Tres Leche Cake
Tres leche cake is a velvety, decadent Latin cake made with layers of sponge cake and 3 types of milk. Since you can make it ahead, it is the perfect cake to bring to your next family get together.
Tres leche cake is one of our favorite desserts when we eat at our local Mexican restaurant. So we decided to make a version of it at home to enjoy anytime we want.
Tres leche cake translates into three milks. And that’s just what this cake uses to make it super moist and decadent.
Combined with the whipped topping and fresh fruit, this three leche cake is one of the best desserts to serve your family and friends at your next get together.
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Ingredients You’ll Need
The ingredients are broken down into the different parts of the cake. Here’s what you’ll need.
For the cake:
- Eggs – You’ll need them divided and brought up to room temperature.
- Butter – Before getting started, make sure to soften the butter.
- Granulated sugar
- Vanilla extract– Go for real vanilla extract for the best flavor.
- All-purpose flour– Don’t substitute another form of flour here. You risk changing the texture of the cake’s crumb.
- Leavening – You’ll need both baking powder and baking soda to help the cake rise.
For the Tres Leche:
- Coconut milk – More traditional recipe use milk and/or heavy cream but we use coconut milk to give the Tres Leche a little bit of added flavor.
- Sweetened condensed milk– To make it sweet and delicious.
- Evaporated milk– Adds extra creaminess.
For the Whipped Cream
- Heavy whipping cream – It’s very hard to substitute for a lighter cream, it does not whip as well.
- Powdered sugar – Do not substitute granulated sugar for the powdered sugar, it will create a gritty consistency.
- Vanilla extract – Provides a bit of flavor. You could use another extract to change it up a bit, but vanilla works really well.
- Strawberries – These are for garnish on top.
Follow these steps for the perfect tres leche recipe.
Step 1 – Prep the eggs. First, make sure you preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
As the oven heats, place the egg whites in a large bowl and the egg yolks in a small bowl and set them aside. Next, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. We recommend using a hand mixer for this. It should take about 3 to 4 minutes for stiff peaks to form.
When the eggs are ready, store them in the fridge until they are needed.
Step 2 – Prepare the wet ingredients. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat ½ cup of butter until it is smooth. Next, add the granulated sugar and continue to beat until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. You will need to scrape the sides down as you go.
Next, add the vanilla extract and mix well. Finally, add one egg yolk at a time, making sure to fully mix it in before adding the next one.
Step 3 – Mix the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
Step 4 – Combine it all. When the dry ingredients are ready, remove the egg whites from the fridge and add the egg whites and the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. You’ll need to alternate between the flour mixture and egg whites until everything is added.
Be careful not to overmix!
Step 5 – Bake the cake. Pour the batter into a greased 9×13 baking pan and spread out the mixture so it is smooth.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. The edges of the cake should pull away from the pan slightly when it is read.
Step 6 – Prepare the tres leche. While the cake is baking, prepare the tres leche mix.
Use a large glass bowl, mixing cup, or other container and add the can of coconut milk. Microwave for about 30 seconds to remove any lumps from the milk.
Next, stir in the sweetened condensed milk and the evaporated milk.
Step 7 – Pour on the 3 milk combination. Allow the cake to rest for 5 minutes after removing from the oven. When it is ready, poke holes throughout the cake and slowly pour the tres leche over the cake.
Make sure you go slowly! Pouring slowly will allow the top of the cake to absorb the mixture as well.
Once the tres leche has been added, place the cake back inside the oven. Make sure you turned the oven off! Leave the cake in the oven for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool before transferring to the fridge. You want the cake to chill in the fridge for about 6 hours.
Step 8 – Prepare the whipped cream. Before serving, prepare the whipped cream by beating the heavy cream on high until soft peaks form.
When the cream is ready, add the powdered sugar and almond extract and mix well.
Spread the whipped cream over the cooled tres leche cake and garnish with strawberries, cherries, or your favorite fruit. You can also skip the fruit altogether if you prefer.
What Does Tres Leche Mean?
Tres Leche translates to three kinds of milk. In this 3 milk cake we use evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and coconut milk. In more traditional recipes, you would use heavy cream in place of the coconut milk.
Tres Leche comes originally from Latin America. There is some debate as to whether it came from Nicaragua or Mexico, so you may hear people claim it comes from one or the other.
The cake itself is decadent, sweet, and very moist.
Should Tres Leche Cake Be Wet?
Tres leche cake should be very moist. Some people will even cut off the edges to remove drier portions of the cake.
The cake is typically topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit, and despite being moist, should still hold its shape.
How to Make It Ahead of Time
If you want to make the three milk cake ahead of time, you can. But we recommend a slight modification.
To make ahead, bake the cake and add the three milk mixture as described in a warm oven. Once the cake has cooled, cover it tightly in a plastic wrap or place in an airtight container.
When you are ready to serve, make the whipped cream fresh. This helps prevent the whipped cream from falling in the fridge. If you are in a real pinch for time, you can use cheat with whipped cream from a can… but fresh whipped cream tastes so much better, it is worth the extra minute or two to make it!
How to Store It
Store the cake in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. It is best to enjoy this cake immediately as the whipped cream will gradually lose volume and the cake will continue to absorb more of the moisture. If you eat this over several days, you may want to make more whipped cream to place on top if the whipped cream lost its volume.
We love to add things like maraschino cherries, pistachios, or cinnamon as toppings to our Tres Leche Cake. It is important not to put toppings over the entire cake if you won’t be consuming the whole cake. If only eating a few slices, it is best to just garnish each slice.
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Tres Leche Cake
For the Cake:
- 5 large Eggs, divided and room temperature
- ½ cup Butter, softened
- 1 cup Granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons Vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups All-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon Baking powder
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ¼ teaspoon Baking soda
For the Tres Leche:
- 13.6 ounces Coconut milk
- 14 ounces Sweetened condensed milk
- 12 ounces Evaporated milk
For the Whipped Cream:
- 2 cups Heavy whipping cream
- ½ cup Powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon Vanilla extract
- 1 pint Strawberries, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- Place the egg whites in a large bowl and the egg yolks in a small bowl, set aside.
- Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, about 3-4 minutes.
- Store the egg whites in the fridge until step 10
- Beat ½ cup of butter until smooth
- Add the granulated sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy, scraping the sides down as you go
- Add the vanilla extract and mix well
- Next, add the egg yolks, one at time, mixing well before adding the next one.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
- Remove the egg whites from the fridge and add the egg whites and the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, alternating sets, until everything is added. Be careful not to overmix.
- Pour the batter into a prepared 9×13 baking pan and spread out the mixture so it is smooth.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the edges of the cake should pull away from the pan slightly.
- While the cake is baking, prepare the tres leche mix.
- Using a large glass container (bowl, mixing cup, etc), add the can of coconut milk. Microwave for about 30 seconds to remove any lumps.
- Add the sweetened condensed milk and the evaporated milk, stirring until combined.
- After the cake has rested for 5 minutes, poke holes throughout the cake and pour the tres leche mixture over it slowly. (You want to pour slowly so the top of the cake has a chance to absorb the mixture as well)
- Place the cake back inside the oven (make sure the oven is OFF), and leave it in for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool before transferring to the fridge. You want the cake to chill in the fridge for about 6 hours.
- Before serving, prepare the whipped cream by beating the heavy cream on high until soft peaks form.
- Add the powdered sugar and almond extract and mix well.
- Spread the whipped cream over the tres leche cake and garnish with strawberries, if desired.