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Tres Leches Cake

Updated on April 28, 2015

Traditional Latin Flavor

Tres Leches Cake is very popular in many parts of Latin America. The origins of this cake are often disputed; however, the idea for creating a cake soaked in a liquid is probably has its roots in Europe. Similar cakes, such as rum cake from Puerto Rico and tiramisu from Italy, use this same method of soaking the cake in a flavorful base liquid. It adds another taste dimension while also transforming the cake into something entirely different. The cake takes on a moist density that sets it apart from other drier versions of a common dessert cake.

The 3 milk cake or Tres Leches is named for the three kinds of milk used in making the cake. (Tres means three in Spanish and Leche means milk). The three types of milk used in the soaking sauce are sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream. The heavy cream is also whipped and used as the topping for the cake. After soaking, the cake is extremely dense and moist, almost like a custard. It’s delicious and sweet, but nothing like a traditional cake one generally finds in typical American bakeries.

Mexican Food - Three Different Recipes for this Luscious Cake

Pastel de Tres Leches Recipes

Dessert Recipes - Mexican
Dessert Recipes - Mexican

There are many wonderful recipes for Tres Leches Cake. They're all fairly similar, but each has it's own unique twist on this classic Latin dessert. Here are three different recipes that I think you'll be very pleased with and each is very easy to make. Try one, or all three, and let me know which one is your favorite!

Cake and Milk

This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons.  Espace Opra Milk   Date Et 2004   Author Janine Chedid   Permission (Reusing this file)
This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Espace Opra Milk Date Et 2004 Author Janine Chedid Permission (Reusing this file)

Tres Leches Cake #1


1-1/2 cups cake flour

1 pinch salt

1 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup oil

1 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

5 large eggs

½ cup whole milk

Milk Sauce for Soaking (see recipe below)

Whipped Topping (see recipe below)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F

Generously butter a 13x9 inch baking dish

Combine flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the oil, sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Add the eggs to the sugar mixture one at a time until well combined. Stir in the ½ cup of milk, then gently fold in the flour mixture a little at a time.

Pour batter into a lightly greased cake pan or baking dish and bake at 325 degrees F for 30-40 minutes or until it feels firm and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let the cake cool until it reaches room temperature. Turn the cake out onto a platter with raised edges. Pierce the cake with a fork 20-30 times. Let the cake cool in the refrigerator for an additional 30 minutes.

Milk Sauce:

12 oz. evaporated milk

14 oz. sweetened condensed milk

½ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon rum or brandy (optional)

Whisk together the three milks and the rum or brandy, if you’re using it. Slowly pour the liquid over the cooled cake. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Occasionally, spoon the milk runoff back onto the cake.

Whipped Topping:

¾ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon sugar

In a chilled mixing bowl add heavy cream, vanilla and sugar. Beat on high speed until peaks form. Spread a thin layer over the cake.

Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon or garnish with fresh berries.

This recipe calls for the cake to be removed from the baking pan prior to soaking with the milk sauce. If you prefer, you can easily leave the cake in the baking pan and pour the milk sauce over the perforated cake. It really just depends on if you want to serve the cake directly from the baking pan or if you want it on a decorative platter.

Mexican Dessert Recipes

This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons.  Description Tres Leches.jpg  A Tres leches.   Date 26 October 2006(2006-10-26)   Author User:AndonicO   Permission (Reusing this file)
This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Description Tres Leches.jpg A Tres leches. Date 26 October 2006(2006-10-26) Author User:AndonicO Permission (Reusing this file)

3 Milk Cake (Version #2)

1 cup sugar

5 large eggs, separated

1/3 cup milk

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

Milk Sauce:

1 – 12 oz. can evaporated milk

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 cup heavy (or whipping) cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Tablespoon dark Cuban rum

Preparation for the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.

Combine egg yolks and ¾ cup sugar; beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gently fold in the milk, vanilla, flour and baking powder. In a clean bowl, beat egg whites until foamy; add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining ¼ cup sugar and continue beating until the egg whites are glossy and form stiff peaks, but not dry. Gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture. Pour the batter into the buttered baking dish and bake until the cake feels firm and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 30-45 minutes. Let the cake cool completely in the pan. Pierce the cake all over with a fork, but be careful not to tear it up.

Prepare the Milk Sauce:

Combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, cream, vanilla and rum in a bowl. Whisk until well blended. Pour the syrup over the cake, spooning the overflow back on top, until it is all absorbed. Chill for at least an hour.

To Serve:

When ready to serve, cut a slice and plate it. Top with a dollop of freshly whipped cream or a side of ice cream, dust cake and cream with some fresh cocoa powder and place a slice or two of fresh mango, strawberries, kiwi or other fruit on the side.

My Favorite Version of this Cake!

Traditional Cake (Version #3)

This is another delicious recipe. This recipe uses a meringue topping as opposed to a whipped cream topping. It still uses the same 3 milks as a soaking sauce.


