The BEST authentic homemade Tres Leches Cake. An ultra light cake soaked in a sweet milk mixture and topped with fresh whipped cream and cinnamon. This simple Mexican dessert is one of our favorites! 

Want more dessert recipes? Try my Sticky Toffee Pudding, Chocolate Mug Cake, Key Lime Pie, or Apple Crisp!

A slice of Tres Leches Cake with a sliced strawberry on top, served on a plate.

Every person in my family would rank Tres Leches Cake in our top favorites of all time! I love that it’s not overly sweet, it’s super easy to make, I can make it in advance, and its absolutely delicious! We make it really often, especially when we’re having a bunch of other Mexican food favorites to serve with it.

What is Tres Leches?

Tres leches literally means, “three milks”  and Tres Leches Cake is an ultra light sponge cake soaked in a sweet milk mixture.  It’s popular in Mexico and Latin America and throughout the United States as it’s often available at Mexican restaurants.

The cake is similar to an angel food cake. The whipped egg whites in the batter make it extra light and spongy. After baking the cake you poke holes in it with a fork and pour three types of milk over the top–evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk–hence the name “tres leches”.

How to Make Tres Leches Cake:

  • In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Separate the eggs into two other mixing bowls.
Egg whites in a mixing bowl, egg yolks in a separate mixing bowl, and flour, baking powder and salt in a third mixing bowl.
  • Add ¾ cup sugar to the bowl with the egg yolks and mix on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Add ⅓ cup milk and vanilla and stir to combine. Pour the egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir gently just until combined (don’t over-mix).
  • Use electric beaters to beat the egg whites on high speed. As the begin to whip into stiff peaks, gradually mix in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar. Fold the stiffly beaten egg whites into the batter gently, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl, until combined.
Whipped egg whites added to the batter for tres leches cake.
  • Pour batter into pan and smooth it into an even layer. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow cake to cool completely.
Cake batter smoothed into a 9x13 inch baking pan.
  • Combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk in a small bowl. Once the cake has cooled use a fork to poke holes all over the top of the cake. 
  • Slowly pour the milk mixture over the the top of the cake, making sure to pour near the edges and all around. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour or overnight, to allow it to soak up the milk.
Milk mixture being poured over a cake in a pan, with holes poked in the cake.
  • In the meantime, whip the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks. Smooth over the top of the cake.
Whipped cream being spread over the top of a cake.
  • Serve with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top, and fresh sliced strawberries, if desired. Store Tres Leches Cake in the refrigerator, covered, for 3-5 days.
A pan of sliced tres leches cake with a piece removed.

Make Ahead and Freezing Instructions:

You can make Tres leches cake 1-2 days in advance.  In fact, I love to make this cake the night before so that the cake has a lot of time to soak up the milk mixture.

No oil or butter in the cake?

That’s right, this Tres Leches Cake is NOT made with butter or oil.  The egg whites are the main leavening agent that give it a sponge cake texture, and the three milks poured on top get absorbed by the cake, making it moist without the need of oil or butter.

Serve Tres Leches with:

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Recipe

A slice of Tres Leches Cake with a sliced strawberry on top, served on a plate.
Prep 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook 40 minutes
Total 2 hours 10 minutes
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Ingredients
 
 

Cake:

Milk Mixture:

  • 12 ounce can evaporated milk
  • 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup whole milk

Whipped Topping:

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Separate the eggs into two other mixing bowls.
  • Add ¾ cup sugar to the bowl with the egg yolks and mix on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Add ⅓ cup milk and vanilla and stir to combine. Pour the egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir gently just until combined (don't over-mix).
  • Use electric beaters to beat the egg whites on high speed. As the begin to whip into stiff peaks, gradually mix in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar. Fold the stiffly beaten egg whites into the batter gently, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl, until combined.
  • Pour batter into un-greased pan and smooth it into an even layer. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow cake to cool completely.
  • Combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk in a small bowl. Once the cake has cooled use a fork to poke holes all over the top of the cake. 
  • Slowly pour the milk mixture over the the top of the cake, making sure to pour near the edges and all around. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour or overnight, to allow it to soak up the milk.
  • In the meantime, whip the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks. Smooth over the top of the cake. Sprinkle cinnamon on top. Serve with fresh sliced strawberries, if desired. Enjoy!

Notes

Store Tres Leches Cake in the refrigerator, covered, for 3-5 days.
Make Ahead Instructions: You can make Tres leches cake 1-2 days in advance. In fact, I love to make this cake the night before so that the cake has a lot of time to soak up the milk mixture. 
Freezing Instructions: The baked and cooled cake can be frozen for up to 3 months, covered well. Thaw overnight in the fridge before pouring the three milks on top.
Smaller servings?  Try my Tres Leches Cupcakes.

Nutrition

Calories: 433kcalCarbohydrates: 50gProtein: 9gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 152mgSodium: 171mgPotassium: 344mgSugar: 41gVitamin A: 865IUVitamin C: 1.7mgCalcium: 242mgIron: 1mg

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Have you tried this recipe?!

RATE and COMMENT below! I would love to hear your experience.

I originally shared this recipe May 2015. Updated April 2017 and May 2021.

Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman.

Process photos by Nikole of The Travel Palate

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About The Author

Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This Tres Leches Cake is wonderful! 5 stars for a reason, light and not too sweet, added coconut and used agar agar to stabilize my whipped cream. Homebaker and Tres Leches has been my most requested cake, finally made one and so glad I used this recipe! Will be making more.

  2. 5 stars
    I have been using this recipe since I found a couple years ago. Probably right around the time it was published. I get nothing but complements every time. I had tried several recipes before finding this one and the feedback was always negative. Tres leches isn’t my favorite but my family loves it so I am thrilled I found this recipe. It comes out perfect every time.

  3. 5 stars
    This recipe is FANTASTIC! I’m so glad I found it online. It was a big hit at our party tonight and I’ll be sharing it far and wide…with credit to you of course!

  4. 5 stars
    Best cake ever. Made it for a night of the dead celebration and it was Yummo. Couldn’t believe how easy it was and how delicious it was!

  5. 4 stars
    The milk mixture was insanely sweet I ended up adding far more whole milk than called for just to try and balance it out. Good recipe otherwise, but next time I think I would incorporate the cinnamon throughout just to cut through the sweetness a bit more.

  6. 5 stars
    This!! My son requested Tres Leches cake for his birthday cake this year. I was nervous as I didn’t want to disappoint…everyone loved it. Said I “knocked it out of the park.” Thank you! All of them want this cake now for their birthday

  7. Everyone I make this cake for loves it and I do too. Question -if I ďouble the recipe, can you still use the same size pan and just have thicker cake? What modifications may need to be made other than maybe a longer cook time?

    1. Doubling the tres leches cake recipe and using the same size pan will result in a much thicker cake, which can significantly affect baking time and texture. It’s generally better to use two pans or a larger one to accommodate the increased volume. If you decide to make a thicker cake in the same pan, definitely anticipate a longer cook time. Keep an eye on the cake and test for doneness with a toothpick inserted into the center; it should come out clean. Also, consider the depth of your pan to ensure it can handle the increased volume without spilling over during baking. Happy baking, and I’m thrilled to hear the cake has been a hit!

      1. What if you cook two cakes like normal and since you have the room stack them on top of each other. That way you don’t risk your cake not cooking right.

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