Tres Leches Cake

To my knowledge, there is not one iota of Mexican ancestry mingling in my veins. However, I do still enjoy celebrating Cinco de Mayo and all the wonderfulness of Mexican food culture. Last year on May 5th, we served mouth-watering carnitas, and our friends brought pomegranate margaritas and a Mexican chocolate cake that was deliciously flavored with a hint of cinnamon and chili pepper.

When I was thinking about what to make for dessert this year, I know it doesn’t quite seem possible, but I found myself craving something other than chocolate. Must have something to do with all the brownies and turtle cake we’ve been eating lately!

Ever since I had my first bite of a Tres Leches Cake a couple years ago at 112 Eatery, it has been on my list of things to try in my own kitchen. It was fabulous! (If you haven’t been to the 112 Eatery and are planning to visit, don’t miss the pan-fried gnocchi with parmesan reggiano – oh, my!)

Tres Leches Cake is popular in many parts of Latin America and translates to Three Milks Cake. It’s simply a sponge cake soaked in three milks – evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and half-and-half or heavy cream. The cake is very light, with lots of air bubbles to soak up all the milks, and does not turn soggy. It truly acts like a sponge. The milks account for its beautiful sweet flavor, and the slightly sweetened whipped cream layer is a delicate topper. I sprinkled mine with a bit of cinnamon to add some color and texture, and to bring out some additional cinnamony flavor.

I did not expect my husband to like this cake much at all, but he surprised me with the opposite reaction. He liked it! And so did our oldest daughter, and the entire crew at work the next day, who got to eat what we couldn’t put away ourselves at home. One co-worker said it was the best cake he’s ever eaten, while another said this cake’s name does not do it justice.

This cake was definitely a hit!

Tres Leches Cake


* note: The cake is best when baked a day prior to serving, to let the cake soak up the glaze overnight in the fridge.

for the cake:

  • 1-3/4 c. cake flour, plus extra for preparing the pan
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 c. plus 1-1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla

for the glaze:

  • 1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
  • 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 c. half -and-half

for the topping:

  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 1/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • cinnamon, for sprinkling on top
  • maraschino cherries, drained well


for the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly grease and flour a 13″x9″ pan and set aside.

Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low, and with the mixer still running, very slowly add the sugar. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix to thoroughly combine. Add the vanilla and mix again. Add the flour mixture to the batter in three batches and mix until just combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. It will seem like a small amount of batter for a cake. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cake is lightly golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Poke the top of the cake all over (alot!!) with a fork. Allow the cake to cool completely and then prepare the glaze.

for the glaze:
Whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and the half-and-half in a medium bowl. If you have a bowl with a pour spout, that works great! Once combined, pour the glaze over the cake. It will seem like alot of glaze…because, well…it is! Take your time and let it keep soaking in as you pour. The cake will not completely soak up the glaze until it has sat overnight. So, pop it into the fridge and finish it the following day.

for the topping:
Place the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment on low speed, whisk together until stiff peaks are formed. Increase mixer to medium speed and whisk until thick. Spread the topping onto the cake, sprinkle with cinnamon, top with cherries, and allow it to chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

adapted quite a bit from Alton Brown’s recipe on Food Network

I’m linking up with the following:

Cheryl at TidyMom for I’m Lovin’ It
Allison at Alli ‘n Son for Sweet Tooth Friday
Rachel at A Southern Fairytale for Mouthwatering Monday (more Cinco de Mayo recipes!)


41 Responses to “Tres Leches Cake”

  1. #
    Lauren — April 29, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Ohmagoodness, I Love Love Love Alton Brown and have wanted to make this cake for years, but you’ve surpassed my wildest dreams! It’s beautiful!! I can’t wait to try your adapted recipe!

    • farmgirl replied on April 29th, 2011 at 7:29 pm

      Thanks, Lauren. I will definitely be making this again!

  2. #
    WhoWhatLogos — April 29, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Saw you on Tidy Mom. This looks like perfection!

  3. #
    Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking — April 29, 2011 at 9:55 am

    What a lovely cake! Such a cute apron, too, matching the little cherry on top! Thanks for sharing.

    • farmgirl replied on April 29th, 2011 at 7:31 pm

      Thank you, Georgia! My daughters and I all have cherry printed aprons. The photo is of my oldest daughter.

  4. #
    michelle — April 29, 2011 at 9:57 am

    coolio! nice clean squares too–i always thought tres leches was a “messy” cake….great job!

    • farmgirl replied on April 29th, 2011 at 7:32 pm

      Thanks, Michelle! It really is a sponge cake. There is alot of liquid, but it stays pretty well soaked into the cake. I would not call it “messy”.

  5. #
    Kathy - Panini Happy — April 29, 2011 at 10:14 am

    I’ve been wanting to make one of these for the longest time. Yours looks just perfect (such clean squares)!

