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! 

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 prepared 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 hr 30 mins
Cook 40 mins
Total 2 hrs 10 mins
Add to Meal Plan

Ingredients
 
 

Cake:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large eggs , separated
  • 1 cup granulated sugar , divided
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Milk Mixture:

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

Whipped Topping:

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 3 Tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ground cinnamon , for topping

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13'' pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  • 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 prepared 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

Did You Make This Recipe?

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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
    Question!!
    I just made this for the first time today. It is in the refrigerator and absorbing the milk mixture, I’m bringing it to a family gathering tomorrow. I wondered if I could tip the cake out of my 9×13 pan before topping with whip cream and berries and serve it that way? Just so it is prettier! I’m not sure if it’s doable because of the milk soaking process?? I dont want it to fall apart. Thank you!

  2. 5 stars
    Made this for Thanksgiving. Everyone loved it Including myself. Very easy to make. Flavor was amazing and numerous guest asked for the recipe.

  3. 5 stars
    Yesterday was Thanksgiving and I made this recipe for the first time and ….OMG!! I amazed myself at how delicious and exquisite it was. I was so proud. Everyone loved it. I will definitely make it again.!!

  4. 5 stars
    This recipe is amazing and easy to do. It’s been a bit hit for work functions. I’ve gotten as lot of positive feedback about this recipe. Thank you for sharing this

  5. I made this cake for a party and everyone loved it! They all asked for seconds! Even the girls that usually doesn’t eat tres leches enjoyed it! Thanks for sharing the recipe! I’m making it again this weekend and will be using a little more leches for the soaking as I like mine a little more moist (might try a little heavy cream as mentioned in one of the comments) and also a little more whipped cream as well.

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