This Mexican tres leches cake is made of a delicate sponge cake soaked in a three-milk mixture, which includes evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk. Is then topped with sweet whipped cream and garnished with fresh strawberries!

Tres leches cake is a popular and delicious dessert that originates from Latin America, particularly Mexico. It is known in Spanish as pastel de tres leches and is a favorite for birthdays and special occasions.

This Mexican cake offers a satisfying blend of sweetness, creaminess, and moistness.

The flavor is rich, and the texture is a delightful combination of the tender cake and the creamy, soaked layers, making it a beloved dessert with a unique taste experience.

A portion of tres leches cake, also known as pastel de tres leches, in a plate.

Ingredients

  • Flour —all-purpose flour.
  • Sugar —use granulated sugar.
  • Whole milk
  • Oil —neutral-flavored oil works well, like corn or sunflower oil.
  • Eggs — I used 6 medium eggs.
  • Baking powder
  • Lime —juice and zest.
  • Vanilla extract
  • For the 3 milk mixture: You’ll need whole milk, evaporated milk, and condensed milk. You’ll also need some vanilla extract for flavor.
Ingredients for tres leches cake displayed on a kitchen countertop and labeled with names.

How To Make Mexican Tres Leches Cake

Preheat your oven to 350°F/175°C and grease a 9×13″ (22×33 cm) baking pan with butter.

Step 1. Make the sponge cake

Separate egg yolks and whites in two different mixing bowls. Set aside.

Separating egg yolks and whites in two bowls.

Add the sugar to the bowl with egg yolks and use a hand mixer or a stand mixer to beat them until you achieve a fluffy and yellow pale mixture.

Mixed egg yolks with sugar in a bowl.

Add lime zest and vanilla extract, and mix for a few seconds. Add flour and baking powder and beat on low speed for 1 minute.

Collage of the cake batter preparation.

Pour in milk, oil, and lime juice. Beat at low speed until there are no lumps in the batter. Set aside.

Tres leches cake batter in a mixing bowl.

Clean the beaters, then add salt to the egg whites and beat for 2 minutes at high speed or until stiff peaks form.

Egg whites sift peaks.

Add the egg white mixture to the bowl with the batter and gently fold in with a spatula.

Top Tip: Make sure to mix just until all the ingredients are combined. Overmixing can lead to a dense cake.

Collage with two photos incorporating the cake batter with the beaten whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and using a spatula, spread to even out the surface.

Leveling the cake batter in a baking pan with a spatula.

Step 2. Bake

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Place the cake on a cooling rack and let it cool down completely.

Baked sponge cake in a baking pan placed on a cooling rack.

Step 3. Make the 3 leches mixture & soak the cake

In a large measuring cup or bowl pour whole milk, evaporated milk, and condensed milk. Mix well to combine.

Mixing the three milks in a large cup.

Pierce the surface of the cake with a fork. Then pour the milk mixture all over, making sure to pour it near to the edges too.

Tip: Start with about half the mixture, wait a few minutes, and then pour the rest to ensure the cake soaks evenly.

Adding milk mixture over the sponge cake.

Cover with cling film and chill the cake for at least 6 hours or preferably overnight.

Step 4. Make the topping & decorate

  • Pour the heavy cream into a mixing bowl and beat on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes or until soft peaks form.
  • Spread the whipped cream over the cake.
  • Sprinkle the pastel de tres leches with a little bit of powdered cinnamon.
  • Place fresh strawberries or any fruit you prefer on top of the cake for decoration.
Authentic Mexican tres leches cake in a pan, decorated with whipping cream and fresh strawberries.

Expert Notes And Tips

  • Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature.
  • Sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder) to ensure a smooth and lump-free cake batter.
  • When you’re incorporating the egg whites mixture into the batter, make sure to not overmix or the cake won’t be as fluffy as it’s supposed to be.
  • If you’re in a hurry and need to decorate the cake as soon as possible, place it in the freezer for 15 minutes to cool it down. If you don’t cool the cake, the cream will melt.
  • Dip a sharp knife in hot water and wipe it clean before slicing the cake. This helps in clean and smooth cuts.

How To Store

Tres leches cake lasts up to 2-3 days in the refrigerator. I don’t recommend leaving it at room temperature because it contains dairy products (milk, whipped cream) that can spoil if left at room temperature.

Use plastic wrap or aluminum foil to cover the cake tightly. Ensure that the covering is airtight to prevent the cake from absorbing any odors from the fridge.

FAQ

What is special about this Mexican cake?

What sets tres leches cake apart is its exceptional moisture and texture. The cake is soaked in a mixture of three different milks, allowing it to become incredibly moist, tender, and almost melt-in-your-mouth. Definitely one of the most delicious Mexican desserts!

