Easy Tres Leches Cake Recipe

Classic cake recipes often have confounding origin stories, probably because everyone is eager to take responsibility for such a delicious treat. Tres leches — Spanish for "three milks" cake — certainly has its fair share of provenance stories. Most people agree that it comes from Latin America (via Matador Network). Since then, however, the cake has spread worldwide, with fans all over.

If you haven't had the chance to savor this sweet treat yet, Tasting Table recipe developer Jessica Morone of Jess Loves Baking has created a recipe you can whip up at home. "This recipe is easy because it uses simple ingredients that can usually be found in your pantry and only takes about 15 minutes of prep time," she notes. If you're tired of serving up the usual chocolate cake when guests come over, try switching things up with this. "I love how the cake is light and airy, and with the three milk syrup [...] it is just incredibly moist," Morone says. 

Gather the ingredients for this easy tres leches cake

You'll need some staple baking ingredients for this recipe, as well as, as the name suggests, several different kinds of milk.

For the batter, you will need all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, eggs (heads up, we're going to separate the yolks from the whites), granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and whole milk. Next, for the milk soak, you will need cans of both evaporated and sweetened condensed milk, plus heavy cream. Finally, the whipped topping that finishes off the cake calls for heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract.

Start by making the cake batter

For a smooth process, measure all of your ingredients ahead of time and have three large mixing bowls and an electric mixer ready to go. Then get started by preheating the oven to 350 F and greasing a 9x13-inch baking pan.

Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to one of the mixing bowls. Whisk the contents to distribute evenly, then set it aside. In another bowl, add the egg yolks and some of the granulated sugar. Using the electric mixer, beat the two together for around 2 minutes until the mixture is pale yellow. Pour in the vanilla extract and whole milk, then beat the contents to combine. Now, carefully pour the egg yolk mixture into the bowl with the flour. Mix the contents together to combine, then set the bowl aside. 

Beat the egg whites

Grab your third bowl and add the egg whites. With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on high speed for around 1 minute, until soft peaks form. At this point, dump in some more sugar and beat the mixture on high speed for another minute or so to form stiff peaks. 

While Morone assures home bakers that this cake is easy to make, she does give a heads up that "the only potentially tricky thing is making sure the egg whites are whipped to stiff peaks." As the description implies, the whites should be firm and stay up when you pull the beaters out. Once you've reached that stage, combine the egg whites into the cake batter, carefully folding them in. Here too, Morone warns readers that it's important to "[add] them into the batter very gently so that they don't deflate too much."

Bake the cake

Pour the cake batter into the pan you initially greased, making sure that the surface is nice and even. At this point the oven should be hot enough, so go ahead and toss in the pan and bake for 25 to 35 minutes. You'll know the cake is ready when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean and batter-free. The golden color is also a great indication. Remove the pan from the oven and set the cake aside to cool completely.

While it's cooling, prepare the milk mixture

In the meantime, grab a medium bowl and empty out the can of evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk. Pour in your heavy cream, then mix the ingredients together. When the cake has fully cooled, poke holes across the entire surface using a fork. 

Pour the milk mixture over the cake and chill

Now, carefully pour the milky mixture on top of the cake, making sure to cover the entire surface. Those holes you just made in the cake will help absorb more of the creamy liquid. Cover the cake pan and transfer it to the refrigerator to chill for a minimum of 4 hours. This will give the cake time to soak up the sweet milk and ensure a deliciously moist texture.

Make the whipped cream topping

When at least 4 hours have passed (we know, you've been patient), it's time for the final step. In a large mixing bowl, beat 2 cups of heavy cream on medium speed until the consistency begins to thicken. Then, pour in the powdered sugar and a bit of vanilla extract. Keep beating the mixture on medium to form soft peaks.

Spread the whipped layer, slice, and serve

Once the whipped cream reaches the desired texture, use a spatula to spread it smoothly over the surface of the cake. If you want to add some color to the creamy white surface, Morone suggests garnishing the cake with a sprinkle of cinnamon or some chopped berries. You should be able to slice the cake into 15 squares, but if you make them slightly more generous, we won't tell! 

"You can also very easily make this cake a day in advance of when you need it and store it in the fridge before serving it," according to Morone. She adds that the whole cake (or leftovers) can be stored for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

Easy Tres Leches Cake Recipe
4.9 from 13 ratings
The most time-intensive step of this is letting it rest, giving the trio of milks time to seep into the cake. But don't worry: Your waiting will be rewarded.
Prep Time
4.25
hours
Cook Time
25
minutes
Servings
15
Slices
Slice of tres leches cake
Total time: 4.67 hours
Ingredients
  • For the cake batter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup whole milk
  • For the milk layer
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • For the whipped cream topping
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional Ingredients
  • cinnamon, to garnish
  • sliced berries, to garnish
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, then set it aside.
  3. Add the egg yolks and ¾ cup granulated sugar to another large bowl.
  4. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolk mixture for about 2 minutes until it is a pale yellow color.
  5. Add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and the whole milk. Beat until combined.
  6. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients; gently mix until combined.
  7. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed for about 1 minute, until soft peaks form.
  8. Add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and beat for another minute until the egg whites become stiff.
  9. Fold the egg white mixture into the batter. Gently mix until just combined.
  10. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, evenly smoothing out the surface.
  11. Bake the cake for 25 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  12. Set the cake aside to cool completely.
  13. Meanwhile, mix the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and ¼ cup heavy cream in a medium bowl.
  14. Use a fork to poke holes all over the top of the cake.
  15. Pour the milk mixture over the entire cake.
  16. Cover the cake and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to allow the liquid to absorb into the cake.
  17. Once the cake has chilled, add 2 cups of heavy cream to a large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until the cream starts to thicken.
  18. Add the powdered sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract. Continue beating on medium speed until soft peaks form.
  19. Spread the whipped cream across the cake, leveling it with a spatula.
  20. Top the cake with cinnamon or berries if desired, then cut it into squares to serve.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 354
Total Fat 18.8 g
Saturated Fat 11.3 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 118.3 mg
Total Carbohydrates 39.9 g
Dietary Fiber 0.2 g
Total Sugars 33.4 g
Sodium 169.4 mg
Protein 7.2 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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