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Your friends and family will not believe this tres leches cake didn’t come from a professional bakery! Follow my foolproof steps to make a super light, ultra-moist, and irresistible milk-soaked cake in just 10 minutes of prep time.

overhead view of a tres leches cake topped with fresh strawberries in a white baking dish with one slice missing, that slice beside it on a white plate, a sifter with cinnamon in it beside the plate and a bowl of fresh strawberries
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This is the Best Tres Leches Cake Recipe

If you love tres leches cake but find tres leches recipes overwhelming, you’re in the right place. My easy-to-follow recipe will walk you through, step-by-step, how to make a light, airy sponge cake, a perfectly balanced sweet milk mixture, and a delicious but incredibly easy whipped cream topping for the top of the cake. 

As a baker who loves to test and tweak my recipes to perfection, making sure they are share-worthy, I love sharing dessert recipes that will help you wow your friends, family, and party guests. This tres leches cake is the real deal, and now you can make it yourself at home!

a slice of tres leches cake topped with fresh strawberries being lifted out of the dish away from the rest of the cake by a spatula

What is traditional Tres Leches Cake?

Traditional tres leches cake is a popular dessert in Latin America, especially in Mexico and Central America. It is known for being a moist and light sponge cake, soaked in three milks, hence the name “tres leches” (three milks in Spanish). This cake is typically made with evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk or heavy cream, and then topped with a layer of whipped cream or meringue.

overhead view of the ingredients for tres leches cake including evaporated milk, vanilla extract, heavy whipping cream, all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, milk, sweetended condensed milk, and eggs

Homemade Tres Leches Cake Ingredients

This authentic tres leches cake recipe has three parts: cake, the tres leches layer, and a delicious whipped topping. Get the full recipe with measurements and ingredients in the recipe card below. Here’s what you’ll need:

Cake

  • All-purpose flour 
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Eggs: separated into yolks and whites  
  • Granulated sugar
  • Whole milk
  • Vanilla extract 

Tres Leches Layer

  • Evaporated milk
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Heavy cream  

Whipped Topping

  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Powdered sugar
  • Vanilla extract
overhead view of a tres leches cake topping with cinnamon and fresh strawberries, surrounded by a sifter with cinnamon in it, two forks, two stacked white plates, a bowl of fresh strawberries and a cup of milk

How to make the Best Tres Leches Cake

This easy tres leches cake recipe takes just 10 minutes to prep. Follow these easy steps to make a delicious tres leches cake:

Cake

  1. Prep oven and baking dish. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Separate the yolks from the whites. 
  2. Mix dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  1. Mix wet ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks with ¾ cup of granulated sugar until the mixture is pale and slightly thick, 1-2 minutes. Add in the milk and vanilla extract and mix well.
  1. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg yolk mixture. Mix until just combined.
  1. Whip eggs and sugar. In a separate, clean, dry bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and continue to whip until glossy stiff peaks form, about 6-8 minutes total. 
  1. Add whipped eggs to the batter. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter until well combined. Be careful not to deflate the egg whites.
  1. Bake. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and spread it evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  1. Cool. Allow the cake to cool completely in the baking dish before adding the milk layer. 

Tres Leches Layer

  1. Combine ingredients. In a mixing bowl, combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and heavy cream. Mix well.
  2. Poke holes in the cake. Once the cake has cooled, use a fork to poke holes all over the cake. This will allow the tres leches mixture to soak in.
  1. Pour mixture over cake. If you want the traditional version that is more saturated and rich, pour all 3.5 cups of the milk mixture over the cake. If you want a less saturated version, pour 2.5 cups of the milk mixture over the cake. Pour the tres leches mixture evenly over the cake, making sure to cover the sides, too.
  2. Chill. Cover and refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours or overnight to allow the cake to absorb the tres leches mixture.
overhead view of a cake in a white rectangular baking dish that has a milk mixture poured over top and soaking into it

Whipped Topping

  1. Freeze bowl and beaters. Place a metal or glass mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  2. Mix ingredients. Remove the bowl from the freezer. Add the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract, and beat with an electric mixer for 4-5 minutes on high speed or until stiff peaks form / it’s scoopable with a spoon and holds its shape.
  3. Top the cake. Spread the whipped cream over the cake. Top with fresh fruit and a sprinkle of cinnamon if desired. 
  4. Enjoy! This cake is best eaten the day it’s made. 
a slice of tres leches cake on a white plate topped with sliced strawberries with one bite missing and fork laying on the plate beside the cake

Tres Leches Recipe Variations

While this recipe comes out perfectly, here are some ideas if you want to make variations:

  • Use Dulce de Leche condensed milk: Instead of the regular condensed milk, you could try using the Dulce de Leche version for more of a caramel flavor.
  • Use different types of milk: You could experiment with coconut milk instead of whole milk, though I have not tried this, so I can’t vouch for how it may change the flavor and texture of the cake.
  • Choose your favorite toppings: I love to top my tres leches cake with fresh strawberries, but some people prefer maraschino cherries or other fresh berries.
a white baking dish full of tres leches cake topped with fresh strawberries except one slice in the shape of a square missing from the dish

