Tres Leches Cake

Yield: one 9 x 13-inch cake (about 16-18 servings)
Recipe: 77/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 176


       After last week’s marble pound cake, I wanted to make another well-known yet simple cake that I had never tried – to eat or to make! This tres leches cake is a name that I often heard but never realized its meaning until I saw a recipe for it in this bible of a cookbook that I cherish so much. This Latin American cake is meant to be a moist and simple cake. Tres leches means “three milks”, referring to the three types of milks traditionally used in such recipes: condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy (i.e. whipping) cream.

Ingredients for cake:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Ingredients for milk mixture:

  • 1 tin (300 mL) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tin (370 mL) evaporated milk
  • ¾ cup whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for topping:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant skim milk powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut, lightly toasted (optional)

     This cake turned out exactly as the recipe describes: moist and succulent! I realized as I was cutting into the cake to serve it that I had most likely slightly undercooked it. It did not stand up by itself completely and wasn’t as firm as I was expecting. This was probably made a bit worse by the milk mixture, which made the whole cake a bit more delicate and spongy. Fortunately, the taste was all there nonetheless! Hence, make sure that you bake the cake enough and that it is completely chilled before you slice into it.


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 9- x 13-inch baking pan, and dust the bottom and sides with flour, tapping out any excess.
  2. In a small saucepot, heat the butter and milk over low heat until the butter has melted. Set the mixture aside to cool slightly.
  3. Using a hand or stand mixer, whip together the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract until the eggs are doubled in volume, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
  5. Fold half of the flour mixture into the whipped eggs, then add all of the butter mixture and finally fold in the remaining flour mixture.
  6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. After the cake has come out of the oven, let it cool at room temperature for at least 10 minutes. Prepare the milk mixture in the meantime.
  7. For the milk mixture, stir the condensed milk, evaporated milk, whipping cream and vanilla extract together. Poke holes in the cake using a bamboo skewer or a toothpick and slowly pour the milk mixture over the entire surface of the cake. The cake will absorb all of the moisture and swell up. Cool the cake to room temperature, then chill for at least 3 hours.
  8. For the topping, whip the cream until it holds a soft peak. Stir in the icing sugar, skim milk powder and vanilla extract, then spread the cream over the surface of the cake.
  9. If desired, garnish the top of the cake with toasted coconut. Keep the cake chilled until ready to serve.

Notes from Anna:

  • A simple way to fold delicate ingredients together is to use a whisk, which will diminish the air introduced in the batter compared to, for instance, using a spatula.