Tres Leches Cake is a classic Mexican dessert soaked in a mixture of three milks and topped with whipped cream and strawberries. Moist, creamy and delicious, tres leches is perfect for any celebration!
I feel like I should be throwing a party because I’m so excited to be sharing this recipe for tres leches cake!
Growing up in a Mexican household, tres leches has always been the ultimate celebration cake. Do you have a quinceñera coming up? Wedding? Birthday party? Baptism? Graduation? Guess it’s time to make a tres leches cake!
It’s the go-to cake for anything and everything, including a Cinco de Mayo celebration.
What is tres leches cake?
Tres leches cake is a popular Mexican dessert made from a light sponge cake that is soaked in a mixture of three milks and topped with whipped cream. Tres leches literally means “three milks” in Spanish, hence the name of the cake.
Tres leches is decadent and creamy thanks to the three milk mixture, yet still very light and airy due to the texture of the sponge cake that’s almost like an angel food cake.
It’s typically topped with fresh strawberries and a pinch of cinnamon, but is also sometimes garnished with chopped nuts or just left plain with whipped cream.
What are the three milks in tres leches?
- whole milk
- evaporated milk
- sweetened condensed milk
I’ve seen some recipes use heavy cream instead of whole milk, but I don’t really find that necessary, especially since heavy cream is used to make the whipped cream topping.
How to make tres leches cake
To make the cake, start by combining all-purpose flour, baking powder, cinnamon and a touch of salt in one bowl. In a different bowl, separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. Then beat together the egg yolk with sugar, vanilla extract and milk and combine it with the dry ingredients.
To make the sponge cake light and airy, the one important step is beating the egg whites in a separate bowl until shiny peaks form, then gently fold them into the cake batter. The air bubbles and volume of the meringue help keep the sponge fluffy and not dense, even after soaking in the three milk mixture.
Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes, and then set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
Once the cake has cooled, poke holes all over the top of the cake with a fork. This will help give more areas for the three milk mixture to soak into the cake.
Next, pour the three types of milk all over the top of the cake. I like to mix together the milks first to ensure that they get soaked in evenly.
Let the cake rest. Cover and refrigerate it for a minimum for 2 hours, up to overnight. This helps the cake completely cool and gives it enough time to absorb as much of the milk mixture as possible.
Once the cake has soaked in the milks, prepare the topping. To make the whipped cream, all you need is a pint of heavy cream, a few tablespoons of sugar and some vanilla extract.
Store and Make Ahead
Tres leches cake can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
If you want to make it ahead of time for a party or celebration, I recommend leaving the whipped topping off until right before serving so it’s as light and fluffy as possible.