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Tres Leche (Three Milk Cake)

Updated on March 31, 2010

Tres (three) Leches (milk) Cake

As with all my recipes it's all about technique and secondarily the ingredients. This does not mean the ingredients are a minor concern. Not at all. But the technique is what makes this the easiest and most tasty of the various recipes out there.

This is a very popular recipe in Latin America and it has a long history. Though many nations claim it as their own most historical records indicate it originated in Venezuela.

The Nestlé company also helped the tres leches recipe evolve, during World War II, in Mexico when it began printing a recipe for this desert on it's condensed milk cans.

Veracruz, in southern Mexico, has it's own version which includes Mexican vanilla and Caribbean rum. This particular recipe is called pastel borracho, or drunken cake.

For best results please follow the recipe to the letter. I have tried different types of flour, different methods of soaking (hot and cold) and different forms of milk. The recipe below brings the best of the ingredients together for the most flavorful cake.

Cooking Time

Mixing the milks, baking the cake, and adding the topping takes about an hour of total time. However, since the cake must be refrigerated overnight you will want to plan ahead, possibly doing all the cooking one day before.

Kitchen Utensils

For this recipe you will need two mixing bowls, a thirteen by nine (13" X 9") inch glass or metal pan. Glass is better. A whisk, spatula, and hand mixer.



  • Vegetable oil or non-stick spray
  • 6 3/4 ounces cake flour, plus a bit extra for the pan (do not substitute general purpose or whole wheat)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces refined sugar
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (resist the urge to use imitation vanilla)


The glaze goes over the baked cake once it is cool. This is not the topping.

  • One 12 ounce can of evaporated milk
  • One 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • One Cup of half-n-half (you can also mix 1/2 cup cream and 1/2 cup milk)
  • Optional: Two Tablespoons dark rum (for pastel borracho)
  • Optional: One teaspoon vanilla extract (for pastel borracho)

Topping (the next day)

  • 2 Cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 ounces sugar


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Prepare the Cake

  1. Lightly oil your pan (or use non-stick spray) and then drop one or two Tablespoons of dry flour into the pan.
  2. Shake the pan around a bit to get the flour stuck to all parts of the pan. Dump any flour that did not stick. Set the pan aside.
  3. Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  4. In a second bowl using a hand mixer on medium speed, beat the butter until it is just fluffy. This will take about one minute.
  5. Lower the speed on the mixer to low and slowly add the eight ounces of granulated sugar to the butter. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  6. Continuing to mix the wet ingredients, add the four eggs, one at a time until each egg is incorporated into the mix.
  7. Once the eggs are incorporated add the vanilla extract.
  8. Now add the flour mixture from step 3 in three steps. Add one third of the flour mixture at each step until the flour and liquid are just combined. Do not over-mix.
  9. Transfer the completed batter to the oiled and floured pan and spread the mixture evenly in the pan. This will appear to be a very small amount of batter, but once baked the batter will rise significantly.
  10. Bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes. The cake should achieve a golden brown hue. Use a toothpick to determine if the cake is done. The toothpick test is merely inserting a wooden toothpick into the center of the cake and withdrawing it. If there is any cake clinging to the toothpick the cake needs to bake some more. If the toothpick comes out clean the cake is done.
  11. Move the cake to a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least thirty minutes. This is very important. You do not want to add the milk mixture to a hot or even warm cake. If in doubt let cool for an hour.
  12. Poke the cake all over with a skewer or fork. You want to make sure to poke the cake all the way down to the pan. You should end up with many holes all over the cake. This will allow the milk mixture to soak all the way through the cake.

Prepare the Glaze

  1. In another mixing bowl whisk together the evaporated milk, the sweetened condensed milk, and the half-n-half. This might best be done in a one quart measuring bowl.
  2. Now that the cake is cool pour the glaze all over the cake. Do not worry if your cake disappears under the liquid; this is normal. The liquid will be absorbed by the cake in due course.
  3. Refrigerate the cake overnight. This is important!

The Topping (the next day)

  1. Place the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla into a bowl. Using a hand mixer beat on low speed until stiff peaks are formed.
  2. Increase the mixer speed to medium and continue to beat until thick.
  3. Spread the topping over the cold cake. You may wish to refrigerate with the topping until ready to serve. Or serve immediately.

As simple as this cake is to make most of the time is taken up allowing the cake to chill and absorb the milk mixture.

Despite the simple ingredients this desert is quite delicious.


Submit a Comment

  • LiamBean profile image

    LiamBean 7 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia

    sue: Thank you so much for adding this. I did not for a moment think the cocoa powder was the "swiss-miss" variety.

    It's great to have someone post an answer to another commentator's question.

    I WILL try this soon. If it's half as good as you indicated I'll update the recipe.

  • profile image

    sue 7 years ago

    The local Mexican bakery does a Mocha version by adding about 1/4 c of dry cocoa powder (not instant) to the whipped cream, and adding 2-3 Tablespoons strong coffee to the three milk soaking liquid. Oh, So mahvelous! They also make Tres Leches parfait cups in 16 oz clear plastic to go frappe cups by layering scraps of cake with the soaking liquid and topping, always a piece of glazed fruit, strawberry or kiwi, on top for decoration. Talk about temptation!

  • LiamBean profile image

    LiamBean 7 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia

    alma: I got it off of a condensed milk can and modified it slightly for better results.

    I've personally cooked this at least six times (not more because of all the calories) and except for the first time, it's come out beautifully each time.

    Thanks for letting me know. It's very gratifying to hear from my readers.

  • profile image

    alma 7 years ago

    this is the best recipe that I have seen and people love it.

  • LiamBean profile image

    LiamBean 8 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia

    Melissa: I have no idea. I like it just the way it is. Haven't even tried the "Pastel" version with rum. I did find one version that suggests using 1/2 Cup cocoa powder and 1/2 Cup less flour. Hope this works; I've never tried it myself.

  • profile image

    Melissa Moran (missy) 8 years ago

    Lost my recipe for CHOCOLATE TRES Leches cake (that you gave me a few years ago) and I have 12 6 oz custard cups begging to be used for this cake (I can taste the cool creaminess now....Drool)

    Is your chocolate version just replacing 1/4 C Cocoa for 1/4 flour? Help. All the other recipes I'm finding are calling for boxed cake mix.

    Thank you.

  • LiamBean profile image

    LiamBean 8 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia

    SimeyC & Ralph: Thanks for the read. SimeyC it really comes out best if soaked overnight. Believe me...I tried.

    Ralph: Ha!

  • Ralph Deeds profile image

    Ralph Deeds 8 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

    Sounds delicious. A relatively non-controversial topic compared to some of the others!

  • SimeyC profile image

    Simon Cook 8 years ago from NJ, USA

    No way - I have to bake a cake and leave it overnight? Nahhhh..I must have misread that...nope there it is with the warning right next to it!!!! Ah well I suppose I should listen...Great Lens...cake sounds yummy....I'll have to make this Saturday so I can eat it before going back to work!