Tres Leches Cake is a from-scratch cake soaked with three types of milk and topped with homemade whipped cream for a cool, creamy, decadent dessert!
As if I ever needed an excuse to indulge in chips and salsa, vats of queso, and pitchers of margaritas, Cinco de Mayo is always a great one. But why stop there? Come May 5th, I like to expand my culinary horizons and whip up a Tres Leches Cake for good measure!
What is Tres Leches Cake?
Have you ever tried (or made) Tres Leches Cake? It may sound a little strange to the uninitiated, but...
- This version is basically a simple, from-scratch yellow cake.
- It gets pierced with a bunch of holes (as in 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.
- Before serving, the cake is slathered with homemade whipped cream and then popped back in the fridge for just a tad bit longer.
I like to sprinkle my cake with a shower of cinnamon sugar for garnish. And finally...it's time to dig in!
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.
Assuming you're stocked up on a variety of milks (ha), the ingredients are pretty straightforward:
- 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 instead.
- Baking powder + baking soda. For just the right rise.
- Butter. Make sure it's room temperature. Either unsalted or salted will work fine.
- 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!
I'm telling, y'all...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. 🙂
So here's to Mexico's victory over France in 1862!
And here's to Americans who like to commemorate the anniversary by indulging in their favorite Mexican culinary delights!
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?
More Mexican Recipes
- Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa
- Creamy Jalapeño Dip ~ Chuy's Copycat
- No-Bake Frozen Margarita Pie
- Mexican Martini ~ Trudy's Copycat
Tres Leches Cake
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter, unsalted or 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
- ⅓ cup powdered sugar
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 for a slightly less rich cake.
- For the fluffiest whipped cream, pop a metal bowl and metal beater in the freezer for about 15 minute to chill before whipping the cream.
Recipe adapted from All Recipes. Originally published May 1, 2017.
I’m confused! The recipe reads 1/2 c of butter and then says 2 sticks. Wouldn’t two sticks be one cup? Thanks for any advice you can give me!
Samantha at Five Heart Home
I'm so sorry for the typo, Holly...it should say 1/2 cup (1 stick). I just fixed it in the recipe...thank you for letting me know! 🙂
Thank you for your super fast reply! I’m making this for a Cinco de Mayo party tomorrow!
Awesome recipe. Thank you.