This Tres Leches Cake, a moist Mexican milk cake, is made of a light sponge cake soaked in three types of milk: sweet condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream. Then, it’s topped with whipped cream and fresh strawberries. So moist and delicious!
Tres leches cake (three milk cake) has always been a huge favorite of mine! I love it because it’s very moist, rich, and perfectly sweet.
Tres leches cake is a basically a sponge cake with cinnamon soaked in three types of milk: sweet condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream. It’s very popular in Mexico and Latin America. The sponge cake is very light and airy, which is perfect for absorbing all the richness of the milk mixture. It’s amazing!
Today I’m sharing all the techniques and tips for making the perfect tres leches cake!
Tres Leches Cake Recipe Ingredients
There are three parts to making a tres leches cake, and each ingredient plays a key role:
- All-purpose flour: for structure
- Eggs whites: These are whipped until stiff peaks form and folded into the batter. Whipped egg whites are the main leavening component in sponge cakes. They provide structure and lift.
- Baking powder: provides additional lift
- Egg yolks: adds richness
- Ground cinnamon: for flavor
- Sugar: use granulated sugar
- Vanilla extract: for flavor
- Whole milk: to add a bit of moisture
- Salt: salt in baked goods always brings out flavors
- Evaporated milk: It is very rich as, when processed, some of the moisture is removed. It is thick and pale yellow in color.
- Sweet condensed milk: This is milk from which all water is removed and with sugar added. It is very thick and sweet.
- Heavy cream: adds richness
- Heavy cream & sugar: the cake is topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream
How to Make Tres Leches Cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Make the sponge cake:
- In a bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt.
- Sift flour mixture into another bowl: I generally don’t sift flour unless I am working with delicate batters like this sponge cake’s. Sifting prevent clumps from forming.
- Wet ingredients: beat egg yolks, sugar, vanilla in a bowl and mix with a handheld mixer or stand mixer to incorporate airiness. Should be light and fluffy. Add milk and mix.
- Whip egg whites along with 1/4 cup sugar until stiff peaks form.
- Add to the flour mixture and mix until just combined.
- Fold in whipped egg whites into the batter using a rubber spatula.
- Pour batter into a 9×13 UNGREASED glass pan. Bake in the middle rack for 20-25 minutes. Let cool 30 mins.
- Prepare the milk mixture: whisk the 3 milks until combined.
- Poke the cake all over with a fork, and gradually pour the milk mixture onto the cake until absorbed. Chill for at least 3 hours.
- Make the whipped cream: whip heavy cream and sugar until soft peaks form.
- Spread whipped cream over the chilled cake and top with berries. You can also dust it with ground cinnamon.
Sponge Cakes 1o1
Sponge or “foam” cakes are very light and airy. The volume and height of sponge cakes come from the whipped egg whites. The egg whites are whipped until stiff peaks form, and then folded into the batter. The cake clings onto the sides of the pan as it rises.
Did you notice that sponge cakes don’t have butter or oil? Butter or oil would only make it rich and dense, making it hard for the milk mixture to soak and fully absorb into the cake.
My Sponge Cake Shrunk!
Confession: my first test batch of tres leches cake was a disaster. The cake baked and rose beautifully in the oven, but while cooling, it shrunk significantly! To avoid a shrunk sponge cake:
- Choose the right pan for the cake to cling and rise properly: use glass, aluminum, or ceramic. Don’t use non-stick. I actually found that glass baking pans work best.
- Do NOT grease the pan: greasing the pan is a sin in sponge cake world! It will cause the cake to pull away and shrink when cooling.
- Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter to avoid deflating it. The air incorporated into the whipped egg whites will give the cake its lift, and over-mixing will only remove the incorporated air.
Making tres leches cake at home is so much better than store-bought. I hope you like it as much as I do!
If you’re looking for more yummy desserts:
Thank you for reading and please don’t forget to pin this recipe! Much appreciated.
Tips for Making the Perfect Tres Leches Cake
- Use a glass pan for best results, and do NOT grease the pan. See “My Sponge Cake Shrunk!” section for details.
- Sift the dry ingredients before mixing with the wet ingredients. Sponge cakes are delicate, and sifting prevents clumps from forming.
- Fold in the whipped egg whites gently using a rubber spatula until just combined. Over-mixing will remove the air from the whipped egg whites and the cake will not rise well.
Tres Leches Cake
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 5 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 12 oz evaporated milk - (1 can)
- 14 oz condensed milk - (1 can)
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 pint heavy cream - (2 cups)
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Strawberries, sliced
- Ground cinnamon for dusting - (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grab a 9x13 glass pan and set aside. Do NOT grease the pan.
- Dry ingredients: Whisk all-purpose flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Sift the dry ingredients into another bowl. Set aside.
- Wet ingredients: In another bowl, combine the egg yolks, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and vanilla extract. Using a handheld mixer or stand mixer, beat until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of milk, and mix.
- In another bowl, on medium-high speed, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar and continue beating until you get stiff peaks. Set aside.
- Add to the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix until just combined. Then, fold in the whipped egg whites into the batter until just combined. Do not overmix or the whipped egg whites will deflate.
- Pour batter into the UNGREASED 9x13 glass baking pan until evenly distributed. Bake in the middle rack for about 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Once ready, remove from oven and let it cool for about 30 minutes.
- Prepare the milk mixture: in a medium bowl, whisk the evaporated milk, heavy cream, and condensed milk. Set aside.
- Poke holes all over the cooled cake with a fork. Gradually and slowly, pour the milk mixture over the cake until absorbed. Chill for 3 hours at least.
- Make the whipped cream: after the cake has chilled, in a large bowl, combine heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Using a mixer, beat until soft peaks form.
- Spread whipped cream over the chilled cake. Top with strawberry slices and dust carefully with cinnamon if desired. Enjoy!
- Equipment: electric or stand mixer, 9x13 glass baking pan.
- Baking pan: use a 9x13 glass baking pan for best results, and do not grease the pan. The sponge cake batter uses whipped egg whites for lift, and needs to "cling" onto the pan as it rises. If you grease it, the cake will pull away from the pan and shrink while cooling.
- Whipped egg whites: whip until stiff peaks form, being careful not to overdo it.
- Storage: Store in the fridge for 3 days, covered with plastic wrap. If storing, do not dust with cinnamon until ready to serve.