The Best Authentic Tres Leches Cake Recipe
If you have never made a Tres Leches Cake recipe, you are in for a treat! Picture this: a fluffy white sheet cake, poked with holes and soaked in a mixture of coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk (tres leches means 3 milks!) The resulting cake is irresistibly moist. It’s perfect for Cinco de Mayo!
So my sister Laura emailed me this Tres Leches Cake recipe last week. She said she’s been working on it and tweaking it for years, and finally feels like she has reached perfection, so of course I had to make it.
Have you ever had a Tres Leches Cake? It’s one of the weirdest cakes you will ever make. Bake a white cake, then dump a good 4-5 cups of sugary milk over the top of it and refrigerate. It absorbs all the liquid and transforms into the most fluffy, spongey, moist cake you will ever have. I literally over baked this cake for at least 5 minutes and it still turned out incredibly delicious. I mean it’s kind of foolproof when you’re dumping a ton of milk on top of it.
I decided to make the cake in the morning, and I wanted to photograph it in the afternoon. I knew I was already breaking the rules because Laura specifically said that the cake should be made the day before you want to eat it, but what can I say, I like to walk on the wild side. Or something like that (I think this is really just code for impatience.)
So I drop off the kids for school and race home to get the cake started. I throw the ingredients together and pop the cake in the oven. I set the timer for 25 minutes.
Then I take a good hard look at the ingredient list and realize I’ve made the classic mistake that I know every single one of you have made at least once: I hadn’t technically read through the ingredient list and needed to make a trip to the grocery store. Who has Coco Crema on hand? Definitely not me. (It’s sweetened coconut cream with sugar. People use it for Pina Coladas, it’s usually sold in the wine aisle.)
So. I had 25 minutes. I can totally make a store trip in 25 minutes, right?
I head to the wine aisle to get the Coco Crema. But it’s not there. I check the beer aisle, the juice aisle, the coffee aisle, the dairy creamer aisle, it is nowhere to be found, and finally I stop to ask these two ladies who were in the wine aisle. They were clearly planning a huge party, they had 2 carts that they were filling with all kinds of booze, and had their notebooks out with their lists. I thought, if anyone in this store knows where the Coco Crema is, it’s these people.
They searched the entire aisle with me, consulted the store manager, and pulled up pictures on their phones of the different brands of Coco Crema that you can find (apparently you can buy it in a squeeze tube). We couldn’t find it anywhere. But they helped me for a solid 3 minutes and it totally confirmed my faith in humanity. Go humans.
Aaaand then my timer went off. I grabbed a couple cans of regular coconut cream and raced to the checkout.
I was fully expecting a completely over baked cake when I got home, and I wasn’t wrong. BUT it hadn’t burned and I thought, well, I’m about to dump 5 cups of milk on it, so it should be fine, right?? (I was right. That’s why this cake is really great for novice bakers!)
I ended up using coconut cream with some extra sugar instead of the Coco Crema that Laura’s recipe calls for. Because that’s all it is anyway, sweetened coconut cream. I’ve made notes in the recipe if you can’t find any Coco Crema!
After all the fuss and rush, I have to say, this cake was totally worth it. It is SO GOOD. The best part is that it can be made ahead of time. It would be so fun to make this for Cinco de Mayo!
How to make Tres Leches Cake
Here’s the egg situation. Separate the yolks and whites, and beat the whites until they are nice and stiff.
The batter is pretty thick. Use a chopstick to poke the holes. Once it is baked, make as many holes as you can without destroying your cake! You can see that my cake is a little dark, I totally over baked it. This is the ONE CAKE that I will tell you you can save after over baking. Normally this is a death sentence for cakes!
Here is the cake after is has soaked for several hours. All that delicious milk has been soaked up and absorbed into our cake.
Frost with simple whipped cream and you are good to go! You really don’t want a buttercream frosting for this cake. It’s too heavy. Whipped cream really is the perfect compliment.
Oh and don’t forget the strawberries! They are kind of essential!
Does Tres Leches Cake need to be refrigerated?