Best Tres Leches Cake Recipe Tips

For best results, follow these tips:

  • Measure the flour correctly: Be sure to properly measure the flour using the spoon and level method.
  • Use cold eggs: Using cold eggs makes it easier to separate the whites and yolks.
  • Don’t overmix: Once you’ve added the eggs, mix just until combined and then stop. Over-mixing will deflate the eggs.
  • Pour the tres leches layer evenly over the cake: Whether you choose to use the full 3.5 cups of milk mixture or 2.5 cups, do your best to make sure every bit of the cake is covered.
  • Chill overnight if possible: Don’t skip this part! For the best tres leches cake, chill it for at least 2 hours but overnight is best to allow the cake to soak up all of the tres leches mixture and become perfectly moist.
a slice of tres leches cake on a small white plate topped with fresh strawberry slices and another slice of cake on a plate in the background

How to store this recipe for Tres Leches Cake

Store leftover cake in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, or in an airtight container. Tres leches cake tastes great cold right out of the refrigerator! 

You can make this cake in advance. I actually love to make it the day before I plan to serve it, to give it time to soak up all the milky goodness. 

How long does Tres Leches Cake last?

While this cake is best eaten the day it’s made, you can store it in the refrigerator for about 3 days.

Can I freeze this Tres Leches Recipe?

You can freeze this cake prior to pouring the milk mixture over it. To freeze, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, thaw to room temperature and then proceed with making the tres leches layer and whipped topping.

More Cake Recipes

a slice of tres leches cake on a small white plate topped with fresh strawberry slices and another slice of cake on a plate in the background
5 from 4 ratings

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Best Tres Leches Cake

By: Beth
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Chill Time: 2 hours
Servings: 16
Your friends and family will not believe this tres leches cake didn't come from a professional bakery! Follow my foolproof steps to make a super light, ultra-moist, and irresistible milk-soaked cake in just 10 minutes of prep time.

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, 120 grams
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 5 large eggs, separate into yolks and whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Tres Leches Layer

  • 1 can evaporated milk, 12 oz
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 14 oz
  • ¼ cup heavy cream

Whipping Topping

  • 1 pint cold heavy whipping cream, 2 cups
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions 

Cake

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Separate the yolks from the whites.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks with ¾ cup of granulated sugar until the mixture is pale and slightly thick, 1-2 minutes. Add in the milk and vanilla extract, mix well.
  • Gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg yolk mixture. Mix until just combined.
  • In a separate clean, dry bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and continue to whip until glossy stiff peaks form, about 6-8 minutes total
  • Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter until well combined. Be careful not to deflate the egg whites.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and spread it evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Allow the cake to cool completely in the baking dish before adding the milk layer.

Tres Leches Layer

  • In a mixing bowl, combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and heavy cream. Mix well.
  • Once the cake has cooled, use a fork to poke holes all over the cake. This will allow the tres leches mixture to soak in.
  • If you want the traditional version that is more saturated and rich, pour all 3.5 cups of the milk mixture over the cake. If you want a less saturated version, pour 2.5 cups of the milk mixture over the cake. Pour the tres leches mixture evenly over the cake, making sure to cover the sides too.
  • Cover and refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours or overnight to allow the cake to absorb the tres leches mixture.

Whipped Topping

  • Place a metal or glass mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the bowl from the freezer. Add the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract, beat with an electric mixer for 4-5 minutes on high speed, or until stiff peaks form / it’s scoop-able with a spoon and holds its shape.
  • Spread the whipped cream over the cake. Top with fresh fruit and a sprinkle of cinnamon if desired.
  • This cake is best eaten the day it’s made.

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 229kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 89mg | Sodium: 147mg | Potassium: 68mg | Fiber: 0.2g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 572IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 82mg | Iron: 1mg
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About Beth

I believe that everyone should have a go-to dessert to bring to parties! With hundreds of recipes, I'll help you find yours!

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5 from 4 votes (1 rating without comment)

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5 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I’ve tried many tres leches cake recipe, and this is by far my favorite! Moist, soft, and super easy to follow the recipe!

  2. 5 stars
    This was the best cake. I am obsessed with Cafe Latte’s tres leche cake on Grand Ave in Saint Paul, and this cake comes pretty darn close! Everyone who ate it loved it! Easy steps to follow! 

  3. While this recipe looks great, I used to have a recipe that didn’t require separating the eggs, much easier and the results were very good. Can you tell me why this would be a necessary step? Thank you

    1. Separating the eggs is important because you need to whip the egg whites into stiff peaks, which help create structure for the cake. Since this cake doesn’t use the usual method of beating butter with sugar, the whipped egg whites contributes hugely to the light and airy consistency of the cake.