Tres Leches Cake

Many countries claim to have first created Tres Leches Cake, (Nicaragua and Mexico especially like to declare ownership) – but one thing is certain – Tres Leches is well-known and well-loved throughout Latin America. Usually reserved for special occasions, the moist cake uses three types of milk, which explains its name.

Most recipes you’ll find for Tres Leches are pretty similar. The recipe for Pastel de Tres Leches offered on is the one I make most often, with a few tweaks. Here is my slight variation.


Cake Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
5 eggs at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup 1% milk
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 jar maraschino cherries

Whipped Cream Topping Ingredients:

3/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar (use a little less if you prefer it not too sweet)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Combine flour and baking powder in a small bowl. In a separate, large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.

3. Reduce the mixer speed and add the eggs one at a time, allowing each to be incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.

4. Fold in the flour and baking powder until it is well incorporated.

5. Pour the batter into a greased 8×11-inch baking pan and bake 30 minutes, or until done. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.

6. Pierce cake all over with a bamboo skewer or toothpick. You should try to make sure there’s about four holes, evenly spaced, for every square inch. These holes help the liquid absorb later.

7. Mix the 1% milk, sweetened condensed, and evaporated milk together and pour the mixture over the whole cake. (You may feel like there’s too much liquid but add it all. It will absorb later!) Try to distribute the liquid evenly over the cake, making sure you get the edges, too.

7. Refrigerate cake, covered with aluminum foil, for an hour or until liquid is completely absorbed and cake is well chilled. (Some recipes instruct you to wait longer, but mine never takes that long to absorb.)

8. Beat the cream, sugar and vanilla together until the cream holds soft peaks. (Important: Using an electric mixer makes this much faster and easier!) Frost the cake with the whipped cream. Serve, topping each individual piece with a maraschino cherry. Refrigerate cake that isn’t eaten immediately.

(Note: If you’re not serving the cake immediately, you may want to keep the whipped cream in a closed container in the fridge and top the cake when you’re ready to serve it.)


    • LOL, Well, the 3 leches refers to the 3 milks that are actually poured over and absorbed into it. There actually exists a Cuatro Leches cake which includes the addition of dulce de leche poured over the cake with the other three! (As if this one isn’t unhealthy enough!)

  1. Refrigerate what isn’t eaten? You mean there are leftovers? J Sounds delicious . (My email program turns the colon and parenthesis into a real smiley automatically)

    Love, Grandma

    • Surprisingly, there are leftovers – at least I haven’t served it to a big enough crowd yet that there hasn’t been!

  2. He escuchado del Cuatro Leches donde se le agrega “dulce de leche.” También vi una receta de Cinco Leches donde incluye el “dulce de leche” y “leche de coco.” Aunque no los he probado… ¡todos parecen súper ricos!

    • Thanks so much, Mari. I know, I am watching my calories so Tres Leches would be a special treat and a small portion if I had it right now. I’ve also heard that you can use low-fat or fat free evaporated and sweetened condensed milks in the recipe and it still turns out well with less calories, although I haven’t personally tried it. Another way to cut calories would be to use a light or sugar free whipped topping instead of making the whipped cream topping from whipping cream… Bueno, everything in moderation! :)

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