    • farmgirl replied on April 29th, 2011 at 7:33 pm

      Thank you, Kathy! Do give this a try!

  6. #
    Becca — April 29, 2011 at 11:27 am

    I love, love, LOVE tres leches! I used to have it all the time when I was a little girl living in Puerto Rico. I can still remember the taste even though that was 11-12 years ago. When I moved to the states, this is what I missed most and I kept begging my mom to find something similar to the tres leches that I would have in Puerto Rico. Sadly, I havent had any as good here as I’ve had over there. Your recipe does look so good though, and I like the little cherry on top; it adds a cute touch to the cake.

    • farmgirl replied on April 29th, 2011 at 7:35 pm

      I would just love to try the cake of your memories – wonderful to hear about your growing up with it. Thanks, Becca!

  7. #
    RSA Now — April 29, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Oooh that looks good! Gosh I could just eat Tres Leches cake forever :)

  8. #
    Paula — April 29, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    The cake looks amazing and it is sliced just so perfectly! Love your apron by the way!

    • farmgirl replied on April 29th, 2011 at 7:36 pm

      Thank you, dear Paula! And that’s Hatti (your admirer) in the apron!

  9. #
    Harriet — April 29, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    When I first saw the name of the cake I thought it was french haha! It looks amazing though. I wouldn’t be able to eat it on the diet I’m on but still, its good to look at!

  10. #
    Nicole Feliciano — April 29, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Yum! Love the cherry apron too. I found you from the Tidy Mom Linky. I adore all the contributions from crafty/clever ladies. If you’ve got a moment, please link up this gorgeous recipe over at Momtrends on our Friday Food Linky:

  11. #
    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen — April 30, 2011 at 2:44 am

    I’m usually a chocolate girl myself, but I do have a weakness for a good tres leches cake.

  12. #
    Shumaila — April 30, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Have never tried a tres leches cake before but your sound and looks so good! I have bookmarked the recipe and will be trying it soon. Thanks for sharing:) !

  13. #
    Rachel - A Southern Fairytale — May 2, 2011 at 8:40 am

    Your pictures are gorgeous!

    This cake will be made a lot around here ;-)

  14. #
    Micha @ Cookin' Mimi — May 2, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Chocolate cake is my usual must have but this looks amazing. I’ll have to give it a try soon

  15. #
    Laurie Jesch-Kulseth @ Relish It — May 2, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    Thanks for the heads-up about this recipe a few days ago. Looks great — I think I’ll give it a try (I have to stop sneaking Easter candy before I bake anything, though)!

  16. #
    Alice — May 3, 2011 at 12:01 am

    I’ve never heard of this but it sounds amazing! Def a recipe to bookmark and make on a rainy day. Thank you for sharing this.

  17. #
    cheryl@Notesfromthecrystalstairs — May 3, 2011 at 6:27 am

    Wow this was a nice way to celebrate cinco de mayo.

  18. #
    Weekend Cowgirl — May 3, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Tres Leches cake is my favorite, but I have never made it. Thanks for the recipe!

  19. #
    Wenderly — May 5, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    I wanna come to your house on Cinco de Mayo…pomegranate martinis, tres leches cake? That sounds positively heavenly! Hope you have a fabulous evening!

  20. #
    Amy — July 6, 2011 at 5:48 am

    Is this the 112 Eatery Tres Leches cake? I love that cake and I am not a cake person!

    • farmgirl replied on July 6th, 2011 at 1:24 pm

      No, it’s not the 112 Eatery’s recipe. That’s just where I ate it for the first time. This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown.

  21. #
    Eman — July 21, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Your post about this recipe was so amusing! I loved it! I have a quick question. I have some heavy whipping cream left over and no half-and-half. I was wondering if I could substitute the heavy whipping cream for half-and-half, and if so, is it the same amount for the soaking? I know you mentioned before the recipe that Tres leches can be either half-and-half or heavy whipping cream. Thanks. =)

    • Brenda replied on July 22nd, 2012 at 9:32 pm

      If I only had whipping cream, I think I would dilute it with milk to equal the same 1 cup quantity. Please let me know how it goes!

  22. #
    Krizia — January 24, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Can you flip the cake out of the pan, to decorate it, or do you have to keep it in the pan?

    • Brenda replied on January 28th, 2014 at 7:32 am

      If you read the directions, the cake is flipped out of the pan before decorating.

  23. #
    Tanya — May 13, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    You can substitute heavy whipping cream. That is how I make mine. I got my recipe from my mother-in-law in Mexico. Also, if you want to finish the cake up the same day you make it, but are worried about it soaking the milks, you can just pour them over it while it is warm. It soaks the milk better. In fact that is how they do it in Veracruz, Mexico.


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