Celebrating with a Tres Leches cake!

Tres Leches Cake

There are several reasons that I am excited about this post.  Reason 1:  this is my first attempt at baking birthday cake, and one of my family member’s favorite cake. Yay!  Reason 2: a friend requested this cake for his birthday. 🙂 Reason 3: just in time to bake another one to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.  Tres Leches Cake is a sponge cake soaked in three kinds of milk and top with whipped cream.  It is popular in Latin countries, and it is served during  holidays.   This cake is best if made a day ahead to allow it time to soak in the rich milk flavors over night in the fridge.  I made the mistake of making it the same day we consumed it.  The left over slices were so much richer, moist and flavorful after two days in the fridge ( let’s just say this cake ages well.  🙂 ) This is a Rose Levy Beranbaum cake, and I found this recipe via LeahRodrigues’s post.  As the name says – three milk cake, the recipe calls for 4 kind of milk, but I used only 3 because I didn’t have non-fat milk on hand.  I don’t think it  matters if it is three or four kinds of milk in the ingredients, the cake will still be creamy and flavorful with a sweet aroma.


For the cake

  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 225 grams (1 cup)  granulated sugar
  • 5 milliliters (1 teaspoon)  vanilla extract
  • .71 gram (1/8 teaspoon) salt
  • 218 grams 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, shift before measuring

For the Leches

  • 1,183 milliliters (5 cups)   whole milk
  • 236 milliliters (1 cup) heavy cream
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 22.5 grams (1 1/2 tablespoons)  sugar

For the whipped cream topping

  • 354 milliliters (1 1/2 cups) heavy cream, cold
  • 30 grams (2 tablespoons)  granulated sugar
  • 5 milliliters (1 teaspoon)  vanilla extract

For coconut toppings

  • 139 grams (1 1/2 cup)  sweetened shredded coconuts, toasted.


Preheat oven to 350°F   or  175°C .  Set the oven rack to lower third of the oven.

direction for leches mixture:

  1. Whisk together whole milk and sugar in a medium saucepan.  Bring it to just a boil, reduced heat to medium and let it simmer and reduced to half.
  2. Stir occasionally. Keep an eye on it to prevent bubbling over or burnt.
  3. Pour the liquid mixture into a medium bowl and stir in the condensed mild and heavy cream.
  4. Let it cool a little on the counter then cover with lid and refrigerate.

direction for cake:

  1. Fill a medium-small  sauce pan with water half full.  Set the sauce pan over medium heat and bring it to a boil. Then reduce heat and let it simmer.
  2. In a standing mixer bowl (or a large mixing bowl if you are using hand-held electric mixer), add in eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt.
  3. Set this bowl over the simmering pot of water.  Stirring frequently until mixture is warm to touch.
  4. Remove from heat and quickly fit the standing mixer  bowl into the machine.
  5. Using the whisk attachment, whisk the mixture on high-speed for 5 minutes or until it is thick, light in color, and quadrupled in volumes. ( It was more than 5 minutes for me so don’t worry if it takes a bit long to lighten and quadrupled).
  6. Gently add 1/2 of the flour into the beaten egg.
  7. Using a spatula, gently and quickly fold the flour into the mixture so the volume will not deflate. (Don’t worry about well blend).  Add the rest of the flour into the batter, and again gently fold everything together.
  8. Pour batter into a prepared baking pan.  Bake for 30 – 35 minutes.
  9. Remove the cake from oven.  Un-mold and let it cool on a cooling rack.
  10. Once the cake is cool to touch, using a serrated knife remove a thin layer of the top cake and scrape the bottom of the cake (for the leches mixture to soak through).
  11. Place the cake into a deep dish.
  12. Slowly pour the leches over the cake.  You may need to wait a little for the cake to absorb the liquid then continue to pour.  If the cake will not take in any more liquid, save it for add to cake the next day.   Cover and refrigerate the remaining leches if necessary.
  13. Cover the cake with plastic wrap, and refrigerate over night (or 8 hours) to allow all the flavor to come together.

Let’s put the cake together now:

To toast shredded coconut:  set a skillet over a medium-low fire, add in the shredded coconut and stir frequently to avoid burning.  Keep toasting until golden color begin to show. Remove skillet from heat, and continue to stir until the coconut are more golden brown. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Whipped cream topping:

  1. In a clean standing mixer bowl (or a mixing bowl if use electric handheld mixer), add in cold heavy cream and sugar.  Whisks at low-speed and gradually increase speed to medium high and whisk until almost stiff.  Add in the vanilla and continue to whisk until stiff peak. (You can see Jaworski of Joy of Baking demonstrating the technique here).
  2. Remove the cake from the refrigerator, and unwrap.  Add more of the reserved leches if needed.
  3. With a spatula, scoop enough whipped cream to cover the the whole cake.  Smooth it out (see demonstration).
  4. Scoop a handful of toasted  shred-coconut and press to the side of the cake. Careful not to get coconut onto the top.
  5. Fit a large (1M) open star tip to a pastry bag.  Fill the bag with whipped cream. Pipe designs onto the top of the cake (piping demonstration).

Et voila! you have a beautiful cake!

13 comments on “Celebrating with a Tres Leches cake!

  1. Tina, can’t believe this is your first attempt at making a birthday cake! It looks like those displayed on a professional bakery counter. Well done!!! More to come? 🙂

    • Thanks Danny! You made me feel like I can fly when I am just a beginner! I can tell you that I was very nervous about decorating the cake, but it was fun (in hindsight 🙂 ). So I am thinking of strawberry mousse cake next? 🙂

  2. That looks beautiful! I made a tres leches cake for the first time a few years ago and I when I got to the part where it said to pour all the milk over the baked cake, I remember thinking frantically, “they can’t actually mean that – this is going to be a disaster!” But it was actually one of the best cakes ever 🙂 I’ve been wanting to make one again, so thanks for the reminder. I love the swirly whipped cream on top and coconut on the sides.

    • Thank you. 🙂 I agree it is not always easy to find one in the nearest shop. This is my family’s favorite which is great because whenever a cake turns out drier than it’s supposed to be, I can turn it into a Tres leeches. All the liquid will certainly right things for me, and every one is happy. 🙂

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