This Tres Leches cake recipe is the perfect light and airy dessert and a Latin American favorite. Tres Leches means “three milks” and it is a sponge cake that contains three different types of milks. It’s basically the original poke cake.
How do I make the cake?
At first glance, the cake seems more advanced than most, but it’s not too difficult. A classic tres leches is made with a sponge cake. It’s much lighter and not as dense as a traditional cake. The trick is in the egg whites. Be sure to beat them well into stiff peaks and then fold them in, ever so gently, into the cake batter. The goal is to not deflate them while folding so that the cake bakes up nice and tall with lots of lift!
Can I make this in advance?
Yes! You can make the cake a day ahead before poking it with holes and store it tightly wrapped at room temperature. The cake also benefits from sitting in the refrigerator to absorb all of the milk and can be done ahead of time. It needs at least 1 hour, but can sit in the fridge overnight before frosting and serving. The longer it sits the more it can absorb, making the cake better and better.
What are the 3 milks?
We use sweetened condensed, evaporated, and whole milk. Some recipes use heavy cream in place of whole milk, but we feel the mixture is already so decadent and that milk helps balance it. Plus, we use heavy cream for the topping so it still makes it way in there.
How do I serve it?
Tres leches is best served cold. After pouring in the milk mixture refrigerate the cake for at least an hour. This lets all of the milk absorb into the cake and becomes the most refreshing dessert. Instead of a traditional buttercream frosting, this cake gets topped with a sweetened whipped cream, cinnamon-sugar, and strawberries. It’s much lighter and plus the soaked cake wouldn’t frost well with a thick frosting!
What’s the best way to store Tres Leches cake?
This cake is best stored in the refrigerator with a lid or plastic wrap and will be good up to 3 days.
Delicious Tres Leches Cake
FOR THE CAKE
- Cooking spray
- 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 1 1/4 c. granulated sugar, divided
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 c. milk
- 4 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
FOR THE FILLING
- 1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk
- 1/2 c. milk
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM
- 2 c. heavy cream
- 1/2 c. granulated sugar
- 1/4 c. cinnamon-sugar
- sliced strawberries, for serving
Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 9″-x-13″ baking pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
In another large bowl using a hand mixer, beat together egg yolks and 1 cup of sugar until stiff ribbons trail behind beaters, then beat in vanilla and set aside.
In a third large bowl using a hand mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form then gradually add in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
Add yolk mixture to dry ingredients and beat together. Add in milk and melted butter and beat until combined. Gently fold in egg whites until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into middle of cake comes out clean, 30 minutes. Let cool
Meanwhile make filling: In a medium bowl whisk together sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, milk, and vanilla. Using a fork, poke holes all over cake, then pour milk mixture evenly over cake. Cover and place in refrigerator until all of the mixture is absorbed, at least 1 hour.
When ready to serve make whipped cream: In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat together heavy cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Frost cake with whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Serve with strawberries or other fresh fruit.
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