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Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches cake is the perfect dessert for those of us that love to dunk their cookie or donut into a glass of milk or cup of coffee. The name of the cake, “tres leches,” means “three milks” in Spanish and is named for the milky sauce that soaks this heavy sponge cake. I think it should also be called “three bowls” cake since it takes mixing some of the ingredients individually to get a nice dense sponge cake that holds up well with the chilled milk. While it does create some extra dirty dishes with the three bowls, it doesn’t take a lot of time to make and the recipe is easy to follow. Plus, I think you’ll agree that the effort is worth it once you sink your fork into this popular Central American comfort food. It reminds me of the tres leches cake we had while spending a day in old San Juan during our last Carnival Cruise.


Tres Leches Cake Recipe

  • 1 cup whole milk or coconut milk
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 pint of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp butter (for greasing pan)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided in half
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×9 inch brownie pan with butter, making sure to really get the corners well.

Add the stick of softened butter to a mixing bowl and mix until creamy using an electric mixer. Once it’s creamy, add the 1 cup of sugar and mix until it’s the fluffy consistency of a frosting (about one to two minutes).

Sift flour and baking powder together in a separate bowl and set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until they’re a creamy color and have a bit more volume (about 3 to 5 minutes). Add a 1/2 teaspoon vanilla to the eggs and beat for another minute.

Pour the egg mixture into the butter mixture and blend together. Then, while still mixing, add the flour mixture in a couple of spoonfuls at a time until well blended.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave the cake in the pan, but set it aside to cool.

While it’s cooling, combine the whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk to make your milk sauce and set aside.

Next, pour the heaving whipping cream in a mixing bowl along with the other 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and beat until it turns into a fluffy spreadable cream. Refrigerate until ready to serve. (Note: You can also add a 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar to sweeten the whipped cream. Personally, I prefer it unsweetened since the cake itself is so sweet)

Once the cake has cooled, poke holes throughout the cake using a fork. Then, pour the mixture of three milks (tres leches) over the cake and into the holes, spooning as much of the milk sauce that you can into the holes.

Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, or chill overnight. The milk might look like it’s flooding the cake, but chilling it in the refrigerator gives it time to soak in.

Once the cake has chilled and had time to absorb the milk mixture, it’s ready to serve! Spread the whipped cream over top like frosting and sprinkle with cinnamon. Enjoy!

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind.