Tres Leches Cake is a classic dessert with origins in Latin America. The “Tres Leches” refers to the three milks that are used to make the cake.
Tres Leches Cake is also known as “pan tres leches,” which means “three milks bread.” It’s a light, spongy cake soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk.
Where did the idea of “soaked cake” come from?
Liquid soaked cakes probably began in medieval times. Think of rum cake, tiramisu and trifles, which have been popular across Europe for quite some time. The Tres Leches Cake is most popular in Central and South America, North America and a few other areas of the world.
How to make Tres Leches Cake:
Beat sugar and egg yolks together until fluffy. Then add milk, vanilla, flour and baking powder. Separately, beat egg whites to soft peaks, adding in cream of tartar and then sugar. Egg whites are then folded in to the egg mixture, and this creates the batter for the cake. The batter is scraped into a 9×13-inch pan and baked anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes (depending on your oven). The texture should be firm, and a toothpick inserted into the middle should come out clean. Let the cake cool completely.
Once cool, poke the top of your cake all over with a fork. This is going to allow the milk syrup to sink into the middle of the cake. The milk syrup is a simple mix of evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, heavy whipping cream, vanilla extract and rum. Pour it over the top of your cake, and let the cake absorb the milk syrup.
Can you leave rum out of the recipe?
Yes! If you do not wish to cook with alcohol, just leave out the rum and maybe add a little extra vanilla extract.
Once absorbed, dust the top of the cake with cocoa powder.
If prepared properly, Tres Leches Cake will have a moist texture to it, but it should not be soggy. The three milks soak into the spongy cake. Technically, my recipe has four milks in the recipe since there is regular milk in the batter too. It’s a lightly sweetened cake that is fabulous topped with whipped cream and a side of berries, and it tastes even better on the second day. Enjoy!
Tres Leches Cake
- 1 cup granulated white sugar, divided
- 5 large eggs, separated
- ⅓ cup milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
- 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon dark rum
- fresh whipped cream, ice cream, cocoa powder (as desired)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter 13x9-inch baking dish.
PREPARE THE CAKE:
- Beat ¾ cup sugar and egg yolks until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Fold in the milk, vanilla, flour and baking powder. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks, adding the cream of tartar after 20 seconds. Gradually add the remaining ¼ cup sugar and continue beating until the whites are glossy and firm, but not dry. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture. Pour this batter into the buttered baking dish. Bake the cake until it feels firm and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 30 to 45 minutes. Let the cake cool completely in a baking dish. Pierce the cake all over with a fork, taking care to not tear it up.
PREPARE THE MILK SYRUP:
- Combine all of the milk syrup ingredients in a mixing bowl. Whisk until well blended. Pour the syrup over the cake, spooning the overflow back on top, until it is all absorbed.
- When ready to serve, dust the whole cake with cocoa powder. Cut a slice and plate it. Top with a dollop of whipped cream or a side of ice cream, and garnish with fruit.