Can I use other types of milk?

Absolutely. You can use any plant-based milk such as almond, coconut, soy, etc. Make sure to use some plant-based cream, such as coconut cream, or the mixture will be too watery.

What is the origin of this recipe?

The exact origin of tres leches cake is a matter of some debate, and it is not attributed to one specific country or culture. However, is widely associated with Mexican cuisine, and it is a popular dessert in Mexico today. Some sources suggest that it was first made in Mexico in the 19th century. The cake’s popularity then spread to other Latin American countries.

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Recipe Card

Mexican Tres Leches Cake

12 servings
This Mexican Tres Leches Cake is deliciously soft, moist and so easy to make at home. This airy sponge cake is soaked in a creamy milk mixture and topped with fresh whipped cream and strawberries.
prep 30 minutes
cook 40 minutes
total 1 hour 10 minutes

Equipment

  • 9×13″ (22×33 cm) baking pan

Ingredients 

For the cake

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • cup milk
  • ½ cup corn oil (or any other neutral flavored oil)
  • 6 medium eggs (yolks and whites separated)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 lime (zest & juice)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt

For the milk mixture

  • 1 ¼ cup whole milk
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14oz/414ml)
  • 1 can can evaporated milk (12oz/354ml)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For topping & garnish

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3 Tablespoons powdered sugar
  • fresh strawberries (or the fruit you prefer)
  • cinnamon powder

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder in a small bowl.
  • Add the sugar to the bowl with egg yolks and beat with a hand or stand mixer at high speed until fluffy.
  • Add lime zest and vanilla extract, and mix for a couple of seconds.
  • Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined.
  • Pour in milk, oil, and lime juice. Mix at low speed until there are no lumps in the batter.
  • Clean the beaters, then add salt to the egg whites and beat for 2 minutes at high speed or until stiff peaks form.
  • Add egg whites to the bowl with the batter and gently fold in with a spatula until combined.
  • Pour the cake mixture into a greased pan and with the spatula spread to even out the surface.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Place the cake on a cooling rack and let it cool completely.

Make the 3 leches mixture and soak the cake

  • In a large measuring cup or bowl pour the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk. Mix to combine.
  • Pierce the surface of the cake with a fork. Then pour the milk mixture all over, making sure to pour it near the edges too.
  • Cover with cling film and chill preferably overnight or at least 6 hours.

Decorate

  • Place whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract in a bowl and mix until soft peaks form.
  • Spread the whipped cream over the cake.
  • Sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon powder and decorate with halved strawberries.

Notes

  • Use ingredients at room temperature and not cold from the fridge.
  • When you’re incorporating the egg whites mixture into the batter, make sure to not overmix or the cake won’t be as fluffy as it’s supposed to be.
  • If you’re in a hurry and need to decorate the cake as soon as possible, place it in the freezer for 15 minutes to cool it down. If you don’t cool the cake, the cream will melt.
  • For a clean and smooth cut, dip a sharp knife in hot water and wipe it clean before slicing the cake.
Nutrition Information
Serving: 1 serving | Calories: 528kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 0.04g | Cholesterol: 150mg | Sodium: 247mg | Potassium: 346mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 42g | Vitamin A: 915IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 292mg | Iron: 1mg
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Recipe Rating




26 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This recipe is the best! It tells you how to do it in every detail and with tips as well. It was my first time to make a tres leches cake and it turned out amazing! Everyone loved it!

  2. Hi. I am making this for my son’s birthday and I cannot find what degrees to put the oven on to preheat/bake. Can you or anyone please share. Thanks

    1. Hi Cynthia, it was in the post but not in the recipe card, thank you for telling me! I just fixed the recipe card and you can see now to preheat your oven to 350°F/175°C. Enjoy your pastel de tres leches :)

  3. 5 stars
    I made this for a Bible group and they absolutely loved it and so did I. I was hoping it would be as good as a restaurant and it was so much better! The recipe was so detailed and easy to follow. The history and other information in the blog was interesting and helpful. I look forward to trying more of your recipes.

  4. 5 stars
    This came out very good, I had a couple of things I tried to do differently but later realized that this change wasn’t for the best, I will be making another one!!

  5. 5 stars
    This is one of my favorite cake recipes! I’ve made it several times and everyone always raves about it!

  6. 5 stars
    This is so perfectly milky and delicious! My first time making a tres leches cake and won’t be my last, that’s for sure.

  7. 5 stars
    Wow this was delicious! I made it exactly as a recipe stated…fantastic! I already shared this recipe and I will make again 100%.

  8. 5 stars
    I made it two daya ago. The milk mixture was a little bit too sweet for my taste. But the cake was amazing 😻

    Next time I’ll try without condensed milk as you suggest :)