You’re going to fall in love this tres leches cake – I did! It’s tender, moist and sweet, the perfect treat for your Cinco de Mayo fiesta!!
This cake can be described as a creamy custard that’s soaked with a milk mixture. It also has a hint of cinnamon in it for an extra flavor boost. Try pairing with Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream or Easy No Churn Ice Cream.
Best Tres Leches Cake
Why is it called tres leches cake? Tres leches cake is Latin inspired and got its title from using 3 different types of milk; in our case we used sweetened condensed milk, half and half, and evaporated milk. It adds an extra level of moisture to the cake and is delicious when the cake soaks up all of that sweet and creamy glaze.
It’s been forever since I’ve made & eaten tres leches. I’m talking upwards of 10 years!! Back in high school I was enrolled in a culinary arts “program” and for the month of May we had a Cinco de Mayo fiesta where we made all sorts of traditional Mexican dishes. The tres leches cake was my least favorite. I found it soggy, eggy, bland and overly sweet.
How do you feel about it? Everyone I know has always raved about it, so I set out to make one that would please my toughest critic- myself!
How to Make Tres Leches
WARNING: This is NOT a traditional tres leches recipe (or a dense rubbery sponge cake). So no snarky comments on how this recipe is isn’t right, ok?. I’m kidding, but only kind of.
I know this is far from the traditional version, but that’s kind of the whole point, isn’t it? I’m sure you could google ‘tres leches’ and come up with a million of the same recipe, but I wanted to make something different, a cake that had my stamp of approval on it & one my family would really enjoy!
Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg; set aside.
Cream your butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes (it’ll give the cake a much more desirable texture)
Turn mixing speed to low and add the sugar and vanilla (scrape down the sides)
Add the eggs, mixing after each addition
Spread it into a prepared baking pan (the batter will seem thick and like there’s not nearly enough, but it’ll rise as it bakes)
Bake 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees until golden brown (NOTE: It will rise significantly during the baking process)
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes
MIX IT UP
In a large glass measuring cup or a medium bowl, whisk together:
Sweetened condensed milk
Half and half
Vanilla extract (I added a splash of vanilla just to give a touch more flavor)
PUT IT TOGETHER
Poke the top of the cake with a skewer or fork
- Poke lots and lots of holes all over the cake. The more, the merrier. The deeper, the better. If you don’t have a skewer you could definitely use a fork, but again, the goal is to get all of that liquid down into the cake. I go about ¾ of the way down when I make my holes.
Slowly pour the glaze over the cake, allowing the liquid to be absorbed before pouring more.
Wrap it up and placing it in the refrigerator to chill for 4+ hours!!
- I know, but it’s well worth the wait, I promise. The cake desperately needs time to absorb all of the liquid. I’d suggest making this the night before you want to serve it, that way the flavors melt together and the cake is nice and moist. Please note that 4 hours is the very minimum amount of time you should refrigerate it for.
Remove it from the refrigerator
Whip up the topping
- Beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form
Spread it over top
Dust the cake with cinnamon
We garnished ours with toasted coconut and sliced strawberries. It took the cake from delicious to amazing! I’d highly suggest giving it a try both ways and seeing what you like best… but who doesn’t love coconut and strawberries?!
This cake is definitely one we’ll be making every year on Cinco de Mayo. It’s sweet, moist and has the perfect little hint of cinnamon that I love. Enjoy & happy baking!
Recipe FAQ + Storing
Do you have to use all three types of milk? Using all types of milk makes the cake an actual “tres leche” cake. If you don’t want to use all of the different types of milk you can substitute it with normal milk, anything but skim milk!
Can you make this dairy free? You can, but it may change the texture for the worst. You may want to try using full fat coconut milk to replace the creaminess of the normal milk mixtures. You can also make homemade coconut whipped cream to top the cake with.
How long can this sit out? It shouldn’t be left out for longer than 2 hours because then the dairy will sit in the danger zone and risk going bad.
Does this cake need to be refrigerated? With all of the milks incorporated into this cake you need to keep it refrigerated. It is also just best when it’s served cold. Keep it cold and that way you don’t risk anything!
How to Store?
STORE tightly covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.
MAKE AHEAD You can make this 1-2 days ahead of time, which may actually be beneficial to fully develop the flavors and get the right and moist texture.
How long does it last? Store in the fridge for up to 3 days with a lid.
Tres Leches Cake Recipe
For the Cake
- 1 3/4 cup cake flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter - at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract - Mexican, if possible
- 5 large eggs
For the Glaze
- 1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
- 1 (14 oz can) sweetened condensed milk
- 1 1/2 cup half and half
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the Whipped Topping
- 2 cup heavy whipping cream - cold
- 3 tbsp powdered sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon - for dusting the top
- Toasted unsweetened coconut
- Fresh strawberries
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray (or butter & flour) a 9x13-inch pan; set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg; set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer) beat the butter on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Turn mixing speed to low and add the sugar and vanilla. Scrape down the sides, then add the eggs, mixing after each addition.
- With mixing speed on low, gradually add the dry ingredients, mix just until combined. The batter will be thick. Spread the batter into the prepared pan, place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cake is lightly golden brown and springs back when touched. NOTE: It will rise significantly during the baking process. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large glass measuring cup or a medium bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, half and half, and vanilla extract. Poke the top of the cake with a skewer or fork. Slowly pour the glaze over the cake, allowing the liquid to be absorbed before pouring more. When cover with foil and place in the refrigerator and allow the cake to sit for at least 4 hours before serving, preferably overnight.
- Remove the cake from the refrigerator. In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form. Spread over the cake, then dust with cinnamon. Garnish with toasted coconut and fresh strawberries, if desired. Serve immediately or return to the refrigerator until ready to serve.
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