Tres Leches Cake

I had my first encounter with Tres Leches Cake in 2009 when I was working and living in the L.A. area. My coworker, Charley, brought in a Tres Leches cake much different from the recipes I’ve run across – it was smothered in frosting and looked like a normal cake. For Charley’s birthday, I made him his own Tres Leches cake – not the traditional kind. One covered in whipped cream. I’ve been wanting an excuse to make another Tres Leches cake since I started this food blog. Every Cinco de Mayo I somehow miss my opportunity.

Then a few weeks ago, one of the departments who shares my row at work announced they were going to have a neighborhood potluck and they invited me to join. The theme? Mexican. I promptly signed up to bring guacamole and tortilla chips. A few weeks went by when I was cornered by the organizers. Would you mind making a dessert instead? They asked. We are a little light on the desserts. Sigh. I guess. What the heck kind of Mexican cake could I make I thought for a brief second until I remembered … Tres Leches!

I have two recipes for Tres Leches cake sent to me by my grandma. I previously made the other recipe. I went with this one because it was harder and for some reason that made me think it was more authentic?

Luckily, it ended up being (mostly) a success.


  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1 ¼ c. sugar (divided)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. flour
  • ½ tsp. table salt
  • ½ c. butter, melted
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • 12 oz can evaporated milk
  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ c. light rum
  • 4 c. fresh fruit (optional)
  • sweetened whipped cream (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Coat a 9-inch springform pan (one that’s three inches high) with vegetable oil spray. ( I found this might not be a strong enough defense because my cake wanted to stick to both the sides and the bottom.  You may wish to grease and flour instead.)
  3. In a large bowl over simmering water, heat the eggs and one cup of sugar until sugar has dissolved and the mixture is very warm (not boiling). Transfer to your stand mixer and beat at high speed until the mixture has tripled in volume, about 10 minutes.  Add vanilla and continue to beat until cool.
  4. Sift together the flour and salt. Sprinkle 1/3 of the flour mixture into the egg mixture and fold gently. Fold in remaining flour in two more additions, folding gently to ensure all the ingredients are incorporated. (This could take a while.)
  5. In a small bowl, combine melted butter and 1 cup of batter. When completely blended, add mixture back to remaining batter and gently fold to blend.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  7. While the cake is baking, combine the milks with rum in a large measuring cup with a pour spout. Pour half the mixture into a saucepan and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook until reduced to about 1 cup. (This seemed to take forever.) Stir the mixture constantly to ensure the bottom doesn’t scorch. (Mine scorched a bit.)
  8. Stir reduced milk mixture back into milk mixture. Set aside. When cake is done, remove from the oven nad let cool 10 minutes. Place the cake on a baking sheet to catch any drips of milk, then poke holes in it with a skewer. (A chopstick would work, too.)
  9. Rewarm the milk if necessary then pour slowly over the cake allowing it to soak in before adding more. Use all the milk. Drape wax paper over the cake and refrigerate four hours, up to overnight.
  10. (Optional:) Combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with the fruit and macerate (soak) for 30 minutes. When ready to serve the chilled cake, remove sides of the pan then top with fruit (if using) by using a slotted spoon to make sure the juice from the fruit doesn’t soak into the cake or whipped cream (if using).

Recipe rating: 

The actual directions tell you to beat the eggs over a simmering pan of water using a handheld mixture. I didn’t have one, so I modified the directions as listed above. I was a bit worried this cake would deflate since the last time I made a similar cake, the batter deflated which resulted in a dense bread-like consistency when baked. (In other words, disgusting.)  This time I took extra care when folding in the ingredients, and I successfully avoided any deflation that could have occurred.

Everyone loved this cake. There was a small incident where my coworker, Sarah, didn’t realize I made the cake and she commented that it was very different from traditional Tres Leches cake. I didn’t take offense. She’s had plenty; her husband is Latino.

Sarah mentioned traditional Tres Leches cakes are frosted. (I still think frosting is over the top with this cake – but whipped cream is the perfect touch.) Once she figured out I made the cake she felt so bad she even semi criticized my cake and apologized a few times and then took another piece.

All-in-all, I was very pleased with this particular recipe and would definitely make it again. This time with fruit! (I didn’t have any fruit in my fridge, or I would have added that before adding the whipped cream.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s