Tres Leches Cake is a sponge cake that has been soaked in a syrup made of 3 kinds of milk. In this recipe, both the cake and the syrup are not too sweet. The whipped cream frosting is slightly stabilized and doesn’t easily melt or deflate. Perfect for summer gatherings and barbecue parties.
TRES LECHES CAKE
“Tres Leches” is a popular dessert in Latin America that means, “three milk” cake or Pastel de Tres Leches. It is basically a sponge cake that has been SOAKED and DRENCHED in a milk mixture that is made up of 3 kinds of milk–evaporated, condensed, and cream/ or milk. It is an ultra-luxurious decadent cake, one of the best you will ever have. And never ever forget.
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS TRES LECHES CAKE RECIPE
- The sponge cake itself is not too sweet, with less sugar than most recipes;
- The milk syrup is also not too sweet. It doesn’t use the whole can of condensed milk like other recipes; and
- The frosting is slightly stabilized which doesn’t easily melt compared to regular whipped cream.
- The cake is baked in a casserole dish which you can also use for storing and serving. Fewer dishes to wash is always a win!
SPONGE CAKE INGREDIENTS
The cake for Tres Leches is primarily made of sponge cake, for obvious reasons. To make it, you will need:
- CAKE FLOUR – gives the cake a delicate texture due to its low protein content.
- WHITE SUGAR – this recipe uses less sugar compared to other recipes. Use caster or fine sugar.
- BAKING POWDER – make sure it’s fresh and not expired.
- EGGS – separate the egg yolks from the white. Make sure it’s fresh eggs, as the yolk is firmer and doesn’t break easily.
- MILK – I recommend using full-fat fresh milk for a moist and tender cake.
- SALT – enhances the overall flavor of the cake. Don’t skip this!
- CREAM OF TARTAR – this helps the egg whites become sturdier, hence won’t deflate easily when combined with the batter.
While some prefer their sponge cake with butter/oil, I prefer it without. It’s lighter, spongy, and less dense. The perfect texture to absorb all that milky-goodness.
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST TRES LECHES CAKE
Here are a few tips on how to successfully make a sponge cake for Tres Leches:
- Prepare and measure all the ingredients before starting to mix for a smoother cooking workflow.
- Make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature. This includes the egg and the milk.
- Sift the flour and baking powder to remove the lumps. Do this a few times if needed. A lump-free batter will prevent you from overmixing it.
- Cream the egg yolks and half of the sugar until slightly pale. Use a stand or hand mixer for convenience. Gradually add the dry ingredients in 2 increments and gently stir until just combined. DO NOT OVERMIX.
HOW TO BEAT AND FOLD THE EGG WHITES
- Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until it bubbles. Add the remaining sugar and continue beating until soft peaks (not too soft) form.
- Divide the egg white and add in two increments. Add the first half to the flour-yolk batter and fold using a spatula. Then add the remaining half, and fold more GENTLY this time until incorporated. Do not overmix or it will deflate.
Immediately pour the mixture into prepared pan, in my case, I used a casserole dish, and bake in a preheated oven until toothpicks inserted comes out clean.
3 MILK SYRUP–TRES LECHES
While the cake is cooling, make the syrup by combining evaporated milk, fresh milk, and condensed milk.
To control the sweetness of the syrup, start with 1/3 cup of condensed milk instead of adding the whole can. Stir vigorously then taste the mixture. Add more condensed milk if preferred. I ended up using only half a cup and the sweetness was good enough for me.
Poke the cake all over with a fork or toothpick. Wipe off cake residue from the fork every so often so it doesn’t build up.
Slowly pour the milk syrup to the cake. It may look a lot but the cake is going to absorb all that liquid, so don’t worry! Leave it in the fridge overnight covered tightly in plastic wrap.
STABILIZED WHIPPED CREAM
I highly recommend using stabilized whipped cream for Tres Leches especially if you’re serving it during the hot summer days. It’s sturdier than regular whipped cream and it won’t easily fall flat or melt if it sits around for a while.
There are many ways to stabilize whipped cream. The most popular is using a gelatin mixture, but that method didn’t work out for me. And then I discovered using cream cheese. It’s the best foolproof method so far!
