Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake


As promised, something sweet to tickle your fancy. ‘What’s this?’ I hear you cry ‘TWO blog posts in a week?? You spoil us, Mary-Anne!’ *inclines head graciously and does a rather regal wave* Yes, yes, I know – but actually, there’s this other post I want to do before Christmas Day, and it’s a teensy bit not sweet – OK, it’s full-on savoury – but a promise is a promise, so you get this one AND the next one on the same day, making THREE posts this week! Hope your stocking is big enough!

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.

This is a simple sponge cake that becomes a delicious melt-in-the-mouth dessert with almost no input from you at all.

A – let’s be honest here – rather sturdy vanilla sponge is baked and cooled in a pan, then doused with a rich three-milk (hence the name) mixture and refrigerated overnight. The sponge gradually absorbs the liquid and becomes a super-moist and creamy delight.

What I particularly like about this cake is, unlike the Russian Honey Cake, which becomes uniformly moist and tender,  the Tres Leches cake seems to absorb the creamy milk mixture upwards: the top layers become gently moistened whilst the base of the cake barely holds together in its own little puddle of sweetness – you can just about make this out in the photo. As if all this wasn’t decadent enough, it is topped off with a rich layer of sweetened vanilla cream (which by rights should makes it Cuatro Leches by my reckoning, but maybe I’m just being picky).

Extremely popular throughout Central and South America, this is the most basic version of the classic dessert cake. Feel free to experiment with flavourings to your liking – I’m thinking rum and coconut/pineapple might be a winning combo (a little rum and crushed pineapple in the cream topping, swap out the condensed milk from the soaking mixture and swap in an equal quantity of coconut cream, with a little more rum if liked). Pina Colada Tres Leches anyone? Aye Caramba!

Tres Leches Cake

200g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
112g butter
200g caster sugar
5 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tin (397ml) sweetend condensed milk
2 small (2 x 170ml) tins evaporated milk
500ml whole milk

To serve
Icing sugar
400ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Grease and line a rectangular 28cm x 23cm pan with parchment. Grease the parchment.[1]
  • Sift the flour and baking powder together.
  • In a separate bowl, cream the butter.
  • Add the sugar and continue to beat until mixture is pale and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing each one in thoroughly before adding the next.
  • Whisk in the vanilla.
  • Fold in the flour mixture.
  • Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30-40 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the tin.
  • When the  cake is cold, remove the parchment paper. Return the cake to the pan, take a skewer and poke holes all over.
  • Mix the whole milk, the condensed milk and the evaporated milk until smooth and pour over the cake in the tin. You might have to make 2 or 3 attempts in order to get all of the mixture into the pan. It looks a huge amount of liquid, but be patient and take it slowly. It will be visible along the sides, but that’s OK, as it will slowly be absorbed as it sits in the fridge overnight.
  • When ready to serve, combine the double cream and vanilla. Sweeten to taste with the icing sugar, then whip to firm peaks. Spread generously over the cake and cut into squares.

[1] Don’t stress too much about the size of the pan – something with vaguely similar dimensions is fine. To be honest, I forgot to measure the pan I cook this in before we left for the holidays, so I’m guessing a bit. I’ll edit when we get back. Bear in mind that if you do use a noticeably different-sized pan, you’ll need to adjust the cooking time. A larger pan will mean a thinner cake, so cut the cooking time a little and start checking for done-ness[2] from about 25 minutes. A smaller pan will mean a thicker cake, which will probably need cooking a little longer. If the top starts to brown too much, cover with foil until cooked through.

[2] Cake done-ness can be checked 2 ways, visually and physically. First LOOK at the cake – has it begun to shrink away from the sides? This is a sign of being cooked through. To double-check, stick a skewer or cocktail stick into the centre of the cake. If the cake is cooked through, there should be no WET cake mix visible when you remove it – a crumb or two is fine.

9 Comments on “Tres Leches Cake”

  1. Frances says:

    YUM definitely going to try this one, that icing in particular looks scrumptious!

  2. This sounds great and as Mr Glam was brought up on Nestle evaporated milk it’s perfect for him. Thank you. GG

  3. Tori says:

    Hey Mary-Anne,
    I’m considering buying a stand mixer and wondered if you used one for your baking? If so, what brand is it, what do you like about it, and would you recommend it?
    Thank you very much,

  4. bee says:

    Very sweet!

    I’ve seen this cake on the web but have yet found a do-able recipe to my liking. I immediately gave this a try, and with success.

    The sponge is plain, an advantage in this case and gloriously eggy. The only criticism from me is the odd rising here and there in my typical 20×20 tin though I’m assiduous in my mixing. Anyway, not that it mattered when it’s be hidden by a mound of whipped cream. 🙂

    I only used two-thirds of suggested milk mixture, and it was enough to saturate nearly every crumb. Each morsel was heavenly – sodden, in the best way. (I feared the sponge would disintegrate to nothing had I used it all, but no worries, I made some custard tarts with the remainder.)

    My tip, get a big metal BBQ skewer or similar – no fragile toothpick, and give some serious stabbing action – though mind your non-stick tin – and give a few twists here and there to encourage more of a hole to catch the soaking liquid. Don’t line your tin with non-stick paper, but foil. In future I’ll bake and transfer the sponge to a square serving dish.

    Lovely chilled, it’d be something fabulous with raspberries, blueberries, hedgerow fruits in summer. I’m going to serve this in a trifle dish cut into ladyfinger that will make a good treat good for little people, or for older people like us who love milk. Another idea to compliment the coconut milk is some pandan flavoured whipped cream, a perfect non-boozy marriage for coconut.

    Cheers and looking forward to more xxx

  5. Shaun says:

    This looks so delicious… now to choose between this and the Russian Honey Cake for my month’s allotted baking…

    • MAB says:

      Why choose? Just bake smaller versions of both! 😉 The Russian Honey Cake will divide easily into thirds and you could probably do the same for this one too (if you do, use 2 eggs for simplicity). Have fun! M-A 😀

  6. Emily Saintas says:

    Hi Mary-Anne

    I just wondered how sweet this cake is? I’m wanting to make it for a cake club but not sure about sugaryness?



    • MAB says:

      Wotchers Emilie!
      It’s actually not bad!
      Yes, it’s a sweet cake, but of the three milks, only the condensed milk is sweetened, and you could always omit the icing sugar from the whipped cream topping if you thought it was teetering towards too sweet.
      Overall, I’d rate it sweeter than the Russian Honey Cake (also fabulously delish, by the way) but less sweet than Banoffi Pie.
      Hope this helps! M-A 😀

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