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 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 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
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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. 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

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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. Question- I want to bake this cake and take it about 30 minutes away. Will whipped cream frosting hold up for the drive?

  2. This is my favorite go to Tres Leche recipe. My son-in-laws cake request for his birthday. My first attempt making a tres Leche I used box mix and then I found this recipe. No comparison even though it takes a ‘little’ more mixing. Just took first step out of oven and I just know this going to be delicious. Definitely a crowd pleaser also.

  3. I plan on making this for Valentine’s day. Can I make in 2 round cake pans and stack with topping in between. If so, do I use a spring form cake pan? or will it leak? I’m trying to figure out how to get the cakes out of the pan after they have rested and soaked up the 3 milks overnight.

    1. 5 stars
      This is my Go To tres leches recipe and I’ve made it mb 4x? SO GOOD! (I have to try NOT to make it bc I have zero self control for this cake. 😂)

      The tricky part is that this is absolutely best served out of the pan it’s made in. If you tried to layer it, the whipped topping would smush right out & fall down the sides. It’s *really* light to balance with the very wet cake, which is the other reason this wouldn’t work stacked. I recommend buying a heart-shaped pan! And if you want to fancy it up, you could cut strawberries for the top of it into little roses and perhaps rest them on their sides. When you sprinkle cinnamon on top of also looks really pretty, at least in my opinion.

      I also LOVE cinnamon, so I also put a good dusting on top of the cake before topping with the whipped cream (though not necessary at all).

      Your Valentine is a lucky duck! ❤️

    2. Hi Jennifer, I tried to comment a reply but it was posted separately, so I’m making a note to ensure you don’t miss it. Cheers!

  4. I didn’t have the correct size pan. I ended up putting it in a round metal cake pan. It’s in the oven now. I hope it will turn out okay. Is it meant to be left in the pan or can the cake be removed prior to adding the 3 milks?

    1. You can add the milks while it’s in the pan, or you can remove it from the pan and put it in another container. Either way.

  5. Has anyone attempted to make this with gluten free flour? I have made many cakes using original recipes but just substitute the GF flour and have turned out fine some fine desserts. (I make cupcakes from the recipe rather than 9×13 cakes due to the flour having a heavier consistency). I would like some suggestions or comments if this has been attempted. Thanks in advance.

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