Easy Tres Leches Cake (Homemade + Scrumptious)

Easy Tres Leches Cake is a from-scratch yellow cake soaked with three types of milk and topped with homemade whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon for a cool, creamy, decadent dessert that’s the perfect finale to your favorite Mexican food!

Tres Leches Cake recipe on plate and in baking dish.


 

As if I ever needed an excuse to indulge in chips and salsa, vats of queso, and pitchers of margaritas, Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner, and it just so happens to be a day that many Texans indulge in all of the above. But why stop there? A delectable, homemade Tres Leches Cake is the perfect way to cap off any Tex-Mex feast!

Tres Leche Cake recipe in dish with missing slice.

What is Tres Leches Cake?

Have you ever tried (or made) Tres Leches Cake? It may sound a little strange to the uninitiated, but if you ever took la clase de español, you already know that "tres leches" literally translates to "three milks." And that's pretty much the summary of this recipe.

My version of an Easy Tres Leches Cake starts with a simple, from-scratch, yellow cake.

Once baked, it gets pierced with a bunch of holes (think THE ORIGINAL POKE CAKE!) and drizzled with a blend of three different milks.

Then the cake chills in the refrigerator overnight to soak up every bit of the goodness.

It really is simple. And it really is scrumptious!

Aerial view of Tres Leche Cake on plate and in dish with missing piece.

Ingredients

Assuming you're already stocked up on a variety of milks (ha), the ingredients needed to make this Tres Leches Cake recipe are pretty straightforward.

Labeled Tres Leches Cake ingredients.
  • All purpose flour + cornstarch. The addition of cornstarch to flour creates a homemade version of cake flour, which yields a light, tender texture. However, if you happen to have cake flour on hand, you can sub 1 ½ cups of that for the flour + cornstarch instead.
  • Baking powder + baking soda. To achieve the perfect rise.
  • Butter. Make sure it's at room temperature. I prefer using salted butter in this recipe, but if you use unsalted, you can add a pinch of salt to compensate.
  • Sugar + eggs + vanilla. Because what's a cake without 'em? 😉
  • Three (AKA tres) kinds of milk! Specifically, half-and-half (you may substitute whole milk, if you wish), sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk.
  • Heavy cream + more vanilla + powdered sugar. For the homemade whipped cream to crown your cake!
  • Cinnamon. For an optional sprinkle on top.
Slice of Tres Leches Cake recipe on plate with fork.

How to Make Tres Leches Cake

(The below photos are intended to be helpful, but please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for FULL DIRECTIONS.)

Making this Easy Tres Leches Cake from scratch is easy and straightforward. You just need to plan ahead a bit and make it 12 to 24 hours before you'd like to serve it in order for that glorious milk trio to fully soak in and give the cake its ideal custard-like, creamy-dreamy texture.

  1. Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.
Flour and other dry ingredients in bowl.
  1. In another bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer until creamy.
  2. Blend in the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
Butter beaten in bowl.
Sugar incorporated into butter for tres leche cake recipe.
  1. Blend in the eggs, one at a time.
Adding eggs, one at a time.
Eggs beaten into butter and sugar for best tres leches cake recipe.
  1. Stir in the vanilla.
Adding vanilla to best tres leches cake recipe.
  1. Slowly blend in the flour mixture until fully combined, but be careful not to over-beat or your cake will turn out more tough than tender.
Adding dry ingredients to wet ingredients.
Homemade bowl of batter for how to make tres leches cake.
  1. Spread the batter into a prepared 9- by 13-inch baking pan or dish.
  2. Bake in a preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and tests done with a toothpick.
Recipe for tres leches cake ready for the oven.
Tres leches cake recipe easy, fresh out of the oven.
  1. In the meantime, combine the half-and-half, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is warm.
Bringing the three milks to a simmer in a pot.
  1. Once the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Use a wooden skewer to pierce holes all over the surface, and then slowly pour the warm milk mixture all over the top of the cake.
  2. Cover the cake tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, up to 24 hours.
How to make tres leches cake by soaking it in three types of milk.
  1. Just before you're ready to serve your Tres Leches Cake, pour heavy whipping cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar into a bowl. Use an electric mixer set on low to combine the ingredients, then beat on medium-high to high speed until stiff peaks start to form. 
Ingredients for whipped cream to top tres leche cake.
Whipped cream to top Easy Tres Leches Cake.
  1. Spread the whipped cream on top of the cake, then refrigerate the cake for an hour or so.
  2. Just before slicing, feel free to sprinkle your cake with a shower of cinnamon sugar for garnish.
Best Tres Leches Cake Recipe in baking dish.
Recipe for tres leches cake sprinkled with cinnamon.

