the cake and a combination of three different milks are poured over it. These milks usually consist of sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and either heavy cream, half-and-half, or milk.  A fourth type of caramelized goat milk, called cajeta, is also sometimes added to make the cake a cuatro leches.  Some people like to bake a few cakes so that they can layer the tres leches and put a fruit filling in between them, as opposed to the traditional method of soaking the cake in milk. 

Here's my simple recipe for a delicious pastel tres leches.  This recipe makes a single cake, drenches it with three milks, and tops it with my famous whipped cream.  And have no fear, you are still left with over half a dozen eggs in your fridge when you are done making this tres leches!


5 eggs, separated into yolks and whites
1 cup of all purpose flour
1 cup of granulated white sugar
1/3 cup of milk
1.5 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract
  • Grease a 9x13 inch glass baking pan.
  • Whip egg whites until stiff.**See note at bottom.
  • Add 1/4 cup sugar to egg whites little-by-little and beat again until stiff
  • Combine milk and vanilla extract in new bowl .
  • In another separate bowl, beat egg yolks with the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar.
  • Sift together the flour and baking powder.
  • Add flour mix to milk mix alternately into the egg yolk mixture.
  • Gently fold in egg whites and don't over stir.
  • Cook at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until baked all the way through but lightly golden on top.
3 Milks Mixture

1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • Once cake has cooled, punch holes into mixture using a fork.
  • Combine the three milks and pour over top of cake.
Famous Whipped Cream Topping

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup confectionery sugar

  • Place a metal bowl in freezer for five minutes (this aids in the whipping process).
  • Remove bowl and pour in heavy cream.
  • Whip cream and slowly add sugar little by little once cream has become stiff.**See note at bottom.
  • Cover the cake with the whipped cream and place cake in fridge to chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

I always whip my eggs whites first because if there is any trace of fat on the mixers or in the bowl when you begin, they will not stiffen.  By doing this step first, you ensure that everything is clean and that there is no leftover fat residue on anything.


Kate said...

I adore tres leches cake. I'm afraid to attempt it, but it may be time...

Jennifer said...

I've had this a few times now. :)

Lizzy said...

My daughter often requests this for her birthday...I will try your recipe next :)

Alex said...

tres leches is one of my absolute favorites. such a delicious cake

Rujuta said...


Maggie said...

My fiance is a Mexican pastry chef, so needless to say, tres leches cakes have become part of all my gringa celebrations. I was always worried that the moist cake could not support the tiers of a wedding cake, but now that picture has me thinking...

beproverbs31woman said...

I really like how you assemble the directions for your recipes - looks great! This is a really great site! Thank you so much for sharing your expertise! I love to bake and I'm looking forward to trying out your recipes! Thanks!

jada22 said...

I'm engaged to a man from el Salvador and I'm always trying to find recipes that reminds him of home. So today I made your quesadilla recipe and it turned out beautifully. Thank you your recipes are amazing

Ana M. Hernández said...

Yeaup. The quesadilla recipe is TOP NOTCH! It's amazing how it taste just like one you would buy from the ladies at the bus stations in ES. Everyone, I mean everyone loves it when I make and share.

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