tres leches cake

I’ve been mildly obsessed with tres leches cake since our trip to Austin last fall. It’s a dessert staple there, but being from this neck of the woods, I’d never tried it.

You know that feeling when you can’t fall asleep? Your mind won’t turn off? Maybe you forgot to do something–pay a bill, make an appointment, feed the dog? Here’s what’s plaguing you: you haven’t tried tres leches cake.

It’s an intensely creamy cake that is, quite literally, soaked in three types of milk: sweetened condensed (the crack-cocaine of the dairy world), evaporated, and heavy cream.ย ย Sounds weird, I know. But you’re intrigued, right?

Follow your heart. Make this cake. You will fall asleep like a 40-year old on Ambien.

Since I had no recipes on hand and had no clue how to make the stuff, I found a post from good old Pioneer Woman.

You start by creaming together some egg yolks and some sugar…

…and add a little vanilla and a little bit of milk.

Then blend that mixture with a flour mixture (flour, baking soda and salt)…

…until you’ve got a nice smooth batter. Easy, eh?

Next, whip up some egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form. We’re making meringue to give the cake some airiness.

Gently fold the batter in with the egg whites…

…pour into a well-greased pan, and bake.

Lovely! Turn it out onto a platter to cool.

Stir together your three milks in a small pitcher. Spill some on the counter.

Once the cake has totally cooled, prick it several, several times with a fork. Really go to town on the sucker.

Pause for a moment. Wonder how on earth all that liquid will fit into that tiny cake.

Slowly, slowly…

…pour all of the liquid over the cake. Make sure to distribute it evenly—no dry spots allowed.

See that little puddle around the edges? It’ll all get soaked up. I know, I know. This cake also acts as an enormously efficient sponge.

Cover and refrigerate. I found that the longer the cake sat, the better it got, so it would be totally reasonable to make it a few days ahead of time.

When you’re ready to serve, whip up some cream, frost that sucker, and…

…do backflips. Cartwheels. An interpretive dance. This cake is that good.

It’s still in my fridge. Gotta go.

Have a sweet Valentine’s weekend!


Pioneer Woman’s recipe and step-by-step can be found right here.

What I did (our would do) differently than Ree’s recipe:

  • Next time, I won’t turn the cake out onto a platter. I made two, and kept one in the glass pan that I baked it in. Being in a rimmed pan made the liquid soak in much more evenly. You could turn out the cake to cool on a rack, and then return it to the pan upside-down to pour on the milks.
  • I didn’t decorate it. PW does maraschino cherries, but I would go for a berry–maybe a strawberry sliced vertically (to make a heart shape) for Valentine’s day?
  • I used all the liquid. Ree mentions that the last cup of liquid turns out to be too much, but I felt, after discovering some dry spots in the cake, that it could have used even more.
  • I would have let it sit longer. I made them one day ahead, but even two or three would have made the cake more flavorful. Tres leches is weirdly like a good wine. Let it age.


  1. OK–this looks incredible.

  2. nice to meet another Seattle Blogger! Came here through FoodBuzz – saw your blog in the top 10 Seattle Foodies ๐Ÿ™‚

    Love this cake!! It is just soo easy to make and incredibly delicious. Yes, even I did wonder how all that milk is gonna go into that cake, when I first made it ๐Ÿ™‚

    Will keep visiting you! n btw, your daughter is soo adorable ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. My husband and I first indulged on this desert at a restaurant in Center City Philadelphia called “Mixto” — they specialize in Cuban-Columbian cuisines. So, I was glad to come across your recipe. My cake is cooling as we speak… but I’m preparing this as sweet treat for my office. Can I make and apply the frosting tonight, refrigerate until tomorrow (or Thursday), and then bring the cake to work? Will the frosting hold up?

    • Hi, Kerri! You should be able to frost it tonight just fine. I would just make sure that your whipped cream is fairly stiff so it won’t separate. Hope it turns out well for you! You’re sure nice to bring this to the office ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. My mom makes a tres leches cake in which she replaces one of the leches (the evaporated, I believe) with coconut milk. She says it’s stupid-good.

  5. Umm…your photos of this cake make it look SO GOOD. I take crummy food photos.

    You made it look so good…I think I’m going to have to try this cake now!!

  6. I made this today from a can of evaporated milk I got from my mum and apparently our evaporated milk cans are waaaaaaay bigger than the ones you and Ree used – I had well over half a litre of liquid at the end. The cake tastes great, but it’s just a bit soggy. It’s in the fridge now, uh.. maturing, and I’m hoping it’ll still firm up a bit ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. It did!

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