I can’t believe it’s been years since I first made this cake– I fell in love with it the first time I made it, but like so many recipes, I forgot about it while immersed in the search for new ones! In any event, a tres leches cake is a simple sponge cake that’s soaked in “three milks”– evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and regular milk– to make it ultra-moist despite the lack of fat in the cake itself.
The cake is a basic sponge without any butter or oil in it– just egg yolks for fat, with egg whites and some baking powder for extra lift. Amazingly, despite the large quantities of liquid poured over the cake after baking, it doesn’t get soggy, per se– it’s full of moisture, but the spongy texture of the cake keeps it from softening into mush. Instead, it’s just rich and refreshing all at once, somehow. Topping it with extra whipped cream and just a whisper of cinnamon is just gilding the lily…
Tres Leches Cake (adapted slightly from Life, Love and Sugar)
- 1 cup (130g) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup (200g) sugar, divided
- 1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and prepare a 9×13″ baking pan with foil or cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip egg whites until foamy. Then, still whipping, gradually add 1/4 cup (about 50g) of the sugar and continue to whip to stiff peaks. Scrape stiff egg whites into a separate bowl and set aside.
- Add the yolks and remaining 3/4 cup (150g) of sugar back into the original stand mixer bowl and whip until doubled in volume.
- Add milk and vanilla and stir to combine.
- Sift the flour mixture over your whipped yolks and gently fold until just combined.
- Add in egg whites 1/3 at a time, gently folding to maintain volume.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely in the pan. I admit that my cake shrunk down a bit as it cooled– I may have overbaked it just a tad, but it didn’t hurt the finished cake.
- 12 oz can evaporated milk
- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/4 cup (60ml) whole milk
Combine three milks. Using a skewer, poke holes all over the cooled cake (still in the pan) and very slowly pour the milk over the cake, making sure you get to the outside edges and giving it time to absorb. Cover and chill completely.
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
- 3/4 cup (86g) powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Ground cinnamon, optional for garnish
When you’re ready to serve, whip cream with powdered sugar and vanilla until it forms stiff peaks. Spread over top of cooled cake and garnish with optional cinnamon.