Classic Tres Leches Cake (Pastel Tres Leches)

I know…your mouth is watering right now.  Mine, too.  It’s almost a universal Pavlovian reaction to Tres Leches Cake.  This is a very moist and rich-tasting cake and probably the most traditional Mexican cake there is.  If you don’t think you’ll like Tres Leches Cake, let me tell you about my son’s reaction.  Let me preface this story by saying that I did not grow up eating Tres Leches Cake (if my mother were alive right now, I would have a serious discussion with her about that), so I did not realize how magical this cake is until I became an adult with adult children.

Well, apparently, my son informed me that he is not a fan of Tres Leches Cakes he has tried in the past.  He said he does not like the consistency of wet cake, but then his own son reminded him that since he does like bread pudding, what’s the difference?  At one of our family dinners, I made this classic cake for dessert and my skeptical son took one bite and said, “Now, this cake is incredible!  This is the best Tres Leches Cake I have ever tasted!”  Picture me beaming.  How could I not after that endorsement?  I also concur with him. This recipe makes an incredible cake.

Last year, I posted a recipe for an Easy Tres Leches Cake.  I was asked to make one for a bridal shower and I had to find one that would serve a lot of people and not break the bank.  If that’s what you need, you can find that recipe here.  It was tried and tested against another recipe I chose by my coworkers.  It was the winner at my own personal workplace cake wars and it is made with a box of cake mix.

The classic Tres Leches Cake is a sponge cake.  You got it.  That dense, spongy cake soaks up all of the milk, with a hint of rum.  To die for!

This recipe makes a single layer cake in a springform pan.  You will need to cut it half or even thirds to make sure each layer soaks up the milk.  Well worth the effort!  I find that using a string of dental floss makes this step easy.  Just “saw” it back and forth through the cake layer and you should get a uniform size layer.  Place the cake on a rack over a cookie sheet to catch the excess milk.  You will want to save it and pour it right back onto the cake.

Classic Tres Leches Cake (Pastel Tres Leches)
Recipe type: Cake
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
  • Cake:
  • 2-1/2 cups all purpose flour (10 oz./315 g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 7 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (8 oz./250g)
  • ¾ cup whole milk (6 fl. oz./180 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 can evaporated milk (12 fl. oz./ 354 ml)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz./ 396 g)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream (8 fl oz./ 250 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon rum flavoring
  • Frosting:
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ⅓ cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. In a bowl, sift the flour and baking powder together.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the 7 egg whites with an electric mixer until frothy. Add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form, then add the egg yolks, one at a time, until they are all blended together. Turn down the mixer to a slower speed and add one-third of the flour and one-third of the whole milk. Repeat until all the flour and milk are incorporated, then add the vanilla. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes and remove from the pan. Cut the cake into 3 layers. I use dental floss to make it easier, using a "sawing" motion.
  4. In a bowl, combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, cream and rum flavoring, Place the bottom layer on a cooling rack on a cookie sheet to catch the milk overflow. Pour ⅓ of the milk mixture over the bottom layer of the cake, then set the middle layer on top and repeat. Finish with the last layer and last ½ of the milk mixture. You will want to pour the overflow milk on the cookie sheet on the cake, as well.
  5. At this point, cover the cake with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until just before serving.
  6. To make the frosting, add the whipping cream, confectioner's sugar and vanilla to the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until stuff. Frost cake and serve with fresh fruit, if desired.

Et cetera:  This recipe came from the Mexico the Beautiful cookbook.

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