Tres Leches Cake

My friend Ivanka organized a Mexican themed potluck last weekend, and I volunteered to bring a dessert.  When I think of Mexican food, I think of spicy and savoury dishes, but am not very familiar with their desserts.  It came down to tres leches cake and flan, but the cake won simply because I was running short on time and couldn’t make two desserts.

I’m not sure if I blogged about my recent cake cravings or not, but for the past month or so I’ve wanted cake like my life depended on it.  This is not entirely unusual, since I love sweet things.  Since I cannot be trusted to be alone with a full-sized cake, I jumped at the opportunity to make one for the potluck. Always safer to share with other people, right?

I had never made tres leches cake before (and I’m not entirely sure if I’d ever eaten it before) but it’s as Mexican as cakes come so I did some googling and purchased enough dairy to send the lactose-intolerent into major shock.What is tres leches cake, I hear you ask?  My cultured readers Those of you that speak Spanish may have already picked up on the fact that tres leches cake means “three milks”.  This is referring to the mixture that is poured over the cooled cake. I was nervous and skeptical about this – who likes to eat soggy cake?!?! – so I decided to bring you along for the journey. You’re welcome.

The goods:

Flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder, salt, vanilla, milk, heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk.

Don’t panic – I didn’t forget the oil or butter.  There isn’t any in this cake, which makes it a health food.  Which means you should make this cake often.

First, we must measure out our dry ingredients:


  • 1 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1-½ teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt

Next, separate 5 eggs.  Yes, 5 eggs for 1 cake. It’s basically a sponge cake, I think.

Add about 3/4 c of white sugar to the yolks:

Beat them for a few minutes until they turn pale yellow or until your arm gets sore from holding the mixer:

In the spirit of honesty, I am going to tell you what I did wrong so you don’t make the same mistakes as me.

In my eagerness to eat make cake, I just poured the yolks into the flour like so…

…completely forgetting about the 1/3 c of milk and 1 tsp of vanilla I should have blended in with the beaten yolks first.  Oops.

The show must go on.

Remember the 5 egg whites that are patiently waiting on the sidelines?  It’s time to beat them up!

This post has been brought to you by the fine folks at Hamilton Beech.

Just kidding – no one at Hamilton Beech knows who I am.  Taking pictures and beating eggs is hard work! Who would like to volunteer to buy me a tripod???

Please, not all at once!

When the egg whites have been beaten to the soft peak stage, like so –

add another 1/4 c of sugar:

Continue beating the egg whites until they stiffen up.

(use your imagination – it’s probably more vivid than the blurry picture I have)

Gently fold the egg whites into the other ingredients:

I said be gentle!!!

Much better. Thank you for your co-operation.

Spread the batter into a greased 9 x 13″ pan:

And bake it @ 350-degrees for 35-45 minutes until it looks like this:

Lookin good!

Let the cake cool – if you’re impatient time-crunched like me you can stick it in the fridge.

While we’re wating, does anyone know why this is called tres leches cake when clearly there are 4 different type of dairy used, and one of them (whipping cream) is used in two different applications? Why isn’t this called quatros leches cake? I sense another sleepless night ahead.

Whisk together 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, 1 can (or 1 2/3 c) evaporated milk, and 1/4 c whipping cream.

Poke lots of holes in the cake using a fork:

And pour almost all of the milk mixture overtop!

Stick the cake back in the fridge, straighten your hair, grab the cake, and rush out the door to your potluck.

After a few hours, here’s what the cake looked like:

Amazing! Almost all of the liquid has been absorbed into the (sponge) cake.

Never one to quit at half-time, I whipped up some cream…

…but I didn’t add any sugar, because in my haste to rush out the door (more on this later) I forgot to bring some with me.  We all survived.

Spread the (sweetened/unsweetened) whipped cream on top of the cake while explaining to those watching you that they are about to be offered a slice of milk-soaked cake. Ignore the skeptics; that means more for you.


If you want to get all fancy, my sources tell me that a maraschino cherry is a traditional garnish for tres leches cake. However, since I think that maraschino cherries have enough dye in them to kill a lab rat (and because I didn’t have any), I abstained.  However, remember that extra cup or so of the milk mixture that was left over? I poured a bit into each bowl, and then put a slice of cake on top:

Fancy? No. Delicious? YES!

Look – the cake holds its shape and isn’t soggy!

But the million dollar question is, how does it taste???

Sam (aka the tres leches connoisseur) says it’s delicious and authenic tasting! She took the leftovers (i.e. one slice) home to her boyfriend, and proclaimed it even better the next day.

Speaking of the next day, remember how I mentioned that I was in a rush that night?  Angie had graciously given me a large Ziploc bag full of (frozen) evaporated milk that was leftover from a cooking class earlier in the week.  I put it in a shallow bowl on my counter to thaw, and after taking out what I needed for the cake I forgot to put the rest in the fridge.  Apparently there was a hole in the bag, because this is what I came home to at 1am:

Yup, that would be several cups of evaporated milk that overflowed on my counter ( I would show you a picture, but then I would have to come to terms with doing my dishes) and in between the planks of my beautiful wood floors. Awesome.

Thank goodness the cake was delicious.


One response to “Tres Leches Cake

  1. Jaclyn,

    Your tres leches were amazing and authentic. Thanks again for giving me the leftovers!

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