And finally...finally...it's time to dig in!

Aerial view of easy tres leches cake on two plates.

If you're nice and patient and don't hurry things along, your Tres Leches Cake will have the opportunity to fully absorb the triple-milk combo. When you slice into it, there might be a slight oozing in the bottom of the pan, but nothing too significant. And when you take a bite of cake, it will be extremely moist but not unpleasantly wet.

Close-up of easy Tres Leches Cake with bite taken out.

I'm telling, y'all...this Easy Tres Leches Cake is the perfect finale to -- what else? -- queso and margaritas.

And I suppose if you're into eating, you know, a full meal, you could add some tacos or enchiladas or taquitos to your dining experience as well.

Just promise me you'll end with this cake. 🙂

Tres Leche Cake with bite on fork.

So here's to Mexico's victory over France in 1862!

And here's to anyone who likes to celebrate that anniversary by indulging in their favorite Mexican culinary delights. 😉

Because come Cinco de Mayo, I'll be the one elbow-deep in queso, sipping on my second margarita and ready to dig into a slab of Tres Leches Cake. Care to join me?

Tres Leches Cake in baking dish.

More Tex-Mex Delights

Easy Tres Leches Cake on plate with fork.

Easy Tres Leches Cake (Homemade + Scrumptious)

Easy Tres Leches Cake is a from-scratch yellow cake soaked with three types of milk and topped with homemade whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon for a cool, creamy, decadent dessert that’s the perfect finale to your favorite Mexican food!
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 day
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 529kcal
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Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, salted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups half-and-half, OR whole milk
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • cup powdered sugar

Instructions

  • Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and baking soda; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until creamy. Blend in the sugar and beat for a couple of minutes until light and fluffy, scraping bowl halfway through. Add eggs, mixing each one in until fully incorporated before adding the next. Stir in the vanilla. With the mixer on low, slowly blend in the flour mixture until fully combined, but do not over beat.
  • Spread batter into a 9- by 13-inch baking pan or dish (I used Pyrex) and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  • While the cake is baking, combine the half-and-half, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat on the stove. Heat, stirring occasionally, until warm and well-combined.
  • Once the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before piercing the top all over with a wooden skewer. Slowly and evenly pour the warm milk mixture all over the top of the cake. Cover the cake tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, up to 24 hours.
  • Before serving, make the topping by pouring the heavy whipping cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar into a bowl. Use an electric mixer on low to combine, then beat on medium-high to high speed until stiff peaks just form. Spread the whipped cream on top of the cake, then refrigerate the cake for an hour or so. If desired, sprinkle with a light dusting of cinnamon sugar before slicing.

Video

Notes

  • Adding cornstarch to all-purpose flour creates cake flour. If you have cake flour on hand, you may use 1 ½ cups of it in lieu of the all-purpose flour + cornstarch. If you don't have cornstarch or prefer not to use it, you may omit it from this recipe and use 1 ½ cups of all-purpose flour instead.
  • If you only have unsalted butter on hand, you can add ⅛ teaspoon salt to your dry ingredients.
  • The more holes you poke in the cake, the better the milk mixture will soak in. I prefer using the flat end of a wooden skewer for slightly bigger holes. But if you don't have a skewer, you may use a fork.
  • Half-and-half is a combination of 50% whole milk and 50% heavy cream, so you may make your own if you wish. Alternatively, you may replace the half-and-half in this recipe with whole milk, which will result in a slightly less rich cake.
  • For the fluffiest whipped cream, pop a metal bowl and metal beater in the freezer to chill for about 15 minutes before whipping the cream.

Nutrition

Calories: 529kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 156mg | Sodium: 215mg | Potassium: 366mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 43g | Vitamin A: 1072IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 260mg | Iron: 1mg
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