Once the whipped cream is ready, spread evenly over the soaked cake. Sprinkle with cinnamon powder, if preferred, and top with fresh fruits just before serving. I used ripe mangoes and it was perfect for Tres leches!
TRES LECHES TOPPINGS
Aside from ripe mangoes, you can also use strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, kiwifruit, canned peaches, and even pineapples.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS!
HOW LONG DOES TRES LECHES LAST?
Tres Leches cake can last in the fridge for up to 4 days tightly covered in plastic wrap. Note that the whipped cream, especially if not stabilized, will deflate over time.
To keep the freshness of the cake, store it without any fruit toppings on top.
WHAT’S THE BEST SUBSTITUTE FOR CAKE FLOUR?
You can easily substitute cake flour with a mixture of all-purpose flour and cornstarch.
Start with one level cup of AP flour, remove two tablespoons of the flour, and add two tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift the mixture together to be sure the ingredients are well distributed.
In summary: 1 cup AP flour – 2 Tablespoons AP flour + 2 Tablespoons cornstarch = 1 cup cake flour
CAN I MAKE THE WHIPPED CREAM WITHOUT THE CREAM CHEESE?
Yes, of course. Make sure to make it just before serving so it doesn’t deflate easily.
CAN I USE CANNED WHIPPED CREAM/WHIPPED CREAMS IN PRESSURIZED CANS?
Yes, it’s a convenient way of serving Tres Leches. But remember, fresh homemade whipped cream always tastes better 🙂
Watch the Tres Leches Cake video recipe
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup caster sugar (or fine sugar, divided)
- 5 large eggs (separated)
- 1/2 cup fresh milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar (or 1/2 tsp lemon juice)
Tres Leches (3 milk mixture)
- 1/3 cup fresh milk (or cream)
- 1/3 cup condensed milk (add more if preferred)
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
Stabilized Whipped Cream
- 2 tbsp cream cheese
- 2 tbsp fine sugar (or caster sugar, divided)
- 1 cup whipping cream
- Preheat the oven to 350f /180c degrees. Wipe a casserole dish with oil or butter. Dust lightly with flour.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mesh strainer. Stir to further combine.
- Separate egg yolks from the egg whites. In a bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar until color turns pale yellow. Stir-in milk and vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture. Whisk gently until just combined. DON'T OVER MIX. Transfer to another bowl.
- Quickly clean the bowl of the standing mixer and wipe dry. Beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. Pour in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cream of tartar. Continue beating until the egg whites are stiff but not dry.
- Pour half of the egg white mixture into the batter and stir until thoroughly combined. Add the remaining white mixture and gently fold (don't stir), scooping the bottom until incorporated. Do not over mix the batter or it will deflate.
- Pour the mixture into the baking dish. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Note: Do not open the oven until minimum baking time is reached.
Tres Leches (3 milk mixture)
- Combine all the ingredients in a cup. Stir until combined. Taste, and adjust condensed milk according to preferred sweetness.
- Poke the cake all over with a fork. Pour milk mixture slowly over cake, filling the holes. Refrigerate, covered with a plastic wrap overnight.
Stabilized Whipped Cream
- Place cold cream cheese in a bowl. Beat with an electric mixer for a few seconds then add 1 tbsp sugar. Continue beating until it's lump-free.
- Add the cream and beat until bubbles form. Add the remaining sugar and continue to beat on medium-high speed until peaks form. DO NOT OVERBEAT. Otherwise, it will curdle and turn into butter.
- When the cake is ready, spread over the cake with a spatula. Dust with cinnamon powder and chill for an hour. Top with choice of fresh fruits before serving. If you have extra milk syrup at the bottom of the dish, scoop it off and drizzle all over the cake. Enjoy!
Recipe Notes and Tips:
- Cake Flour - can be substituted with a mixture of all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Start with one level cup of AP flour, remove two tablespoons of the flour, and add two tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift the mixture together to be sure the ingredients are well distributed.
- Fruit Toppings - aside from ripe mangoes, you can also use strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, kiwifruit, canned peaches, and even pineapples.
- Storage/Shelf life - keep cake refrigerated until ready to serve. The cake can last up to 4 days. Note that the whipped cream, especially if not stabilized, will deflate over time even if stored in the fridge. Hence, it's best to frost the cake just before serving.
- To keep the freshness of the cake, store it without any fruit toppings.
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