Yes! Tres leches cake is served cold. It is best made the day before you want to eat it, or at least several hours. The cake needs time to chill but also time to absorb all the liquid we’re dumping on top. Also it’s very handy that this cake needs to be covered and chilled and put out of sight in the fridge, so that I’m not sneaking a bite every time I pass through the kitchen. Happy Cinco de Mayo!!
More of my favorite cake recipes!
- The Best Homemade White Cake Recipe of Your Life << I’m serious guys. In love.
- Cream Cheese Pound Cake << I love this recipe!
- The Best Chocolate Cake I’ve Ever Had << My #1 favorite!
- White Texas Sheet Cake << This was an unexpectedly delicious cake!
- Brown Sugar Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting << This is like Yellow Cake plus!
- Coconut Layer Cake << this one is really easy!
- Easy Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting << Such a simple recipe but it packs a punch
- Classic White Layer Cake from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Strawberry Jello Cake from Real Housemoms
- White Buttermilk Cake from Melissa’s Southern Style Kitchen
The Best Authentic Tres Leches Cake Recipe
For the cake
- 5 eggs, divided
- 1/2 cup 1 stick butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 &1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 & 1/2 cups flour, spooned and leveled
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
For the milk
- 1 13.6 ounce can full-fat coconut milk
- 2 cups Coco Crema*, about 1 15-oz can
- 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
For the whipped cream
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- strawberries, to garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch cake pan with nonstick spray or rub with butter.
- In a large bowl or stand mixer, add 5 egg whites. Place the egg yolks in a small bowl and set aside.
- Beat the egg whites about 2-4 minutes, until stiff peaks form. See photos.
- Scrape the egg whites into a medium bowl and store in the fridge.
- In the same bowl that you beat the egg whites, add 1/2 cup butter and beat until smooth, scraping edges. Add 1 cup sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping sides halfway through. Add 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and beat well.
- Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 and 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.
- Get the beaten egg whites out of the fridge. Now you are going to add the flour mixture and the beaten egg whites into the butter/sugar mixture in alternating batches. (Add about half the flour to the butter mixture, stir. Then add half the beaten egg whites to the butter mixture, stir, etc, until it's all added.) Do not over mix. Once it is combined, stop.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread out with a spatula.
- Bake the cake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until the edges are pulling away from the sides of the cake pan, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with no batter on it. Don't make a grocery store trip in this 25 minutes.
- While the cake is baking, make in a very large glass measuring cup or bowl, add 1 can coconut milk. Stick it in the microwave for 30-60 second and stir until all the lumps have disappeared. Add 2 cups Coco Crema*, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, and 1 can evaporated milk. Stir together until combined.
- When the cake is baked, remove from the oven, turn off the oven, and set a timer for 5 minutes. When the timer goes off, use a chopstick to poke holes in the cake. In Laura's words: "Use a chopstick for bigger holes - you want a LOT of holes, to the point where it almost feels like you're going to ruin or smash the cake but don't actually ruin or smash the cake."
- Once you have holes all over the cake, take 3-5 minutes to SLOWLY pour the milk mixture all over the cake. If you pour too quickly, the top of your cake will not absorb the liquid. Yes, pour all of the liquid on the cake. It seems like too much. It's not!
- Once all the milk has been added, put the cake back in the oven that has been turned OFF and set a timer for 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the cake from the oven and let cool for a few minutes on the counter. Cover well and transfer to the fridge to cool completely, and to let the liquid absorb into the cake. This will take at least 4-6 hours.
- Once the cake is completely chilled and you are ready to serve, make the whipped cream. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat 2 cups cream on high for 2-4 minutes until soft peaks form. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. Beat well, scraping sides and bottom.
- Spread the whipped cream over the cake.
- Garnish with strawberries that have either been hulled and chopped, or you could just slice each one in half and scatter over the cake. Top the whole cake with strawberries if you think you'll eat the whole cake that day. If you don't, then serve with cut strawberries, but spoon them on top of each serving. Fresh strawberries work better than strawberry sauce or sugared berries since the cake is so rich and has its own liquids already.
This recipe is from my amazing sister Laura!
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