Tres Leches Cake
This authentic Tres Leches Cake recipe will blow your mind! A sweet sponge cake is riddled with holes then drenched in sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream and evaporated milk to create a soft, melt-in-your mouth cake all topped with light and airy whipped cream and cinnamon. The emerging easy Tres Leches Cake is ridiculously moist without becoming soggy, decadent yet light and exploding with sweet, cinnamon, cream flavor with a hint of caramel. This dreamy indulgent dessert is the ultimate make ahead dessert because it only gets better the next day, perfect for holidays (looking at you Christmas), and entertaining. I’ve included step-by-step photos of how to make Tres Leches Cake and tips and tricks so you can create this show-stopping dessert at home!
Servings Prep Time
12slices 30minutes
Cook Time
45minutes
Servings Prep Time
12slices 30minutes
Cook Time
45minutes
Tres Leches Cake
Ingredients
Tres Leches Milk Mixture
  • 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
  • 1cup heavy cream
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract
Cake
  • 2cups all-purpose flour
  • 2teaspoons baking powder
  • 1teaspoon salt
  • 1teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 8tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)cubed
  • 1cup whole milksee notes for DIY
  • 4 large eggsat room temperature
  • 2cups granulated sugar
  • 2teaspoons vanilla extract
Stabilized Whipped Cream Topping
  • 2cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream
  • 2tablespoons corn syrupsee notes
  • 2tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract
Topping
  • cinnamonoptional
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper then spray the entire inside of the pan with nonstick baking spray with FLOUR; set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter with milk over low heat, stirring occasionally until butter is completely melted; refrigerate to slightly cool.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip eggs on medium speed for 30 seconds, then slowly whip in sugar until incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and whip for 5-7 minutes until the mixture is very thick and glossy.
  5. Reduce speed to low and slowly add melted butter mixture and vanilla. With the mixer still on low, add flour mixture one third at a time, scraping down bowl as needed, then mix on medium speed just until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds; don’t overmix.
  6. Transfer batter to prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Drop the pan a few times on the counter to remove excess air bubbles.
  7. Bake at 325 degrees F until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer cake to wire rack and let cool 60 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, make the milk mixture: Pour condensed milk into large microwave-safe bowl or large glass measuring cup and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave on low power (10%), for 15 minutes, stirring and replacing plastic every 5 minutes. Remove bowl from microwave and whisk in evaporated milk, heavy cream, and vanilla. Refrigerate to cool.
  9. After 60 minutes (cake will still be slightly warm), use a serving fork (or regular fork if you don’t have one), poke holes all over the top of cake (rows about ½-inch apart, see photos).
  10. Slowly and evenly pour milk mixture over the cake. Let cake sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, then refrigerate UNCOVERED for at least 6 hours, best if overnight.
Topping
  1. After the cake has been refrigerated for at least 6 hours (or anytime after), you can make and add the whipped topping. After frosting, you can serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. To make topping: Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip cream, corn syrup, granulated sugar and vanilla on high speed until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. Frost the cake and dust with cinnamon and/or desired garnishes.
Recipe Notes

Tips and Tricks

  • Use parchment paper:  This cake is likely to stick due to the tres leches sinking to the bottom.  Parchment paper ensures your slices come out cleanly every time and makes for easy cleanup.
  • Use room temperature eggs. As in all my cake recipes, you will need room temperature eggs for this authentic Tres Leches Cake recipe. Room temperature eggs mix much easier – you can literally feel the difference. This makes it hard to overmix your batter which results in a softer, fluffier, more tender cake. Cold eggs result in a dry, denser cake.
  • To quickly bring eggs to room temperature: add warm (not hot) tap water to a bowl then add eggs (still in their shells) for at least 20 minutes. 
  • DIY whole milk: I usually purchase 1 percent, so to make whole milk, add some heavy cream (which we will need anyway in this recipe) to a one cup measuring cup, then fill the rest with your leaner milk to equal 1 cup.
  • Don’t overmix. For the lightest, most tender, best Tres Leches Cake, take care not to overmix the flour mixture, mix just until combined. You never want overmix a flour mixture once combined with eggs as this will overdevelop the gluten and result in a tough cake.
  • Make sure the cake is level:  Spread the batter evenly in the pan with a spatula to ensure it is level prior to baking then drop the pan on the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles.  A level cake will evenly soak up the tres leches instead of it pooling in areas.
  • Don’t under-bake.  While I usually caution against over-baking cakes, this authentic Tres Leches Cake is one cake you don’t want to under bake.  If the cake is underdone, it is more likely to become soggy once statured with tres leches.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out cleanly.
  • Don’t open oven door early. It is important to not even crack the oven door until it’s time to check your cakes for doneness. Opening the doors can cause your cake to cook unevenly and to fall in the center. 
  • Don’t poke holes to the bottom.  Poke the holes into the cake about ¾ of the way down so you aren’t breaking the bottom of the cake.
  • Clean fork. Wipe your fork occasionally for a clean piercing because the warm crumbs will want to stick to it.
  • Let tres leches cool.  After you have combined the tres leches, refrigerate it until completely cold before pouring over the cake.
  • Add tres leches to warm cake.  Pouring cold tres leches over a slightly warm cake produces the best results as the cake sucks up the liquid as it cools.
  • Don’t shortcut the soaking.  While you can soak the easy Tres Leches Cake for as little as six hours, it is really best to soak overnight.  The longer the cake has a chance to soak, the more milk mixture it can absorb, resulting in a richer, more flavorful cake.
  • Don’t over-beat whipped cream.  Beat the whipped topping until soft to medium peaks but don’t over beat because this can cause the cream to separate.
  • Corn syrup substitute. The corn syrup stabilizes the whipped cream so it doesn’t deflate or weep. You may substitute the corn syrup for an equal amount of granulated sugar but be aware your topping is no longer stabilized and will need to be used and served immediately.
  • Top with plenty of cinnamon.  I highly encourage a generous topping of cinnamon  – it is divine!

Storage

Tres Leches Cake should be tightly covered ONCE YOU ADD THE TOPPING – not before – and stored in the refrigerator.  It is good for up to five days.

Make Ahead 

This Tres Leches Cake recipe can be made 1-2 days in advance and will taste even better as the cake has more time to soak up the tres leches.  You can even add the whipped cream topping IF you use the corn syrup because this stabilizes the whipped cream.  If you don’t use the corn syrup, you will want to add the topping right before serving or it won’t be as fluffy.

How to Freeze

 You may freeze the cake portion of the Tres Leches Cake but not the assembled, soaked cake or it will become mushy.  The topping also doesn’t freeze well.

To freeze the cake portion:

  • Bake and poke holes in cake according to directions.
  • Let cake cook completely.
  • Tightly double wrap the cake while in the pan with plastic wrap.
  • Freeze cake for up to 3 months.   
  • Allow the cake to thaw overnight in the refrigerator then unwrap and come to room temperature on the counter.
  • Proceed with drenching the cake in tres leches, refrigerating and topping with whipped cream according to recipe instructions.