6 large eggs, separated

2 cups granulated sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup whole milk

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Milk Sauce for Soaking (See recipe below)

Meringue Topping (see recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 9 by 13-inch baking dish and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites on low speed until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Add the egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after the addition of each.

Sift together the flour and baking powder and add to the egg mixture, alternating with the milk. (Do this quickly so the batter does not lose volume.) Add the vanilla. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and while still warm, pour the cream mixture over it. Let sit and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Milk Sauce:

1 - 14oz can evaporated milk

1 - 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup heavy cream

Meringue Topping:

3 T water

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 large egg whites

Once the cake is completely chilled, make the meringue topping. In a saucepan combine the water and sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Cook until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, 235 to 240 degrees F. Remove from the heat. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. While beating, add the hot syrup in a slow stream. Beat until all the syrup has been added, the mixture cools, and a glossy icing forms.

To assemble: Remove the cake from the refrigerator and spread the meringue evenly across the top

Top Mexican Desserts

What is Your Favorite Mexican Dessert

See results

Coffee Infused 3 Milk Cake

Another Popular Latin Dessert

If you liked this cake, you might want to give another popular dessert a try. Flan is the Mexican or Latin version of France's Creme Caramel. A smooth, creamy custard with a crunch caramelized sugar. Absolutely delicious.

Homemade Flan

Enjoy the Flavors of Latin America

Three milk cake is a favorite dessert for many families, but it is just one of many delicious dishes in South American and Mexican cuisines. Be sure to try making some authentic Mexican tamales or enjoy the delicious and complex flavors of an incredible homemade cajeta. Cajeta is delicious served over ice cream, in coffee, or in many dessert recipes. Finish your meal with a cup of cafe con leche and enjoy some time reading about the beautiful artist community of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Thanks for reading!


Submit a Comment

  • Lamme profile image

    Lamme 7 years ago

    Liv, I hope you get a chance to try this ... I think you'll love it!

  • parduc profile image

    parduc 7 years ago from Kos island, Greece

    Lovely-rated up, useful, awesome! Thanks for sharing!


  • Lamme profile image

    Lamme 7 years ago

    Thanks shai77! I hope you enjoy it!

  • shai77 profile image

    Chen 7 years ago

    Hi :-)

    Thanks for the recipes.

    Loved this Hub :-)

  • Lamme profile image

    Lamme 7 years ago

    You're welcome Lgali. I hope you get a chance to try it! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Lgali profile image

    Lgali 7 years ago

    thanks for this nice recipe

  • Lamme profile image

    Lamme 7 years ago

    Thanks drbj. I bet you get some great tres leches cake down there!

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

    Hi, Lamme. Tres leches cake is practically a staple food in every restaurant that offers desserts in Miami, Florida. Love it and your recipe.

  • Lamme profile image

    Lamme 7 years ago

    Thanks china man. This is definitely something you have to try!

  • profile image

    china man 7 years ago

    double yummy - nice complete information, gotta try it !

  • Lamme profile image

    Lamme 7 years ago

    @ 2patricias, I think this has more calories than we'd like to imagine.

    @ chin chin, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • Lamme profile image

    Lamme 7 years ago

    I love mole, sorry I don't have any recipes. I'll have to look into that.

  • habee profile image

    Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

    Yum! I need a good recipe for mole. Got one??

  • 2patricias profile image

    2patricias 7 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

    These sound delicious! Now, first to loose a little weight so I can eat cake again.

  • Chin chin profile image

    Chin chin 7 years ago from Philippines

    I would certainly try this recipes. Bookmarked it.

  • Lamme profile image

    Lamme 7 years ago

    Thanks prasetio30, I love cooking and enjoy many different cuisines. Let me know if you try any of the recipes, I'd love to hear what you think of them.

  • prasetio30 profile image

    prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

    Wow...all these food like delicious. Thank for share the recipes for us. I think many of us want to make these food. Happy cooking.....

  • Lamme profile image

    Lamme 7 years ago

    BKCreative, I love this cake too! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • BkCreative profile image

    BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

    I love this cake!!! In several Latin American restaurants here in NYC I can find it - it is absolutely spectacular and surprisingly light.

    Thanks so much for the different recipes! I will bookmark this and definitely rate it up!


  • Lamme profile image

    Lamme 7 years ago

    LOL @ magnoliazz, I know, it's just way too decadent! Let me know if you try it and what you think!

  • magnoliazz profile image

    magnoliazz 7 years ago from Wisconsin


    This looks so sinfully rich and delicious!

    Lamme! You are an evil woman! LOL....evil but good, I'm going to try this! I may never be the same again.

  • Lamme profile image

    Lamme 7 years ago

    LOL, thanks Keith ... it is yummy!

  • profile image

    keith 7 years ago